Animals help me survive my days of travel. As I go place to place around the world, I take note and remember well those animals I’ve gotten to meet along the way. Here are a few.
A highlight of my visit to Kelowna in Canada was my meeting with Tundra, an 11 year old wolf who came with her owner, Gary Allan, to the green room prior to my lecture.
She is a magnificent being, very calm, very relaxed. But when I looked into her eyes I saw a wildness in her – though she was adopted as a 3 week old cub, never knew the wilderness. I enjoyed a wonderful 30 minutes of her company, and felt very privileged and energized.
Tundra goes with Gary to visit schools. She enjoys being with people and thanks to her many children feel very differently about wolves. This is important because there is a culture of hate and misunderstanding surrounding these ancestors of all our domestic dogs. Children need to learn that wolves, like their pet dogs at home, have feelings, close social bonds. They are highly intelligent and they deserve our respect, not relentless and cruel persecution.
Tundra loves Gary as she would a wolf companion and always wants to be with him. She has even wheedled her way into the master bedroom. We asked Gary if the bed was big enough – laughing he assured us that she slept on the floor!
Tundra does have a companion wolf, Nahanni, an almost full Arctic wolf, and they get on well. But he always chooses to stay outside in their big enclosure.
Another interesting meeting was with a magnificent Fresian cow, during one of the few short breaks I was allowed when being interviewed for Master Class in Los Angeles. I am sure I was told her name, but I have to admit I have forgotten it. I don’t recollect what I was telling her, but she was clearly interested!
I learned to milk cows when I was young. It is a wonderful feeling to sit on a milking stool, and gently express the milk into a pail. The introduction of mechanical milking is horrible – and often very painful for the cows. In fact the whole dairy industry is horrible. But this cow has a protected life, and is used to keep the grass neatly cropped in the park land around.
When I was young I spent every spare moment on a horse. I was passionate about riding and missed it terribly when I had to go and work in London. So it is always lovely to meet horses on my travels. Nickolai is owned by one of JGI’s great friends and supporters, Allene Lapedes, and I love to stay in her charming guest house on a ranch in Santa Fe. Nickolai is in a paddock and comes over for a nuzzle (and apple!) every morning.
There were a few special cats along the way. Three of them live in our compound in Dar es Salaam. Jakai, a ginger cat, belongs to Grub and follows him wherever he goes. Willow was a stray who decided to stay. She is a very pretty grey and white cat, but is very unpredictable and I have no bond with her.
Bugs, a black and white male, is very special. He has been with us all his life after being rescued by two of our American volunteers from a rubbish dump as a tiny kitten, still with his eyes closed. I cannot imagine the house without him. For some reason he has a passion for sleeping on my suitcase whenever I am in Dar.
I had one interesting experience on my flight from America to Athens. Before take off the flight attendant came down the aisle asking if someone was prepared to move to the first row. Because the passenger who had just boarded had his cat with him, in a travelling kennel, and in the front row all luggage must go in the overhead bin. Naturally the man wanted his cat beside him. As no one else moved, I stood up, shoved my hand luggage up, and swapped seats with him. When we arrived, and were standing waiting for luggage, and went over and asked if I could see his cat. It turned out that he feels he must always travel with him because he cannot use his back legs and his owner does not trust anyone else to look after him.
And then there was Baxter, a rather large rabbit, who lives with one of JGI’s Roots & Shoots teachers, Wendy Gediman. I visited when I gave a talk at the school and as I arrived early I spent a little time with Baxter – who has to be kept under observation as he likes eating the carpet, or any clothes that are around. When Wendy is teaching he is put in his enclosure – which takes up slightly more than half of her small living room!
When Richard Christiansen came to spend the evening with us at the Roger Smith he brought his two cocker spaniels, Freeway and Daylesford. It seems they were more calm and relaxed than they usually are around new people – but that is normal with dogs and me.
