Each October we travel to San Francisco to attend the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo (WCN Expo). This year I was accompanied by our long time veterinarian and friend Dr. Maureen Adams – the vet for the U.S. Wolf Refuge. This event is where we get to meet with some of the finest and most renowned wildlife conservationists in the world. Every other year I get to spend some quality time with my dear friend Dr. Jane Goodall. This year was quite different. This year Dr. Goodall had a scheduling conflict and was not able to attend the Expo but was scheduled to speak at a SF venue the Wednesday before. This turned out to be a blessing. The U.S. Wolf Refuge was scheduled for a 2-day fund raising event in the Portland, OR area the day of the Expo. So we were able to attend Jane's presentation the Wednesday before.
Her presentation was somewhat different from her normal one. Instead of telling of her observations of animal behaviors and relating them to human behaviors, she spoke about how things are around the world and what she has been able to accomplish. She also spoke eloquently and compassionately about all that needs to be done. As always she was extremely passionate and very inspiring.
During her introduction the founder of the WCN Charlie Knowles introduced all the WCN Expo partners. During this introduction he mentioned that Jane's son Grub was in the audience. Merlin, Jane's grandson, has been up to the Refuge several times to meet with the wolves and to do some volunteer work. i told him then that I wanted to meet his dad Grub. Merlin is a exceptional 24 year-old man who lives in Tanzania. He seems to be following in his grandmother's footsteps. He talked about his wildlife/nature conservation group he has started. When we heard this both Maureen and I looked at each and said, “We've got to go to Tanzania.” Jane promised me that if I can ever get to Gombe Preserve in Tanzania (where her chimp research began) we would walk together down this path where the wild chimps live that still know and remember her.
After Jane's presentation Merlin and I made eye contact across the crowd and excitedly pushed through it to be together. The next thing I know is that Merlin is leading both Maureen and I back-stage where we met with Jane and we got to meet Grub. This family makes me feel like I'm as much a part of it as any blood member. Maureen was thrilled to meet Jane. It didn't take Jane long to make Maureen feel most comfortable while she was in the presence her life-long icon.
The most unfortunate aspect of this wondrous evening is that my dear friend Dawnie Kennedy was unable to join us. This remarkable woman lives in the Sonoma area where many of the California wildfires were burning. Her home was spared from the fire, but she opened it up to at least five families who had lost theirs. She was also the communication liaison for many of the government agencies and the media where she was connecting family members who got separated and finding the owners of many of the animals that were now running loose.
Dawie is one of the most remarkable human beings I've ever met. Her willingness to give of herself for the enrichment of others is greater than anyone else I know. Jane often says the most successful members of any species are those who had a close and nurturing relations with their mothers. Dawnie's mother lives on the same parcel as Dawnie and her husband Dave. Dawnie's mother is just like Dawnie – giving, empathetic and insightful. They strongly reinforce my belief in genetics. For her to sacrifice the meeting of one of her life-long idols for the benefit of those she has never met and are in desperate need is one of most remarkable gestures I ever known.