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Critters & Company
Learning from Animals 

Champlin native Greg Olson thinks so and is building a reputation as a storyteller/animal handler with a purpose. Minnesota forest wildlife as well as forest critters from around the world play center stage in Greg's messages. 

Greg's fascination and experience with animals is lifelong, but it wasn't until the last decade or so that he began to see new ways animals could help people understand themselves and others. Greg and his wife Diane had been foster parents since the early '70's. Time after time, the Olson's observed that many of the children who came into their home would relate to the family pets and other animals before they could connect with the humans in the house. By using animals and describing their natural and personal histories, Great could open the door to communication with these children. In time he discovered that normally resistive children were receptive to life-changing messages through animals stories. His experience as a volunteer at Como Park Zoo was the foundation of an increasing array of animal stories and message opportunities.

Today, wildlife shows with a purpose and providing care to non-releasable animals are the Olson's full-time vocations. Licensed through the United States Department of Agriculture and Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, Critters and Company, Inc. keeps a busy schedule of presentations to schools, businesses, community organizations, and spiritual settings. Live animals enthrall audiences of all ages as Greg uses them to effectively demonstrate basic human needs and healthy relationships. He consistently cautions his audience to not equate human behavior to animal behavior as the same, animals do not think like people. He reminds listeners that the animals they're watching are not pets, but rather wildlife that have had to adapt to living in sanctuary. Their protective instincts, which include avoiding people, change over time and many of them could no longer safely protect themselves if returned to the wild.

Through a clever mix of storytelling animal behavior observance and environmental education, Greg draws lessons from animals that humans can apply to their own lives.

A real race between a tortoise and a hare brings to life the old proverb about persistence and integrity. The personal story and behavior of a permanently injured re-tailed hawk who was shot and cannot be released demonstrates "when bad things happen" and the long road to trust and healing. A pair of hedgehogs dramatically show the differences between receiving physical care only and receiving attention and affection along with physical care. A burly, roly-poly porcupine helps the audience develop insights into handling, teasing and harassment, and a snake is the focus for knowing limits, minimizing impact, and examining preconceived notions. Tropical birds, guinea hens, a turkey, an iguana and others join in the presentations as well.

Specific animals vary; Greg offers a range of specialized programming. But no matter who makes up the animal cast of characters, the focus is respect and courtesy toward both animals and people, and building healthy relationships for all.



Can humans learn to appreciate friends, celebrate diversity or handle teasing through connecting with animals? 

Can people with special needs gain inside through animals, then use that learning to have better human relationships?


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