Into the Pride

At the age of eleven I wanted to be a veterinarian. No surprise, really. I still claim that my inner super power is animal communication and when I witness or see evidence of animal cruelty I get violently angry. I want to save them. I used to be jealous of my friends in East Africa who grew up farther out in the bush than I. We lived on some beautiful compounds and I often explored the surrounding forests, but had we lived “in the wild” there is no telling what types of injured or abandoned animals I would have brought home on a regular basis.

My mother, always one to encourage my interests, thought James Herriot and his book All Creatures Great and Small would be a good read for me. It’s a wonderful book, but it begins like this:

They didn’t say anything about this in the books, I thought, as the snow blew in through the gaping doorway and settled on my naked back.

I lay face down on the cobbled floor in a pool of nameless muck, my arm deep inside the straining cow, my feet scrabbling for a toe hold between the stones. I was stripped to the waist and the snow mingled with the dirt and the dried blood on my body.

[Blah. Blah. Blah.]

I tried to wriggle my way an extra inch inside the cow. The calf’s head was back and I was painfully pushing a thing, looped rope towards its lower jaw with my finger tips. All the time my arm was being squeezed between the calf and the bony pelvis. With every straining effort from the cow the pressure became almost unbearable, then she would relax and I would push the rope another inch. I wondered how long I would be able to keep this up. If I didn’t snare that jaw soon I would never get the calf away. I groaned, set my teeth and reached forward again.

And, thus, my veterinary dreams came to an abrupt end. I finished the book, but that visual was enough for me and with my math and science skills being what they are… it was for the best. My love of animals, however, will linger for all eternity and I never felt more alive and a part of this planet then when I was out there… in the wild with the elephants, cape buffalo, lions and other original habitants of my beloved Africa.

While I have this love for the beasts of the planet, it has always been the felines that truly captivate my heart. Oh, I have no intentions of ever becoming the crazy old cat lady. I just love cats… big and small… domesticated and wild. I feel a kinship with them. My eyes are often described as feline. My astrological sign is Leo (the lion). In the Chinese horoscope I am a Tiger. The number of times I’ve had to rise from the ashes is far less phoenix and far more nine lives. I’ve owned a number of cats and I miss the time I used to spend with the big cats of Africa in Kenya’s game reserves. The cheetahs are my favorite. Had I realized, as my veterinary hopes dwindled, that there are many more animal related careers in this world… perhaps I would have followed a different vocational path. But, I didn’t. I’m okay with this now because there are those who allow me to live vicariously through their adventures.

Enter Dave Salmoni.

He’s not alone. There are others, the iconic Jack Hanna for one, but Dave is different and it was his most recent work,
Into the Pride, that absolutely bewitched me. For five too short episodes I lived with Dave in the Namibian bush as he got up close and personal with a rogue pride of lions who had been banished from the game reserves for bad behavior. I fell in love with the pride. I laughed and I wept. The thought that the entire pride might be destroyed if Dave failed and the cats could not be rehabilitated was unfathomable to me. In particular I came to adore Cleo, the alpha female, who never quite warmed to Salmoni’s presence. She is wary, aggressive, protective and untrusting. And… there is a startlingly familiar look in her eyes. I know it well for I see it every morning when I glance in the mirror.

Dave can be seen in a number of other
projects and I am looking forward to what he does next. As a single mom with the world on her shoulders I have not the luxury of going deep into the wild… but I can follow Dave on his adventures, read updates via his blog (though one entry regarding the pride brought tears), and even follow the more day-to-day through his Twitter stream: @davesalmoni. Thanks, Dave, from the eleven-year-old animal obsessed tomboy still residing in me somewhere.

"Cats are opportunists. They will kill you if they get a chance. They may share some of your emotions, but they won't have any problem with killing you if you make a mistake." ~Dave Salmoni


  1. Beth: As some one nearly fifteen years your senior, please believe me when I tell you that you've got A LOT of remaining time to plan and pursue something like this, despite all your current responsibilities (which I understand to be significant).

    Perhaps not being full-time ensconced in the bush, but surely there must be other avenues in the field of animal conservation, etc., that are accessible to you, especially with all the emphasis these days on protecting wildlife and future-proofing our environment. Why not begin researching and planning something like this now? You might discover opportunities you were not even aware had existed.

    Just a thought from an eternal optimist. ~John

  2. You are an eternal optimist. Thanks, but I don't know if I would even WANT to pursue something like that. I may wait a few years and simply become a zoo volunteer (when I move to a city with a zoo).

  3. Wow, I could have written this... will be back to comment once I've had a good 'night's' (more like half-day's) sleep.

  4. As someone who has dramatically switched gears and direction several times...don't think for one moment that the chance to pursue your dreams has passed you by. I know that's a hard thing to hold on to when you're just barely hanging on as it is.

    I still have that dream of running a camp up above the Amboseli...

  5. Mo ~ Do come back and elaborate, luv!

    Dori ~ AH! A camp above Amboseli. I adore Amboseli. It's far lovelier than Tsavo. My *ultimate* dream would be to live in Kenya and work as a tour guide. I don't want to own a company or anything... just work w/ some of the more high end tour operators.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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