This was originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.
Dawn Brancheau, the trainer who died tragically at Sea World on February 24.
Our family takes this loss to heart, as my husband and stepdaughter both work with animals daily. My husband owns a pet shop with a wide variety of small animals, reptiles, fish and birds.
My step daughter has devoted her life to animals. She had several internships with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida. She earned her undergraduate degree in marine mammal biology from the University of Miami and a master's degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University in England. She has worked as an animal trainer at Parrot Jungle in Florida, Great Adventure's Wild Safari in New Jersey, and currently works for the company that contracts the birds of prey show at Disney World's Animal Kingdom.
My husband knows a lot about animals — they are his business. He has been bitten or scratched many times, and some of the injuries have involved emergency room visits. My stepdaughter knows a lot about animals — they are her passion. She has suffered several injuries, including one that required a two-week hospital stay and treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
What I have learned about animals from both my husband and my stepdaughter is that they are first, last and always true to their nature. The mistake we humans make is to anthropomorphize animals to meet our own emotional needs. My stepdaughter, who is practically an animal whisperer, has learned and tries to teach others that we need to respect each species and each individual creature for what it truly is — nothing more, nothing less. It's an important lesson to remember when you bring an animal into your home.
Pets provide rich connections and many learning experiences for families with children, but you should learn everything you can about an animal before purchase or adopt one. Do your research and know the breeder or pet shop owner. Most importantly, never leave small children alone with any animal.
This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post. Susan Bearman is a freelance writer and editor who lives with her family, a dog and a hermit crab in Evanston. She can be found online at www.bearman.us and on her blog, Two Kinds of People.
Photo credit: orcas & humpbacks by Christopher Michel via Flickr creative commons.