When Courtney Janney was five years old, her teachers asked her to draw a picture of herself decorated with images of what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without pause, Janney sketched herself in a lab coat, caring for tigers—she was a big cat veterinarian.
“To me, it was just like the kid that wants to be a fireman or the kid who wants to be a Major League Baseball player – I just wanted to work with big animals.”
Two-plus decades later, Janney is the Curator of Large Mammals at the Memphis Zoo. She is in charge of caring for giant pandas, elephants, giraffes and bears – although sadly: not yet tigers. Throughout the course of her childhood and four years at Williams, Janney never lost sight of her love for animals. When her coursework steered her towards microbiology and her experiences at vet clinics dealt more with people than animals, Janney refused to settle. Her path to realizing her childhood dream speaks to the power of commitment and the importance of exploration when choosing a career.
I met up with Janney at the Memphis Zoo to hear her story and learn about the day-to-day life of a zookeeper.