Girl in Camouflage

Friends Along the Way

Image of Tim smiling at Jackson the dog

I turned 60 this year. I’ve been reflecting a lot about my life. It’s been wonderful. There’s very little that I would change. In my reflecting I’ve thought a lot about the richness that all of my close animal friends have brought to my life. I truly owe them all my life, for all of the richness of my life.

I was lucky to be raised with animals so I’ve always known how to be with them, how to speak with them, how to meet them in that special place, that place that’s sacred, that heart space where I can be real with them. No fear, no need for control or at least over control. It’s truly a unique place that many humans rarely experience and I’ve been blessed my entire life with these kinds of relationships. So I offer my thanks to them all and I look forward to seeing them again on my next journey. They made me who I am, and I am forever grateful.

Thank you to Boots and Corky, my cat and dog, who ushered me through my early childhood. To my Sheepdogs, Clyde, Blue and Wiggles, who were with me through my teens. To Arco, my protector, my German Shepherd. To all of the farm animals at my grandfather’s farm in Rowan, Montana. The dairy cows, the meat cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys. To the wild cats that I loved and protected. To the bats that lived in the farm house attic and kept me company at night. Thanks to my parakeet, Henry, who brought me through pneumonia at 5 years old. To my cat, Sam, who only lived to 6 months old and died of Cancer. Sam taught me love and loss.

To all of the wild animals that shared my days in the wild as I grew up. The lizards and the snakes. Thank you to all 30 of my snakes I had in my room as a kid. The deer and raccoons that spent many nights with me. The countless insects, frogs and salamanders. The fish that taught me so many nature skills.

It’s hard to write this. I cry a lot as the memories come back. When you love animals deeply you have to learn to accept their loss as most don’t outlive us. It’s painful to remember and it’s good too.

Thanks to Jeb, who slept with me in the Trinity Alps Wilderness in the summers on horse packing trips. He was such a loyal dog. To all of the horses that shared my younger years. The mystic Arabian stallion that let me train him and gave me his power to carry. To ride my quarter horse, he carried me through. The Santa Cruz mountains for endless miles. To all the pack horses. To Blackie the raven who was kicked by a horse and broke his wing. He brought my dad into my life at a very important time. I thank Blackie for his 20 years we had together. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of my pet rats, mice and hamsters.

In writing this I’m mesmerized by all my animal friends. I’m fearful I might forget one. I was fortunate to work with wild exotic animals between the ages of 19 to 27 years old. Some of my most sacred relationships came from this time. I thank the chimpanzees I worked and lived with every single day. Thank you to Raffles, my most beloved animal friend ever. You will always be my great love, my brother. I still love you. I always will. To Gabby and Jai. Thanks to my baby chimps, Bobby and Kobi. To Kobi who taught me about deep sadness for the loss of love and taught me my limits on how to help, and how to just hold space. Thanks Kobi. To Kong, my gorilla and motorcycle riding partner. To my monkeys and baboons, John, George, Ted, Lenny, Chloe and Jane.

I forged life long, altering relationships with many elephants that I loved with all the love I could ever have. To them I say thanks. Sampson, my big male, who taught me how to move through pure terror and find peace on the other side. Ho to Sam!
Thanks to Matidi who died in my arms. She allowed me to usher her through to the other worlds. To Mable and Flossy, my true babies. Thank you to both. To Margie who was a goddess. She took me to Star Wars. She carried me through the Mojave Desert on her back. Elephants all of you, thank you.

Thank you to all the tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, especially Nina the black leopard that loved to jump on me so I could catch her. Thanks to Jeeder the water buffalo. He carried Raffles, my chimp and me through our home, Marine World. He proved that anything was possible, as the experts had said it couldn’t happen.

Thanks to Cobra, my Harpe Eagle that trusted me to hold her on my arm and to fly her into crowds. I know she longed for her jungle rain forest. I couldn’t give that to her.

A huge thank you to Keanu, the Killer Whale who was my secret night time swimming partner. My trip with you to Japan was so unbelievable that I still can’t believe it was real. I truly hope I helped you on that journey and I hope I made your life in captivity better. I’ll never forget you. What happened to you should never happen to a killer whale. Thanks also to all the seals and dolphins I swam with after hours at Marine World. All I can say is Wow.

Thanks to Fred the wild moose who visited me every day at the Alberta Game Farm in Canada. Thanks to Lenny my every day elephant companion who traveled into the woods of Canada with me and all across Canada on speaking engagements.

Thanks to the Mountain Gorillas, the rhinos and hippos. Thank you to the 800 pound Siberian Tigers who sent me on crazy chases in 50 degree below zero weather to find them fresh meat.

