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  • Writer's pictureAngie Raab

Defining moments

Updated: Jan 26

"In your life's defining moments there are two choices - you either step forward in faith and power or you step backward into fear."

"Dreams, Detours, and Determination: Navigating Unconventional Paths" At eighteen, I dreamt of soaring through the clouds in a helicopter, mastering the art of police dog handling, and satisfying my humanitarian instincts by joining Doctors Without Borders. Little did I know that the journey to realizing these dreams would be paved with challenges, unconventional paths, and a relentless spirit. Flying helicopters and working as a police dog handler were realms largely unexplored by women in Europe, while the humanitarian calling of Doctors Without Borders was confined to the medical field. But dreams, unbounded by limitations, have a way of persisting. Starting Somewhere:

Undeterred by societal expectations, three years later, I found myself on a plane to the US. Before this, I had spent time in South Korea, volunteering with the American Red Cross, teaching CPR to soldiers, housewives, and communities while waiting for my study visa. The goal was clear: become a helicopter pilot and defy the stereotypes that tried to dictate my path. Dogs and Detours: Dogs had always been an integral part of my life, but the journey into dog handling took years of trials, tribulations, laughter, sweat, and tears. "Capturing the Essence: A Journey Behind the Lens of K9 Conservation Efforts" Embarking on an odyssey through South Africa, my lens became a silent witness to the unsung heroes of conservation—the K9s. From private game reserves to the iconic Kruger National Park, and aligning forces with a dedicated training facility, my mission was clear: to capture the spirit of working dogs and their handlers and, in the process, discover the path to understanding and handling these remarkable animals. Behind the lens, I shadowed the K9 units in action, navigating the intricate tapestry of the savannah. Each frame told a story, as these canine guardians tirelessly patrolled the reserves, allowing me a glimpse into the relationship between handlers and their K9 counterparts, revealing a dance of trust, skill, and an unspoken language that transcended human-canine boundaries. My visual journey marked a personal revelation—a call to learn the art of handling working dogs. The documentation of their efforts had not only shed light on the vital role these K9 units played in conservation but had also ignited the interest within me to understand, communicate, and collaborate with these incredible animals. From Handler to Storyteller "Navigating the Canine Connection Amidst a Pandemic" In the weeks leading up to the global upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, my journey took an unexpected turn. Just as I embarked on the path of becoming a dog handler, the world went into lockdown. What ensued was an incredibly unique period, spent in the heart of a reserve, balancing the roles of handler and storyteller in a time when connection became more crucial than ever. Becoming a Dog Handler:

The decision to begin with my training was met with excitement and anticipation. Little did I know that the unfolding events would weave my story into the tapestry of a global crisis. As we started the courses, a week later, the world came to a standstill with the onset of the pandemic.

Learning Amidst Uncertainty:

Stranded in a reserve as lockdowns were enforced, our days were defined by the rhythms of nature. Amidst the uncertainty, we immersed ourselves in the work, play, and training sessions with the dogs. It was a unique circumstance, offering a deeper understanding of what it truly meant to work alongside these remarkable animals.

A Dual Role Unfolds: As the world grappled with Covid, essential workers emerged as unsung heroes. Melding my roles as a dog handler and storyteller, I collaborated with these frontline warriors. The dogs became more than companions; they were allies in the ongoing efforts to protect wildlife and support the essential workers who dedicated their lives to the cause. Handling Dogs and Cameras Telling Untold Stories:

Handling dogs and capturing moments through my camera lens became a testament to adaptability. In the midst of uncertainty, I found solace in the stories that unfolded in front of me. From tracking poachers with the dogs to documenting the tireless efforts of essential workers, ensuring the safety of the people around us, every frame became a chronicle of resilience and shared purpose in a time where many despaired.

In the crucible of a pandemic, I discovered that becoming a dog handler was not just about mastering a skill; it was a commitment to storytelling, connection, and the shared responsibility of protecting our wildlife and Africa's people. As the world gradually emerged from the shadows of uncertainty, my journey continued—as a humanitarian, a handler, a storyteller, and a witness to the unbreakable bond between humans, animals , and the natural world. "Bridging Boundaries: From Conservation to Humanitarianism"

With my passion for conservation and a desire for humanitarian impact, my journey has evolved into a pursuit of meaningful connections and storytelling. As I tread the path between the wild and the human, the camera becomes my companion, capturing the essence of every cause I am lucky enough to be part of. The journey is open-ended, and each frame tells a story of commitment, resilience, and the intertwining of two seemingly disparate worlds. The natural world needs the human connection and the human world needs the natural world to survive.

(photos: bog photography, clare james photography, kimberly wood)

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