Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Goodbye Croc Hunter!

We're so sad today, finding out that the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin of Australia, died over the weekend after being stabbed by a stingray. :( I rarely cry over celebrity deaths, because honestly, I don't know them. I think the only one I ever cried over was Bob Hope when he died. I'll definitely cry when Jerry Lewis dies, too. They've brought me so much laughter in my life. But, our family adores Steve Irwin and his family and I couldn't hold back the tears when I thought of little Bindy, eight years old, who is most certainly a daddy's girl all the way, having to grow up without a father, now. And little Bob, only three.

And really, it's so rare when you see a marriage you can envy and Steve and his wife, Terri, had one of those rare marriages. Anyone with eyes could see just by the glances they exchanged that they were truly, madly in love with each other and it was genuine.

One of the things we admired most about Steve was the respect he showed the animals and had for them. I really liked the way he handled them, much better and much safer than the other guys like Jeff Corwin and Jack Hanna.

Steve never hurt any of the animals and never even looked or seemed like he was. He never behaved recklessly around them, always setting a good example for the kids in how to behave around wild animals. He always would remind them that he was a professional with special training and that they shouldn't get as close as he did or do the same things he did without a professional or a responsible adult there to help them. I liked that about him, because my daughter is an animal lover and would be just the sort of kid to pull what our family calls a "Corwin" and get close and try some goofy trick or play with an animal that really shouldn't be played with, becuase she loves animals and thinks that they're all her friends. So, as a mama, I really appreciated his attitude.

Now, I know that you're probably scratching your head (if anyone's reading this besides me, lol), as I say this about Steve, because there was an incident in 2004 where the media and, frankly, uninformed soccer moms who'd probably never or rarely watched his show got their panties in a twist because he seemingly got too close to a croc while holding 1 month old Bob in his arms. Ok, here's the thing. I don't think that would've gotten as much attention as it did if Whacko Jacko hadn't just tried to toss his kid off a balcony to a bunch of raving lunatics in Germany. There's a HUGE difference between a love-starved perverted rock star dangling his baby by a leg over a balcony and Steve Irwin, the crocodile educator, holding his baby securely in his arms and standing near, but nowhere close to the croc's mouth, to help educate the public on crocs. Steve's always involved his family in his work. It's one of his most endearing qualities that he just loved being with his family and sharing his passion with them. We see that too rarely these days. How many dads or moms do you know who enjoy the company of their family so much they want them around 24/7?

Anyway, back to the controversial incident: the thing is that this man has spent his entire lifetime around these animals. No one on this planet is more informed about how these animals react. He knew exactly what he was doing. The child was far enough out of danger, safely in Irwin's arms and believe me, that croc was a heck of alot more interested in the food Irwin was about to toss to it than anything else going on there. Now, if it was a lion or some other fast moving animal, then yes, he would've been endangering Bob's life, but it wasnt'. And if it had been, he wouldn't have had Bob anywhere near an animal like that.

But, this particular croc, if I'm remembering it right, was one he'd rescued with his dad as a child. He'd basically grown up with this croc. And, if I remember right, this particulare croc had major physical problems and couldn't move fast if his life depended on it, which is why Steve kept it and took care of it, because it wouldn't ahve survived in the wild. So, it wasn't like he had his baby around any real danger. It was a perceived danger. Perceived by the minds of uneducated, uninformed viewers who rarely watched his show, or at least didn't watch it often enough to know this particular croc.

He defended his actions at the time, as did his wife, Terri and rightly so. The only thing I think he should've done differently was to think about his image and not do it, because the public, the media wouldn't understand. But, see, that's just another of his adorable traits. He really didn't think of himself as the big star he really was. I think before that incident, he really didn't realize how important, how significant, how totally HUGE he'd become.

Steve always knew exactly how close he should and shouldn't get to the animals. And, he knew each animal's personality that he worked with. He knew the crocs he owned by heart and they knew him. Bob was never in any danger and anyone who knew him would know that he'd die before he allowed anything bad to happen to his kids or Terri. It was so obvious that it distressed him that anyone could think otherwise at the time.

That incident, well, actually, the public outcry because of that incident really infuriated me at the time. And, really, it wasn't just because of the way the media went on and on about it, even more than they did about Whacko Jacko's attempt to toss the baby out with the bathwater, but it was the way his colleagues turned on him in a flash. I mean, they knew better, knew what he was doing and which animal he was with, and they still turned on him like a pack of hungry wolves. It was sickening.

