What’s my favorite animal? Just look at what I’m wearing.

Want to know an animal care specialist’s favorite animal?

Look no further than their wardrobe and home decor.

Even the general public has enthusiasm for their favorite animals.  Socks, shirts, necklaces, earrings… you name it, you can probably find your most beloved critter on it.  However, you will be hard pressed to match the dedication of a zoological employee for finding these items.  We become bloodhounds with the vision of an eagle.  Money is no object, even if the rent is due that week.  Once we spot our beloved item in the store, shaped in the form of a penguin (or giraffe, sloth, zebra…), we develop tunnel vision.  We reach a critical level of anxiety that can only be abated by having said item in our hands.

Where it is safe.

Where we have established preliminary possession.

It’s not yours.  Don’t touch it.  Don’t look at it.

MINE.

hippo socks
Hippos are your fave and you find these boot socks in a bin? You carry them around the store, giving everyone the side-eye, until they are safely purchased and in your vehicle.

 

I will use myself as proof for this claim.  What’s my favorite animal?  The shark.  I have fervently (and sometimes drunkenly) championed the importance of the shark species to “special” people who feel that the only good shark is a dead shark.

Fools.  Why anyone would beg to be throat punched for uttering such a statement is beyond me.

Anyway, my healthy obsession with sharks has also influenced those close to me to think of me when they uncover rare shark paraphernalia. They excitedly text me pictures of shark sheets, shark slippers, and shark backpacks.  I have my own personal army out there every day that unwittingly assists me with collecting all things elasmobranch.

And I love every single second of it!

shark head
When your bestie knows you are going through a “dry spell” and also knows exactly how to make you smile.

As you can see, the item doesn’t always have to be a real time representation of our favorite fauna, although we are all aficionados of nature photos.  It can be cartoony, abstract, and completely impractical.  It doesn’t matter.  When we spot that t-shirt of the sloth a riding comet?  Look out!  We will straight up shank you for it.  You’ve been warned.

We will also gladly, and proudly, wear these items in public with zero shame and an expert level of comfort.

shark suit
Wearing my shark suit to the bar on a random September evening. Comfort Level: No shits given.

We are also addicts of subtle objects, things that are a tad more understated than a head to toe shark suit.  We all own little items that betray our borderline clinical fixations with a particular animal, but these accessories are a smidgen harder to spot.

This is my personal favorite in my “shark stable”.

shark earbuds
My hair pulls them out of my ears constantly but… I just can’t quit these earbuds.

 

However, our love runs deep and the real thing must be represented somewhere.  We have teeth, bones, hair, feathers, and any other biological gems you can think of to represent our beloved spirit animal.  As professional animal care folks, we have a unique access to things we think are treasures that others would describe as a “biohazards”.  One of my former colleagues had a collection of castings* from our hawk.

Biohazards aside, professional photographs of our chosen animals in their most blissful state of being is the crown jewel of any animal care specialist’s home décor.  It is a must and not just any photo will do.  Usually, it is either a visual that is on our bucket list to see (for example, The Great Migration) or something beautiful enough to encapsulate the spirit our beloved animal.

When I found this trio of photos of a Great White shark, I practically went to my knees at the art festival.

shark nature
This hangs in my bedroom. Maybe this explains the “dry spell”?

So, if you have an animal care professional in your life you now have the key to their happiness.  If your mate or bestie is having a day, or maybe they just plain NEED that item in their life?  Get it.  Like, now.

They won’t care if it is practical, pretty, tacky, or expensive.  If they are employed as a dolphin trainer but completely infatuated with the slow loris?  Initiate “Operation Loris Hunt” and find that trainer a phone case with a damn slow loris!

They will be so appreciative and overcome with emotion that they will probably name their first child after you.

And, if that zoo professional is me?  You can trust and believe that I will enjoy that shark accessory with some wine.

shark sweater
Know what goes with my shark jaw sweater? Pinot grigio.

Until next time, keep your eyes open for that perfectly ridiculous animal gear that you can’t live without.

Hugs and Fishes, y’all!

 

*For all you non-zoo folks, a casting is a pellet a bird regurgitates that is comprised of undigested parts like feathers, bones, and other funsies.