Almost ten years ago I had the privilege of travelling to a place that changed my life forever. Wolf Park remains firmly lodged in my heart and never far from my thoughts. And while the amazing experience of working with incredible animals was what I initially sought, the true experience came from the people who make the park what it is. The staff, interns and volunteers make this place a welcome home for wayward strays. They are a unique family which stretches far around the globe and remind us all that the more different we are, the more we belong.
Anyone who has ever spent time at the park will have met Todd. And once you’ve met Todd, there’s no going back. I’ve never known anyone like him. His outlook on life was inspirational and you couldn’t be anything but happy in his company. His huge personality, zest for life and wicked sense of humour acted like an inescapable gravity – we were all pulled towards him and we were better for it. He was a true one of a kind.
Todd loved a story and spent his time gathering all the little moments to retell a hilarious comedy that would serve to capture his life perfectly. If he wasn’t crying with laughter about the time he found the miswired “kissing pigs” who did a little more than kiss, or the time he was asked to comment on the new t-shirts, modelled by some rather well endowed ladies (to which he simply stated “those ARE nice“), he was coming to our rescue as a real-life superhero and drawing striking parallels between his own life and Iron Man’s or Batman’s. And, thanks to Todd, there are now many people across the world who can’t see a wet floor sign without smiling, remembering the Hakuna Matata style mantra of a dear friend and uttering “Piso Mojado Todd”.
He was not without his own struggles. Diagnosed with diabetes at an early age, Todd battled many health issues including a kidney transplant, surgeries on his hands, heart bypass surgeries, a heart transplant and lung cancer. He fought on bravely with the support of his friends and family who regularly reminded him to “check your blood!” (a request which, true to form, he turned in to a guessing game that hundreds of interns recognise around the world… I always guessed “84” and he reserved that number for me since July 2003). He never let anything get him down and appreciated every win as “bonus time” with his friends and family.
On Tuesday June 11th 2013, Todd passed away and our lives got a little bit darker, at least for a time as we tried to figure out how to handle the superhero sized hole that has been left behind. At first I struggled to find the words to express how I was feeling, and then I watched our Wolf Park Family light up the internet with comments, blogs, photos and videos of Todd and was reminded that such an amazing man would never just disappear. His spirit and humour lives on in all of us and we will continue to celebrate him through our own stories of our time with him.
I have so many memories of Todd and will enjoy telling them to anyone who will listen. I can only hope I’ll do him justice. The other day I came across this saying and for me, it sums up my friendship with him:
Friendship makes you laugh a little louder,
Smile a little bigger,
And live a little better.
In honour of Todd, I’ve decided to put my own “bonus time” to good use, and finally run that 10K I’ve been talking about for the past year. I’m no runner but I figure the point is to challenge myself and find some strength to keep fighting for Todd. The funds raised will be for Diabetes UK and of you want to help out please sponsor me by using the link or the button on the right.
Just a few weeks ago, I texted Todd to let him know I’d be out to visit again in October. He replied with a simple “That’s great! Looking forward to it”. That was Todd. He looked forward to everything. I miss him.