Q: When you’re working with these very exotic animals that they don’t teach you about in veterinary school, how do you know what you’re doing?
A: You know, a lot of animals that I work with, we don’t know a lot about in general, and so a lot of it is extrapolating from animals we do know about. And so the key to that is knowing and learning as much as you can about dogs and cats, and even some of the exotics we might know more about, and then applying that to some of these other species. So when I was working with whales … I was doing more conservation research work than veterinary work. So we were actually collecting skin samples … . But to answer your question, I do the research that I can, and if it’s something we don’t know much about, then I do my best to find the next closest species and then apply what I know to that.
Q: Are there any animals that made you nervous?
A: To be honest, no, there’s not an animal or a species or group of animals that I’m uncomfortable working with. You know, it really depends on the individual. That’s what it comes down to. And so you have to feel each individual animal out. And some members of a species might be more attractable or more engaging and some might be more shy or nervous or fearful or dangerous. So every animal I approach with respect and caution and I listen to what they say. I look at their body language and then play off that. And if things look like they’re approachable and they’re curious and we might have a nice little engagement, then we’ll move further and I just move at their pace and follow their lead.
George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.