Thank you to the Chinese Leopards for not killing me. I love life. Thanks to the wolverines who never stopped giving me the chills as I wondered what they would do to me. A very special thank you to the bears I worked with. The Black Bears, The Grizzly Bears and the Polar Bears. Thank you again to the 6 Polar Bears who allowed me to live when I slipped on the ice. I appreciate your kindness.
Thanks to the giraffes, zebras, Gazelle, Wild Sheep and goats, deer, elk and moose. The Bobcats, Lynx, Servals and African Wild Cats. To my muskrat friend who I tracked through endless bogs. The Prairie Dogs. A most heartfelt thanks to the wolf pack I often lived with and ran with. I still can’t believe my luck. Unbelievable. Thanks to the alpha male and female for taking me into this pack, especially for giving me a true once in a life time moment when the female let me crawl into her den and lay with her newborn babies. I still get chills.

Thank you to the Draft Horses that waited all night for me in 50 below temperatures to hook them up to a sleigh. They pulled me through ice and snow to feed over 1600 animals every single day. They are my heroes.

Thanks to Shelby the Musk Ox who allowed me to bring her back to life. I couldn’t have survived the grief if she had died then. She was a miracle. Thanks to the Red Panda and Giant Pandas. Just being in their presence was sacred.
In Florida, in the city of Miami I had countless relationships that changed my life. To the elephant, Dollup, who never liked me, and always tried to kill me. You kept me humble Dollup. Thank you. To Babe the elephant who had been so abused and yet so loved by me. We healed each other with our love. She knew so much pain, so much, and kept on loving and living. My hero.
Thanks to my manatee friend on Key Biscayne Island. Every day after work you would meet me at a wild lagoon. I’d feed you watermelons and lettuce and we would swim and play. Wild man and wild manatee. I got to swim with a real mermaid. It doesn’t get any better than that.

To my Osprey who allowed me to give her a new life as an ambassador for wildlife everywhere. These years in the zoos and parks were instrumental in making me the man I am. To the thousands of animals that let me clean their homes, sit with them, sing to them, cry with them, share joy with them, know their fear and loss, their dreams. I hope I made your life better. You all did that for me.

After my years as a zoo keeper and animal trainer I moved to Santa Cruz and worked in wild life rescue. The animals there allowed the care taker in me to really come alive, they brought forth the teacher and the warrior in me.

Thank you to Porsche, my most sacred Red Tail Hawk. Our 30 years together and our talks to over 100,000 people still mystifies me. How could it be that a man and a hawk could be so close? To Edith, my Great Horned Owl who came along on many of our talks. The most peaceful owl I’ve ever known. I love you Porsche and Edith. Thanks for our journey.

Thanks to the Golden Eagle that lived with me after being trapped. That month together was monumental for me. It inspired me so much into doing what I do today. Thanks to all the bird of prey, too many to count, but all recognized. Thanks to the pelicans, the oiled Murrs, the song birds, the sea birds, seals and otters and squirrels and snakes that I had the honor of helping. I’m sorry to all of you for what mankind does to you. We will do better.

To my dogs at that time of my life I love you and thank you, Britta Girl. My cats, Amy and Banjo. My turtle, Big Al. My rattle snakes and pythons, garter snakes and my lizards. Thank you for all of your teachings.

To our horses, our chickens and owls. Thank you. A special thank you to Monster, our Pygmy Owl who taught me immense respect for size and attitude.

To all my dogs who have brought me to sixty and each one filled my heart with love and life and endless fun and inspiration. I thank each of you. Thanks to Joseph, the wolf, who found me Headwaters Outdoor School’s land. Joseph you taught me to let go of control and to trust in the mystery. To Mattie you were shear joy and love. To Bear, our Golden Retriever, you Bear were truly for the people. I’ve never known a more loving animal. To Moxy, you died too soon and I miss you. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I have never healed from your loss. I will carry you with me always. To Scout my white German Shepherd, our time running in the woods was the best ever. I will see you in another place. We have more to do together. To my precious Tank. I love you as you love me. I’m glad I could be there for you. To Kodi, Tank’s brother, Benny, Georgie, Jackson and Cooper, all living the good life at Headwaters. All making my life good and full. All of you give me a reason every day to get up and live fully.

A special thanks to Riley, our wolf dog, who passed this last summer. Riley you came after the loss of Moxy in a deep time of grief and you saved us, and now I know we saved you. You are the magic that makes Headwaters safe. You will forever be remembered, honored and missed. I love you spirit healer dog.

I know I have forgotten thousands of animals that have shared my journey. You all have made me who I am. The medicine that I am is you. When I awaken every day I carry each of you with me. My heart is big enough to honor you all. Thanks for the journey. It’s been quite a ride. I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a life well lived. To me animals, wild, on farms and domestic are the gifts the precious earth has offered to humans. I have been blessed to receive this gift my whole life. I would not want to live any other way. I look forward to many more years if life and you can be sure animals will be a most important part of the rest of my journey. They are the medicine that is who I am. They taught me love, respect, compassion, discipline, honor, fun, commitment, patience, mystery, protection, vision, awareness, inspiration, peace, hope and an open heart.

I Love animals with all that I am.

-Tim

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