Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD is Back with a Roar!

Strength, speed, agility and beauty are words that I would use to describe many, if not all, of the big cat species. As one of the world's most majestic predators, big cats are facing more danger than they are causing. These animals are incredible and one of the most beautiful species in the animal kingdom. Sadly, their numbers are rapidly declining as a result of habitat destruction, poaching, loss of prey, and trophy hunting. Creating awareness about these big cats and Causing an Uproar is something near and dear to my heart.

Dylan and I were thrilled when Nat Geo WILD asked is we would like to preview the new episodes for this year. I can't even begin to tell you how encouraging it is that National Geographic is continuing to shine a spotlight on these felines by bringing their stories into our homes with the Fourth Annual Big Cat Week. Talking about the Big Cat Initiative and Causing an Uproar is something that we try to do on a regular basis, so we are especially excited to share our thoughts on Nat Geo WILD's most-watched week for the past three years!

Big Cat Week kicks off on Friday, November 29, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with Man v Cheetah followed by Super Cat at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Both are great and really get you thinking about these magnificent cats.

What do you think will happen when Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson - the NFL's fastest running back - and Chicago Bears' Devin Hester - the super agile wide receiver and kick returner - participate in the first ever race with a cheetah? Cheetahs are built for speed, but could these athletes have an advantage over the cheetah or will Chris and Devin be left in the dust?
Who will win? Anything is possible on Man v Cheetah.

What if you could take the best feature of all the big cats and combine them to create the ultimate Super Cat? What would your Super Cat look like? Think about it ... the speed of a cheetah, the strength of a lion, the skill of a tiger, and the climbing ability of a leopard. That would be one amazing cat!

Saturday, November 30, 2013 features two more new episodes that will challenge your skills as the hunted and the hunter. Killer Queen is a captivating documentary that follows lioness Manyari's pride as they face the challenges of ensuring her cubs survival. Cougar v Wolf takes us on a journey with big cat wrangler Boone Smith as he tracks the cougar-wolf showdown through snow-covered mountains to pinpoint where the cougar-wolf conflicts occur the most often. Not something I would do ... a little too close for my comfort.

Small Roar - Photograph by Beverly Joubert 
Now it just wouldn't be Big Cat Week without a feature film from my favorite award-winning couple, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Made exclusively for Nat Geo WILD, Game of Lions is nothing short of extraordinary. Young male lions must earn the right to be king and this film follows that fateful journey. The Jouberts have a style of storytelling unlike any other - their films are always moving and often heartbreaking - and at the same time unforgettable works of art. Game of Lions premieres on Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

I can't think of a better way to end Big Cat Week then with one of the most famous cougars of them all ... Betty White! Her love of animals, quick-witted humor, and pure passion to create awareness made Betty White Goes Wild! an absolute joy to watch. Not to mention that she was visiting my two favorite places - the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It was wonderful to see Betty interacting with the big cats that we know and love, especially Izu and Oshana.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn more about the world's most extraordinary big cat species.

Stay connected and join the conversation by following Nat Geo WILD on twitter and Facebook. You can also follow the hashtags #BigCatWeek and #CauseanUproar

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thoughts on being thankful and counting our blessings

Every year when November rolls around I try to think of new things to be thankful for. New blessings that have come into my life ... or in the case of this year, an old blessing that keeps giving me more and more to be thankful for.

When I asked Dylan what he was thankful for this year, his answers reminded me of how truly blessed I am to have him as my son.

Dylan is thankful for ...

  • All the conservation work I have been able to do, like raising money for the tigers and watching Tiger Trail being built at the Safari Park.
  • For all the people and sponsors that made Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp possible so that I could raise money for the Amur leopards and Snow leopards.
  • For getting Tiga as my birthday present and knowing she was a rescue. She is the best pet ever.
  • Having the privilege to be in the Presidents Association at the San Diego Zoo.
  • My home and my health.
  • That my mom took me on a Deluxe Caravan Safari so that I could see Nola.
  • For the support and encouragement I get from my friends who work at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

This year I am especially thankful for my son ... Life with Dylan really is inspiring. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tiga has a new friend

Rather than spend our time rescuing Dylan's stuffed animals from Tiga's mouth, we decided to get her the next best thing. 

Tiga loves Mr. Monkey and hasn't bothered Dylan's special animals in weeks. I think we solved that problem! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jobs that Bite! on Nat Geo WILD - Are you up for the adventure?

If you love animals and Nat Geo WILD as much as we do, then you are going to love the new series Jobs That Bite! Believe it or not, there is small percentage of people that absolutely love their jobs and lucky for us, Nat Geo WILD found a few of them. The result was Jobs that Bite! Host Jeremy Brandt will travel across the country visiting these American workers who truly love what they do for a living … even if the job bites … literally! 

