What are three words that define a huge portion of my life? I Love Animals! For seven years, high school through college, I worked as a veterinary technician and had the pleasure to handle and work with everything from dogs and cats, rodents, reptiles and raptures. I count it a blessing the gift God has given me to see the beauty in a snake, compassion for an injured duck or the ability to communicate with many of God’s creators, including an encounter with a captive female gorilla.
Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated with primates. I grew up wanting to be Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall, two of my life long heroes.
In the summer of 1988, my family took a vacation to England. On a slightly cool, grey typical London morning, we took a trip to the London Zoo. We arrived just as the zoo opened, which allowed us to view the animals without too many other people around. My parents and my brother decided to go into the primate house, but I went around to the outside portion of the enclosure.
As I approached, I saw an adult female gorilla holding a very small infant. For me, talking to animals comes very naturally. I do it without even thinking how strange I might sound.
As I talked to this beautiful animal, she slowly brought her baby over to the edge of the enclosure and sat with her side resting against the steel cage. I was now no more than 3 feet away from a creature I had longed to meet my whole life. Our eyes met and instantly we connected on a level few ever get to experience. Her deep, soft brown eyes communicate volumes. As I continued to talk to her and compliment her on her beautiful baby, she repositioned herself so I could see her baby. She actually held it, as though she was showing it off to her new friend.
Those fifteen minutes, seemed to last for an eternity. Our solemn encounter was rudely interrupted by a few loud zoo guests that wanted to take a look at the baby. As they approached, my new friend gave me one last look and then wondered off to a corner of the enclosure far way from the pesky, annoying humans.
I was on cloud nine . . . ten . . . . and eleven. I had just had an intimate encounter with the greatest of all the great apes. Words cannot describe the emotions a person goes through when you connect with a wild animal on such a deep level. To this day, I still tear up with emotion.
Now this story could end here and be a wonderful testament of the God given bound between a human and a wild animal, but there is more.
After the mama and I said our goodbyes, I went inside the primate house to find my parents and brother. As I entered, the hall was filled with about a hundred people watching the huge male silver back. He was throwing things around, beating on his chest, and just making a complete spectacle of himself. He obviously loved the attention he was getting from the crowd. A few moments past before he noticed me standing in the middle of the crowd. Suddenly he stopped, faced me and our eyes met. Time seemed to stop. Now if I was in the wild and he had done this, I probably would not be here telling you this story. I could hear people around me started whispering how amazed they were that I was staring down a full-grown silverback male lowland gorilla. As we stared at each other, he started to posture. He stuck out his chest, rose up on his knuckles and raised his head. I knew that this was a sign of him asserting his dominance and he was about to charge. There was very thick plexiglass between us, but for fear of his injury, I immediately looked away.
He won. He knew it too. He took his fist and did a chest pump and moved off to continue amusing himself and the rest of the crowd. I on the other hand stood motionless.
Once my heart started beating again, I noticed why he picked me out of the large crowd. The door that separated the indoor and outdoor areas was open. During the whole time I was outside with HIS girl, he could see me. When I came inside, he needed to maintain his dominance over his female and saw me as a threat, thus his challenge.
I have been around animals nearly my entire life. I've been blessed to handle and work with many wild creatures. There is an unspoken bond that can happen between a human and an animal that will affect you until the day you die. I am so blessed to have made many of these bonds in my life time, but this one encounter in London reached into my soul like no other experience I have ever had.