Loyalty is extremely important to me and always has been. I probably favor that virtue above all the others, right or wrong it's how I am. It didn't take much time at all for them to turn on him when asked for their opinions of what happened. It was ridiculous how fast they put him down and with such ease.

That's when we stopped watching their shows and focused exclusively on Irwin's. It spoke volumes about the kind of character they have. And it spoke highly of his character that he never put his colleagues down the way they did to him and believe me, they've given him plenty of opportunities to do so over the years. Especially that Jeff Corwin character. Jeez! I can't watch his show after watching Steve's for so many years, because he's so reckless in the way he deals with the wild animals, it's scary and insulting to the animals and to the viewers.

I've seen Jeff Corwin do some amazingly stupid stunts with wild animals and do things that were frankly at the very least disrespectful to the animal, but also that looked like it would hurt the animals he works with just so he could be "funny" or look cool or whatever. Those stunts never seem to make the press which just reinforces my opinion that the only reasons Steve was blasted by the media and uninformed soccer moms was because a) he had his little baby girl in his arms and 2) he's the most successful out of all those animal handlers and zoologists and they're jealous, plain and simple.

And, though I do respect Jack Hanna, I've seen him do things that certainly would hurt an animal like whipping horses and whacking donkeys or goats or elephants with a stick, whereas, Steve, in the same situation, didn't do that. That's an impressive gift. I never saw him do anything that would do more than discomfort an animal and for the least amount of time necessary. And, another thing I liked is that he rarely doped the animals up. He did everything naturally and just respected them, their space, their territory and their feelings. Animals have pride and he seemd to be aware of that.

But, you know why he was so successful? Because you couldn't help "catching" his enthusiasm about the animals he was teaching us about. It was contagious and his love and respect for them was so very obvious, written all over his face. :) He was the kind of man that you could see as a big brother or favourite uncle. He was that approachable. You jsut knew that if you met him on the street, you could approach him and he wouldn't snub you or be a jerk or have some kind of "God" complex, etc. that so many celebs have when approached in public. He'd still be flattered if someone wanted his autograph, even after all these years. And the way he treated animals, translated into every area of his life.

His employees and other people he knew would always say things like that he treated them with respect regardless their positions at the zoo. He wasn't a respecter of "persons" of title and rank. He just respected people. And the way he treated his wife was exemplary, in my opinion. He respected her opinion, wasn't intimidated by her professional knowledge or the power she had in her own right. He even seemed amazed by her alot of the time, by her courage and how she handled the animals and by the way she worked with them. I thought that was really neat. He was in a phrase, a good person. Salt o' the earth, as my mom would probably say.

My daughter's grown up on all of Irwin's shows, The Crocodile Hunter, Crocodile Hunter Diaries, and so forth, since she was around four years old. We watched every day as a family and would talk about what we learned from him and Terri and they provided so much fun and joy in our lives. The world truly lost a great man, a wonderful champion for animals that weren't considered anything but evil and mean before he introduced us to them through his eyes.

My heart and prayers go out to his family, now. I can imagine what Terri's going through, having lost the love of my life when I was younger, (long before current Hubby came into my life), and I know she must be in incredible pain right now. I wish she didn't have to go through this. But, at the same time, she's been so fortunate to find that kind of love in life and to have a husband she could be proud of is something she and the kids will remember the rest of their lives.

Before he died, Steve was able to convince the Australian government that allowing wealthy tourists to come to their contry on hunting expeditions, where they'd kill crocs and other wild animals purely for sport was a horrid idea and would in the long run be terrible for Australian tourism and their wildlife. Could you imagine what that would've been like? It would've gotten out of control so quickly. Whoever had that big idea should be taken to task in a big way. Oy! I can't help but feel that we've all lost a piece of wonderful in Steve's passing. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.

Rest peacefully, Steve. We love ya!

See http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060905/people_nm/australia_irwin_dc for more information on Steve's Death.

For information on Irwin's life and work, click on the title.

And this one gives sort of a timeline of key events in his life: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060904/ap_on_en_tv/crocodile_hunter_timeline_1


Blogger Scientist Suresh said...

yes ..... he was a hero ....

8:59 AM  
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