It all started with a Living Social deal.
We have moved and were busy unpacking, planning to explore our new area as soon as we got completely unpacked and set up. We had a short list of places we wanted to visit, and hoped to learn of more as we went.
Jim checked his e-mail and called me over to take a look. He had an e-mail from Living Social offering an animal encounter for four at a small zoo not too far away. He checked the web page of the zoo and learned that you could spend an hour with the baby animals they had at the time. The site mentioned a baby kangaroo, a baby zebra, baby wolves, and baby tigers. The Living Social deal for $50 off expired in October. We were sure we’d be done unpacking and be ready to go by then, so really it was a no-brainer. We bought it, but we waited to tell the kids until later, as a fun surprise.
A couple of weeks later, we finished unpacking (yay!) and scheduled our cub encounter. Still, we didn’t mention it to the kids.
Sunday night, we told them our plan. We would leave late morning, spend a few hours touring the zoo, and then we’d have one hour with the babies. We didn’t know which babies we would get to see, but we were all super excited.
Yesterday, we left here around noon and slowly made our way north. We stopped for lunch and arrived around two o’clock, all ready to have some fun.
The zoo itself was right out of “We Bought a Zoo”. We had been to zoos like this before and they have always been fun, but we had never been up close and personal with baby wild animals before.
When we checked in and paid for the small cup of seed each kid would carry to feed the animals, we were instructed to join an already-in-progress tour, which would run in a circular path. We could stop when we got back to the place we joined in. On the way to meet up with the tour, we saw a baby ring-tailed lemur:
And wolf cubs. We then joined a tour in the barn, where we got to see and feed goats and llamas:
We also saw a horse, ponies, and donkeys. This poor baby was rescued and is totally blind.
These cute ponies lead him around, when needed:
The zoo’s rule is if the animal has two toes, you may feed and pet him. If he has a single hoof or more than two toes, you may not, so we did not touch or feed the horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras (at least for now), or the birds. [They also ask that you not feed the ostriches, even though they have two toes, because they peck hard and could hurt you.]
The tour left the barn and headed around the corner to the camels:
Then on to see a bull:
The tour continued on to animals we could see, but not touch.
Emu and ostriches, a Scottish Highlander:
And a kangaroo:
After that, we saw macaws, including one that likes to nibble on the toes of people in sandals and flip flops while singing opera (luckily we were all in closed-toe shoes), tigers,
one of whom became very interested in a little Bichon-looking service dog in our tour group:
I felt so bad for the mother, who was pushing a wheelchair, while holding the frightened dog. I offered to help, but she certainly had it all under control. I was in awe.
We also saw servals:
A prairie dog housed with about 10 guinea pigs, tortoises, lizards, snakes, a ferret, two different species of porcupines, a skunk, coatimundi, and several other animals I can’t remember the names of.
After the tour returned to the barn, where we had joined it an hour and a half earlier, we were hot and thirsty, and still had an hour to wait before our cub encounter at 4:30. After feeding the rest of the feed to the always-hungry goats and llamas, we took a break to get some water, hang out in the main building, and pet the resident cat.
We also looked again at the lion cub in a cage in the main building (we later learned her name is Nala). Now she was totally sacked out and completely adorable. I was dying to pet her.
At this point, we still had 45 minutes before our scheduled cub encounter, so we found shade and a place to sit under a tent, where Sapphire and Jim entertained themselves on i-phones, and Emerald and I took in the sights and sounds around us, and people-watched. Fifteen minutes later, a yellow jacket chased us from our perches and we began to walk around to see the animals again. As we were coming out of the barn, a very nice man approached us and asked if we were the 4:30 encounter group. We told him we were and he replied that they were ready for us early. We could come along. Yippee!!
As we headed to the room where we would meet the babies, the man commented tongue-in-cheek that he hoped we didn’t mind air conditioning. He said he could turn it off if we didn’t want it. As if . . . 🙂
We were led into a room with bleachers on one side and were instructed to sit on the bleachers until the vet tech came in with the first baby.
The staff (there were two people in there with us the entire time, and at one point the owner of the zoo joined us) informed us that we would be able to hug the baby zebra and pose for pictures with her only while she was drinking from her bottle, which gave us about 60 seconds, they said. After that, we could pet her, but she wouldn’t let us hug on her.
We then bid the baby zebra goodbye and then they brought in the next baby for us to meet.
Next, they brought in the puppy:
Akela, a very sweet, very playful wolf pup. [Most of the animals in this zoo are named for Disney characters].
As you can tell, the kangaroo and Akela were quite comfortable with each other. When I commented on this, they told us that when Akela was a tiny pup, the kangaroo (I wish I could remember her name) used to go up and lick him. For the most part, while we were there, they left each other alone. At one point, Akela started chasing the kangaroo a bit, but was easily distracted with a toy.
After we had played with Akela for a while, Sapphire started asking to see a tiger cub. The vet tech hesitated, then explained to Jim and me that she had planned to bring in Simba (a very little lion cub) instead of a tiger cub, because their tiger cubs were now fairly big (35 lbs) and very rambunctious. The vet tech was afraid the tigers would scare our girls and that they wouldn’t have as much fun with them. She explained to Sapphire that the tiger cubs would jump on her and may scratch her by accident. She also said they most likely would bite. They would also chase her if she ran from them. We also learned that you can’t pick up a tiger of any size, because they are afraid of heights and freak out.
In contrast, she explained, Simba was very small and cuddly, and would be a lot more fun to play with. Sapphire was momentarily disappointed as Jim and I decided to go with Simba.
But that disappointment didn’t last long at all (maybe just a millisecond), because we all melted the minute we laid eyes on the little ball of fluff.
As promised, he curled up in our laps, let us play with him, and was a sweet little love bug.
If you put your fingers straight into the center of his mouth, he would suck on your fingers.
He also nibbled on knees
And the vet tech’s jeans
But he still has baby teeth, so everyone was unscathed. 🙂
He was just the rascally, fun kind of cat we all love:
And he even did the perfect Simba pose:
Sapphire commented that she wanted to take Simba home and they told her that she would bring him back in two weeks when he got rambunctious, pouncy, and bitey. The vet tech told us they go through a period where they are a real pain to deal with, then they go back to being sweet for a while. She said Nala (the other lion cub) is in the not-so-fun stage right now and Simba will be in a couple of weeks. They also told Sapphire that she would probably bring him back even sooner than two weeks, just as soon as she had to help him go to the bathroom, as he can’t do that on his own yet.
We all decided that this was a really terrific day and we would be content to hang on to the wonderful memories, rather than the cub himself. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll come back to visit and see an adult lion enclosure, with Simba and Nala, and we’ll remember the day when we cuddled this sweet little cub . . .