Twice Chitcus (my Native American “spirit brother”) and his friend (now mine as well) Roger Minkow, drove to see me in San Francisco with their French Bulldogs. The first time I met SaSha and ChaShi who belong to Chitcus.
The second time Roger brought his own dog, Harley. They are the most charming characters – and now becoming popular in the UK thanks to the number of American celebrities who have fallen in love with the breed.
In Nepal, a charming dog joined our small group as we were hearing how the fishermen are helping to protect the highly endangered river dolphins. He was really friendly and obviously well cared for.
In Athens three “resident” street dogs were so well fed that they could only lie, stretched out, in contented slumber, quite ignoring all that went on around them. Although, they have been spayed and neutered and are very well known in the area.
They looked so comfortable – and, well, I was tired too!
In Canada I met the exuberant Cello who is being trained as an assistance dog. I saw him lying quietly beside his trainer throughout my talk – and of course I mentioned this when I was explaining how my dog Rusty, my childhood companion, had taught me so much about the intelligence and sentience of animals. Afterwards Cello and his trainer were invited back stage – he was very boisterous, almost knocking me over with his delighted greeting – probably thrilled that his hours in the theatre were finally over. Clearly his training has some way to go.
In Johannesburg I always stay with Alan and Marjo Kirschner and their two canine friends Ollie and Amber. I have known them for years – the dogs completely dominate their human companions. It was Alan who helped start JGI in South Africa, and was chairman of the board for many years.
A love of puppy kisses seems to run in the family!
And then in South Africa, in the town of George, there was Charlie. I was with my granddaughter Angel at the time, and we stayed in a wonderful guest house where the owner had two labs. We had one half day free and went for a walk along a ravine where the fynbos flowers were in full bloom. I cannot resist adding these two photos of Charlie and Angel in the car.
During my time in San Francisco I visited the office of the Wildlife Conservation Network, the organization conceived and initiated by my wonderful friend, Charlie Knowles. WCN brings together those people who want to – and can – support conservation of endangered wildlife, with those who are struggling in the field, to study and save a whole variety of species around the world. As you can see from this photo, his office is dog friendly. What a great visit it was for me!
And finally I should introduce the gang of three who live with TP Lin and his partner Peter in Kuala Lumpur. They completely rule the household and terrorize visitors with their yapping welcome – though they would not dream of biting anyone. In this photo TP is with Oprah, the boss. I have the adorable Wolfie on my lap, and Peter is cuddling Elizabeth.
Let me end with the dogs at the Birches, our family house in in Bournemouth where I grew up and where I come between trips, the house. There have always been dogs around.
Rusty came into my life when I was about 12 years old. (Get your very own Rusty from the Jane Goodall Institute’s eStore here)
Right now there is the rescue greyhound, Callie, who is very sweet and very beautiful and completely without brain! She won 17 races before she was retired, but unlike so many she was never cruelly treated. Bean has a serious nut addiction! We took her in along with Bean, a whippet. Of course I love them because they are dogs, and because it gives me a reason to walk along the cliffs every day. But they are not “doggy” dogs, and I have not bonded with them as I did with their predecessors Whisky and Poppy and Hamish and Astro and Charlie. How I miss Charlie. We all do.
Now, let me end with a story about Charlie. It was at this time of year, in May, when all the flowers are in bloom, here in Bournemouth. And, as usual, I took Charlie out after lunch. And because of the flowers, I took a camera with me. The following is what transpired that day.
It occurred to me that the reason I walk is to exercise Charlie – yet in my little collection of spring in Bournemouth, we only see Charlie’s back view. So I decided to see if I could get her and flowers. Opportunity just did not arise. So I persuaded her to come close to a plant, told her to sit, then “stay”.
To my surprise she did just that – but she appeared to feel she was being made a fool of, despite lavish praise. She stared straight in front of her and would not look at me. I suggested she might go a little closer to the azalea – and it would be lovely, I said, if she could look at me. Her response? She SAT ON IT!!!
With love from Bournemouth,
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.