Remember when you were a kid, and somebody asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? You probably said an astronaut, or the president, or something similarly ambitious and highly selective. But what if, now that you're an adult, someone asked you the same question? Would you say the same thing, or would you simply point to the dog sitting quietly at your feet and say, "I want to work with him."
Animal jobs--vets, trainers, technicians--may have a high cute factor, but the reality is that they're as demanding as any job behind a desk. Nevertheless, they're incredibly rewarding for the true animal lover--the kind that doesn't mind staring down a crazed chihuahua every now and then. Let's take a look at some of the finest, fluffiest animal jobs you can get.
1. Animal Behavior Trainer
Being a behavior trainer is one of those seemingly cuddly jobs that goes to show that simply loving animals isn't enough. It requires long and atypical hours, since people usually have time for pet issues on nights or weekends, and a session spent dealing with frayed human-pet dynamics can verge on group therapy. Still, it's one of the most rewarding jobs in the world--including the ones that don't involve border collies named Flossy.
2. Marine Mammal Program
Using dolphins to hunt underwater bombs might sound like something out of science fiction, but it's actually a real thing--and you can get college credit training them to do it! In the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, you'll work with dolphins, orcas, and pilot whales as they're prepared for a life of service. It's a great opportunity for veterinary students or budding marine biologists, but be prepared: at 16 weeks, 40 hours a week, it's rigorous.
> Find a job as a dog trainer
3. Amateur Animal Trainer
Actually, make that amateur animal trainer...to the stars. While most on-set trainers in the film industry supply their own animals (the ones you see "acting" in movies like Cats and Dogs), house pets are still occasionally used in commercials, TV shows, and independent films. Just be ready to find Fido an agent.
4. Veterinary Nurse
With more people seeking specialized care for their pets, the demand for veterinary nurses is expected to grow by more than 38 percent through 2018. In addition to working with animals, you'll receive great benefits and opportunities for advancement. That's nothing to bark at, even if the starting salary can be low.
> Find a job as a veterinary technician
5. Pet Industry
Whether you're a dog lover or fish fan, the pet industry, which grosses more than $45 billion annually, is rife with opportunity for creative job hunters. It's a business that welcomes innovation--groomers who set up in your driveway are the latest craze--and the earning opportunities are almost infinite. All you need is a love of animals and a bit of entrepreneurial spirit. Retail experience doesn't hurt, either.
6. Duck Master
Orlando's Peabody Hotel began its tradition of having ducks march through the lobby in 1932. Today they're still going strong with the help of the hotel's in-house duck master, who trains them to walk the red carpet in style. What, you thought they just did that on their own? The duck master is a showman who knows how to hook an audience, and develops a tight bond with his animals. "The ducks really love their master," says managing director Alan Villaverde. "You feed and care for them. They look at you as a parent." The hotel occasionally hires new duck masters, so get quackin'!
7. Dog Detective
If you live in New York City, hiring a dog-walker is risky business. What if they short you on time, or fob your pooch off on one of their friends? Enter the dog detective, who checks up on shady activity via surveillance camera (or simply trailing the walker under suspicion). So far, it's an industry of one--New Yorker Brock Schwartz serves as the city's sole pooch P.I.--but it serves as an intriguing sidebar of animal issues, a fast-growing legal specialty concerning pet custody and estate planning.
Barking for more? Check out 10 fascinating animal jobs here.