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February 22nd, 2011
12:58 PM ET

Human Factor: 'Animals saved me'

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed.  Dr. Alan Rabinowitz suffered from a severe stutter as a child and worked through his hardships in a most unusual way. Here is his story in his own words.

No one steps into another’s head and feels life as they do.  Really, who would want that?  For me, life was defined by a terrible childhood stutter in a world that had no idea what to do with me.

As a youth my stuttering blocks were so severe that my body would twist and spasm in trying to get a word out.  So I just stopped trying.  In retrospect, my stuttering was a gift.  But retrospect comes with healed scars, dark buried secrets, and the gradual lessening of intense pain that gets paved over with the years.

I am asked constantly how I came to do what I am doing, why I love animals so much, why does running an organization like Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation group, mean so much to me?  The answers are simple.  Animals saved me.  They were the only things I could talk to as a child.  They listened and didn’t judge.  But they too had no voice.  And I promised them repeatedly, from the sad old jaguar pacing its cage at the Bronx Zoo, to the little green chameleon that I would take into my closet at night, that I would give them a voice if I ever found my own.

Panthera is now my voice, and my promise is being fulfilled in a way I could never have imagined back then.  For it no longer is just my fading, broken voice that champions the rights and dignity of the wild animals, but the voices and actions of dozens of passionate young Panthera staff, working in the field and the office, alongside hundreds of others from local communities, all speaking out to save the earth’s big cats species, and all the other animals that live alongside them.

We live in turbulent, troubled times; times when people seek something to believe in.  I believe in Panthera.  It celebrates the strength of the human spirit and courage of individuals willing to go beyond themselves to improve not only their own lives but the lives of other living beings.  It is the human voice of the big cats.  It is a release from darkness.


soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Glorbeau

    That'll do doctor, that'll do.

    February 22, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lola

    Animals have kept me from going over the edge, too. I was a shy, troubled kid, with an abusive parent. My dog was a "safe place.". All through my adult life, my dogs have served much the same role.

    February 22, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DarkHelmet1976

      Chuck G,

      Your compassion is charming.

      February 22, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Mot

      Lola, ignore ChuckG"s post. He is dead wrong and a bona fide jerk who probably makes life hard for those that have the misfortune of having to relate to him.

      February 22, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Funny...ChuckG's reply was deleted before I could read it, so whatever thrill he got from being hurtful was a sort of pitiful onanism.

      February 23, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse |
  3. Dr. Zeuss

    "It is the human voice of the big cats." Wrong. It is the cats' own voices. Why anthropomorphize animals? They are what they are–natural and divine. They are not a subset of human experience, not toys.

    February 22, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lanfear

      It's the cats own voices? So the cat's are the ones who created http://www.panthera.org? You obviously missed the point of this article. If you want to impress people with your big words, at least make it relevant.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  4. Panthera

    The link to Panthera's website in the blog post is currently not working. Learn more about Panthera and the work we are doing to conserve the world's wild cats by visiting http://www.panthera.org

    February 22, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. L. Kurt Engelhart

    Rudyard Kipling in The Jungle Book describes the true process of communing with animals. Communing requires expanding ones ego to include others who are capable of communication but are nothing like ourselves. We must become something like them, and in achieving this, they miraculously become something like us. Most of us do this naturally with humans, but it can be very painful. For some reason it is easier for some people with other animals.

    February 22, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Erika

    I love any group that works to save animals from abuse and extinction. I admire Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and the work he's doing with these cats. Keep it up and thank you.

    February 22, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. HollyG

    Wonderful article. It really moved me.

    February 22, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Cats4me

    I can totally relate to this story. I had an extremely disfunctional childhood and I truly believe if I could not have gone outside and lost myself in nature and the love of my dogs and cats, I might not be here.

    February 22, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Pat

    Lovely story. It proves the worth of animals, be they wild or domestic.

    February 22, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jonnyposter

    Animals have helped us throughuot the ages why not help them? Animals have personalities like we do, and varying degrees of intelligence. We now know we all descended from the same spineless wormlike sea creatures (we meaning all mammals, lizards, amphibians, fish etc.) waveling around in the Cambrian or pre-Cambrian sea. Our speech capabiliities took a long time to evolve so if you were born a human consider yourself lucky. We have a lot in common with all other mammals especially in terms of genes and anatomy, and we owe a lot to our fish ancestors whether or not our egos will allow us to admit it. In short, just remember they are all relatives, albeit distant, and this helps us relate. Just maybe they are seeing some of themselves in us as we are seeing some of ourselves in them. Some commonalities we have with cats for example go back to even before we mammals evolved as tiny rodents from lizards. For example teeth first evolved prior to the evolution of land animals of any kind. They in fact were the first bone to evolve in multi-cellular animals. We are all family. We should be able to relate with those psychic looks of understanding we all experience with our close friends and relatives. There is more than one way to communicate aside from words. Just try not to give any of them the opportunity or notion to eat you during one of those conversations.

    February 22, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Cans4Cats.com

    Panthera and Dr Rabinowitz are first-class all the way. Keep saving the Big Cats!

