Training Day

Siegfried and Roy, eat your heart out

Animal training is a trying activity for most people. Keeping the dog from crapping on the rug or the cat from scratching the couch can take months, and many just don't have the patience, instead opting to pay for a training service or just resigning themselves to the fact that their house will smell like piss for the next 10 to 15 years.

Bob Bailey does not have these problems. A professional animal trainer for more than 40 years, Bailey was the first director of training for the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program. Much of Bailey's work for the military has only recently been declassified, but even with military records backing them up, some of the stories regarding Bailey and the tasks he taught animals to perform remain hard to believe. For instance, Bailey trained dolphins and cats to cross enemy lines and follow subs, ships and humans to record conversations and radio transmissions with specially designed surveillance gear. He also found a way to make blackbirds press themselves against windows and photograph what was inside (using special cameras strapped to their chests). He's practically done everything but teach sharks to swim with frickin' lasers on their heads.

Bailey and his wife, Marian Bailey, Ph.D., quit training professionally in 1990 but came out of retirement six years later to mentor a new generation of animal trainers. Marian, a respected trainer in her own right, developed training techniques still used at places like Sea World and even worked on a secret WWII project involving teaching pigeons to guide bombs. Although Marian passed away in 2001, Bob has continued to make occasional appearances, giving lectures and promoting a DVD telling the story of Animal Behavior Enterprises, the groundbreaking company founded by Marian and her first husband in the early '40s. This Saturday, the University of North Texas hosts Patient Like the Chipmunk, a seminar featuring Bob Bailey, in Room 130 of the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, 1704 W. Mulberry St.
Sat., Jan. 21, 3-6 p.m.

 
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