Just today I heard an interview on the radio with a man who wrote a book all about the state of animal welfare. I can't say too much about it since I only heard about 10 minutes of the interiew, but the book is The Bond by Wayne Pacelle. I didn't catch all of the author's credentials, but he was clearly a man who'd devoted his life to caring for and defending animals (I got the impression he's one of the people who'd spearheaded the great pet rescue following Hurricane Katrina). And one of the things I did hear him say is that while he is mostly in support of the existence of accredited zoos, he takes real issue with what he called "roadside menageries."
Today's New Activity: Eye to Eye at the Petting Zoo
After three attempts, my Ma and I managed to take Monkey to Kennedy Park when Triple Pines, their little roadside menagerie, was open. I guess San Lorenzo School District is on spring break, so there were tons of kids around and all the attractions, including the carousel and the train, were open for business.
I'm pretty sure I've never even been to a petting zoo--none that I can remember anyway--and I've definitely never taken the baby to one (I know he looks big to be referred to as a baby, but I finally understand why mothers say, "he'll always be my baby." I get it now). We we first entered the little barn-like structure, we were greeted with a gang of bunnies and a few doves.
This part was a little bit sad. Each bunny was in its own cage, not hanging out with any other bunny. I saw one of them out of his cage for about 3 minutes so kids could pet it, but he went immediately back in right after. And the girl who was holding him seemed just like all the other young teenagers working there...I don't believe she was any kind of animal expert, but anyway the bunnies were cute. They just looked a little lonely.
Then we moved on to check out the sheep
Oof. So cute! These guys were totally friendly, coming right up to the mesh gate to greet Monkey. I'm not sure if they let the sheep out to be pet, but I have seen them running around in the open areas when the petting zoo wasn't open to the public (the outside fence lets you watch the critters even if you can't go in and say hi).
The pièce de résistance, however, was being let into the open area with all the goats. I know we were at a petting zoo and all, but I was a little surprised to see that they actually let you into the space to just walk around among the animals. It just seems like anything that fun or freewheeling is illegal now. What a shock that we didn't even have to sign a waiver or put on some kind of protective vest. We bought a little cone filled with a snack they love, too, just to ensure the goats came around. Here's monkey quite literally surrounded while I sprinkled the treats from above.
He was a wee bit apprehensive at first, but pretty soon he was mixing it up and casually petting any goat that ambled by, as if hanging out with goats was just a normal part of his every day activities.
I was so proud of his bravery and ability to just go with the flow. I think every mom worries that she'll have one of those kids who just freaks out at every new thing and needs to be coaxed and begged out of his or her familiar routine. Certain things may affect him that way, but I was so thrilled with how he took to the animals and mingled among them.
After we'd had our fill of quality time with the goats, we wandered over to where some beautifully oddball chickens and pheasants were housed.
How fun to get to see these creatures in a park just down the street from our house! There was a crowing rooster somewhere out of sight, adding an extra dose of sensory experience to the whole thing.
I have to say I agree with the author I mentioned in resisting support of fly-by-night, animals-as-entertainment operations. Since this is in a state-funded park I imagine it would have to be accredited in some way. Still, it's worth looking into. If I know the teenagers who seem to run the joint are required to treat and house the animals humanely and in accordance with some kind of agreed-upon best practice, I'll happily take Monkey here for years to come, as he obviously enjoyed it.
What better way to finish off this visit than with a relaxing sight-seeing once-around on the train?