Recently Dylan and I were given the opportunity to preview the first two episodes of this new series and we think Jobs That Bite! is fantastic. Filled with just the right mixture of adventure, suspense, and quick-witted comments from Jeremy, this new series gives us a real behind the scenes look at some jobs that most of us would never think about. 

I mean really, who thinks about giving a lion a dental exam or about how a zookeeper weighs a newborn giraffe? Think chimps are cute? Well, they are … but did you ever wonder about the safety precautions needed when working with chimpanzees? They can be quite mean and have been known to attack humans. Got a beehive in your walls? No problem, just call someone to remove it … but that is a Job that Bites! and a job that requires skill, patience, and a keen eye when looking for the queen bee. 

Jeremy is willing to try just about anything, but I’m not so sure I would have helped perform a dental exam on a 400-pound lion!

These Jobs That Bite! can be messy and dangerous, but as Jeremy Brandt discovers, they can also be very rewarding. Many of these jobs are not what you think of when asked What do you want to be when you grow up? … but the people who perform them are working hard every day to make life better for animals. 

During the premiere episode, Jobs That Bite!: The Lion Dentist, Jeremy Brandt will get wild with some of the animals at the Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach, Florida and then travel to a goat farm ranch before heading to the Gulf of Mexico to board a shrimping boat. I promise it will be an adventure you won't want to miss!

Be sure to watch NatGeo WILD’s new series Jobs That Bite! Premiering Saturday, November 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

You can find the Jobs That Bite! episode guide on the Nat Geo website. Future episodes include The Camel Milkman, Wild Jobs, and The Ostrich Cowboy. Make sure to set your DVR's so you don't miss a single episode.

About Nat Geo Wild:
For more than 30 years, National Geographic has been the leader in wildlife programming. The networks Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo WILD HD, launched in 2010, offer intimate encounters with nature’s ferocious fighters and gentle creatures of land, sea and air that draw upon the cutting-edge work of the many explorers, filmmakers and scientists of the National Geographic Society.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My son isn't an athlete and that's ok with me

Everyone has something that they are really good at, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. For some people this may be a sport; many kids in our neighborhood play soccer and football. Others belong to various running clubs. I think this is wonderful - the world needs athletes. However, if sports are not a child's passion, then I don’t believe they should be put down or made to feel inferior. 

Having different interests, hobbies, and skills is what makes us all unique individuals. I believe in fostering whatever passion a child may have rather than forcing them to conform to what others are doing. What might be the norm for some isn't necessarily the norm for others.

My son loves playing basketball - for fun. He doesn't want to be on a team. He doesn't want to commit to practicing three days a week and playing games every weekend. This is completely OK with me. His passion, his niche in life, is not sports. I know, gasp right? Wrong. 
My son is not and probably never will be an athlete. Rather, he will change the world around him by educating others and being the best person he can possibly be. 

Dylan has been in Scouts since 1st grade. Tiger Cub, Wolf Cub, Bear Cub, Webelo, and now he is starting his first year as a Boy Scout. He thrives in this environment and looks forward to his weekly troop meetings. He has a goal of becoming and Eagle Scout like his Grandpa and his hero Rick Schwartz, Ambassador for the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I have no doubt that with hard work and determination he will accomplish this task. 

The other passion in Dylan's life is animals. This is something that has interested him since he was a toddler. Dylan has always loved learning about animals, their habitats, and as he got older, creating awareness for animal conservation. Those of you who follow Life with Dylan here and on Facebook know the depth of his passion. His fundraising efforts for San Diego Zoo Global have made him somewhat of a household name around the zoo - When we attend events at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, people stop mid-sentence and say "Oh, wait, you're the Dylan! We've heard all about you." Others see him and congratulate him or thank him for what he has done. 

Sometimes this makes him uncomfortable - he doesn't understand why they make such a big deal about something that seems so natural for him - and I explain that what he does is not "the norm", but that doesn't make it wrong or any less important. Dylan's passion is growing stronger every day and I have no intention of holding him back. We have both seen the rewards of his hard work. Doors are continuing to open for him and amazing opportunities to learn more are within his reach. 

Ask him what he likes to do and he will answer with philanthropy or conservation work. Dylan would rather spend his spare time reading or watching wildlife documentaries than playing sports and he would spend every weekend at the zoo if he could. Sure, he plays his fair share of video games, but Dylan is far from the average 10 year old. 

My son is a philanthropist.

My son is an entrepreneur.

My son is a conservationist.

My son is not an athlete - He is an individual who is making a difference and inspiring others. I am not saying that playing sports is a bad thing or a waste of time. If sports is your passion, then by all means excel in the game. 

Dylan's playing field may be different, but my son is still an all-star in my book.