    February 22, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Curtis

    I believe it was the Indian Chief Seattle who said "Without animals man would die of loneliness". We humans need the unquestioned acceptance that animals can give. Their companionship is second to none an it is a gift from God for us.

    February 22, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nice

    Lookout! Another Internet Tough Guy (TM)

    February 22, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. YaYa

    Humans are the only animals who could take this lovely story and twist it into something unsavory. I'm not proud to be counted among some of you...

    February 22, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Tracey

    Angry much? Must be nice to be so perfect and if you have kids your kids too? Do you teach yours kids to be so heartless towards the disabled? Do us all a favor and shut your mouth, your iggnorant....

    February 22, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. abby

    animals can make great therapists - nursing homes use therapy animals all the time to reach people; they have been used with children who have been victims of abuse; even inmates in prison seem to benefit from interaction with animals. now if only humans would treat animals and each other with the same love and affection animals give to people....

    February 22, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. abby

    jealous?

    February 22, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. T3chsupport

    Where did you get yours?
    Oh that's right...

    February 22, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. bkopp

    MS & PhD from University of Tennessee are mail-order? I understand it is the SEC, but come on – think before you post , maybe then your stupidity wouldn't be so obvious for all to see!

    February 22, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jane Fraser

    Alan and Panthera are definitely First Class!!! For more information on stuttering and Alan, you may also want to visit the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation at http://www.StutteringHelp.org.

    February 22, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. BigCat

    Pets and children both give unquestioning love.

    February 22, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Bud Bultman

    I first learned about your stuttering and the organization you started while reading news on The Stuttering Foundation of America's web site. Many children find that they can talk to their pet but can't talk to people without stuttering. You are right that animals do not judge us. They look at us with love and acceptance no matter how we speak. It is sad that you had a hard time as a child but great that you kept your promise to the big cats who have no voice. Your work is special just like the work of the Foundation that Malcolm Fraser started to help others like him who stuttered.

    February 22, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. CRS

    And where did you get your PhD?.. I am sure you barely finished grade school...

    February 22, 2011 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. drew

    Thanks to people like this these beautiful creatures will continue to co exist with us! This planet doesnt belong to us, we share it with all living species. Even nasty insects, try to appreciate insects but its tough. If its on planet earth in hd then its easier than crawling across my counter top

    February 22, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tarzan's mom!

    Carnegie Mellon. :p lol Morons.

    February 22, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Good Patient

      What a tool you are.

      February 24, 2011 at 22:16 | Report abuse |
  26. Tarzan's mom!

    And yeah, anything from UTenn is a mail-order degree from where I come from.

    February 22, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Justina

    All animals meant to be friends of humanity in God's original design. They still carry the traces of Eden even today. And something much betterwill be restored. According to the Book of Isaiah in the Bible. God is the victorious One over all the evil ones and all the damages the humans have done.

    February 22, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Frankie Avalon O'Venus

    I wish Alan Raboinowiz' s story could get more attention in the media. It would give hope to kids struggling with stuttering. What a fabulous story. Alan Rabinowitz has been a spokesman for the Stuttering Foundation (www.stutteringhelp.org), a charitable organization with a website that offers diverse resources on stuttering.

    February 22, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jena Woods

    Sanjay that is NOT Jaguar it is a LEOPARD!

    February 23, 2011 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Panthera

      Hi Jena,

      We just wanted to send you a friendly note to let you know that the images and footage used by Dr. Gupta and the CNN staff are, in fact, of jaguars. These were taken at our Pantanal Jaguar Project site in Brazil. Leopards and jaguars have very similar coats, and it's very easy to get confused as to which is which! However, there are some key differences between the two species. The jaguar is the Americas' largest cat, with a range extending throughout 18 countries in Latin America (Panthera is working in 13 of these 18 countries to protect the jaguar). The leopard is the most versatile of the big cats, maintaining habitats in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but not in Latin America. If you'd like to learn more about the jaguar and the leopard, visit our website at http://www.panthera.org/species/jaguar and http://www.panthera.org/species/leopard.

      Thanks for your interest in big cats!

      The Panthera Team

      February 23, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
  30. National Stuttering Association

    Help for Children and Adults Who Stutter: For 35 years the National Stuttering Association (NSA), which is the largest self-help non-profit organization for people who stutter in the country, has connected kids and adults who stutter to other kids and adults who stutter through local chapter meetings, workshops, on-line support groups and annual conferences in which over 600 people who stutter attend each year! They also offer tons of great brochures, pamphlets and other reference tools for both people who stutter and professionals. To learn more, pls contact them at: http://www.westutter.org, info@westutter.org or 1-800-937-8888

    February 23, 2011 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bugga Bugga BuggaBoo

    I just J'adore this article soooooooo magnific

    February 24, 2011 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Bugga Bugga BuggaBoo

    Yo does anyone have a prob wif ma skills in ze art of French ? if so do say something

    February 24, 2011 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mystic

      Creepy in soooo many different ways!

      February 24, 2011 at 04:32 | Report abuse |
  33. Mystic

    Nice story!

    February 24, 2011 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mystic

    Animals!! Really?

    February 24, 2011 at 04:31 | Report abuse | Reply

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.