The Hammer comes down:
My favourite hobby
Wildlife encounters bring heartfelt joy and inner peace
By Linda Hammerschmid
We all have that one hobby (or several) that transcends all others and brings about heartfelt joy and often, inner peace. It may also be inspiring. It may even lead you down new paths previously undiscovered, and bring you newfound friendships. It could be photography, or the art of culinary exploration, or travel to far away places you had only read about in years past.
For me, it’s having real life experiences with wildlife. This is not to say I have to travel to exotic places to get my fix. Luckily many are available in North America and I have been lucky enough to sample a variety of different beings without breaking the bank or sitting on long plane rides.
One of the most scenic, to me, was on a shore excursion in Alaska that took us from the ship to a river inland where bald eagles roam and rule the skies. It was a cold drizzly sort of day and we were outfitted with ponchos and billy boots prior to boarding a large Kodiak that floated us up and down the river. I remember that tree cover mostly obliterated the sky overhead but that just added to the drama of the scene before us. Every so often one or more bald eagles would rise up from the shore or some fallen tree branch and fly over us. They are without a doubt spectacular to see so close in fallout wingspan.
One of the most scenic, to me, was on a shore excursion in Alaska that took us from the ship to a river inland where bald eagles roam and rule the skies.
It is a toss up for me as to whether they are my favs or if that honour belongs to the pelican. You may laugh but every time I see pelicans fly I feel somehow transported for a brief moment to ponder what it must have been like in prehistoric times. For me the pelican looks prehistoric and I like to believe they, or distant relatives, roamed the planet and managed to survive to their present day form (I said you might laugh).
I’ve also always loved the ocean and whenever I can I seek out swimming encounters with stingrays and with dolphins – the latter species I am sure being far superior to ours. I have been fortunate in swimming with dolphins four times – sadly not as yet in the wild – three of which took place in the Florida Keys. There is of course Theatre of the Sea, which is more show-like and structured. There are swim encounters in separate manmade lagoons and you experience the proverbial “tricks” such as getting a hug, holding a pole for the dolphins to jump over and of course being propelled by dolphin noses pushing your feet so you feel like Superman flying, but in water. One dolphin even came between my head and the edge of the platform we start from, in time to spare me a big headache, as I surely would have hit it otherwise (to be fair, the lagoon is quite murky). I thought that was amazing.
‘I’ve also always loved the ocean and whenever I can I seek out swimming encounters with stingrays and with dolphins – the latter species I am sure being far superior to ours.’
However, if you want to have a more realistic dolphin encounter, try Dolphin Plus. This is more of a scientific and educational facility. The swim pools are much smaller but there are no tricks in the encounter I had and no contact (unless the dolphin so decides). You are there to entertain the dolphins. You are encouraged to swim vigorously and play so as to garner the interest of the two or three dolphins in the pool with you.
If you are amusing enough, they will come near – don’t even try to keep up, as they can be there and gone in an instant. One friend I swam with has a metal pin in his knee and one dolphin, via sonar, became quite intrigued and swam around sideways besides him for quite sometime trying to ascertain what this novelty was. All the while the staff observes your interaction. This facility also receives autistic children as dolphins have a calming effect for these kids (and not just them I might add).
But my all time favourite are the big cats. I’m not a small cat person per se but if I can touch and hug a big cat I’m in heaven. I guess it all started with the TV show “Daktari”. Then my first up-close and personal encounter came during Expo 67. I got to hug and then have my photo taken with a male lion in the “zoo” section of La Ronde at the 1967 Montreal Expo. Since then I’ve held a tiger cub (yes, I have the photo) and just recently, spent 15 minutes playing with a four-month-old male lion cub at the Miami Zoological Wildlife Foundation (really located in South Kendall). For this I have over 100 photos, so maybe I can make wallpaper.
Next time – swimming with lion cubs in West Florida or going back to the Zoological Wildlife Foundation to play with a jaguar cub. I can’t wait.
Feature image: Creative Commons
Me Linda Hammerschmid is an attorney and has been practicing Family Law since 1982. She is the Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates at 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290. She is a founding and current member, and past Secretary (28 years) of The Family Law Association of Quebec. She is a frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD, providing commentary on Family Law. You can also hear her regularly on the CJAD show ‘Passion’ with Dr. Laurie Betito, the last Thursday of each month. She and her dog Mac are members of CPAT (Caring Paws Animal Therapy), giving joy to the less fortunate. Me Hammerschmid can be reached at (514) 846-1013 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. All inquiries will be treated confidentially.