Did He who made the lamb make thee?*

(I took this at a great distance, through a chain link fence. Still, embiggen it. It’s a great photo for a small camera. Thanks, FC.)

Yesterday, Bud and Bruce and I went off to visit the Southwick Zoo in Mendon, MA. I always approach zoos with suspicion; the irony being that although I work in one, I’ve never been fond of the notion of captive animals and it’s difficult for me to witness them in small-ish enclosures when, you know, they should be free. Except of course, most all the animals in zoos today never have been and since man has so mucked up his relationship with the rest of the planet for years, now we are charged with the responsibility of caring for and protecting them in ways we wouldn’t have had to if we hadn’t decided they were here for our amusement and domination in the first place. But then again, it’s possible that early training in that direction prepares one well for later life. You never know when it might fall to you to decide the fate of one of the planet’s most magnificent species, like, say- polar bears.

Anyway, the Southwick Zoo is a private zoo plopped out in the middle of nowhere and they charge an outrageous admission (with no reciprocity to their fellow docents). Could be terrible, one would think. Surprise, surprise! Southwick Zoo is absolutely delightful in every respect. We ambled through the most gorgeous New England day, in a woodsy setting dotted with a sunny acre here and there and saw healthy, clean and, I dare say, contented animals at every turn. The place is spotless, the exhibits highly accessible and the broad scope impressive. It’s really a nice, nice place.

So, this baby white tiger caught my eye for a couple reasons. First off, we don’t have one at Lincoln Park- a youngster or a white one. We’re trying to encourage Molly to breed but thus far she has no interest in the fellow we’ve brought in for her. Also, this little guy was in the same enclosure with another young tiger so I assume they have been together since birth or very early on, because tigers are solitary animals except when they are breeding or very young. White tigers are a mutation linked to a rare recessive gene that occurs in about 1 in 10,000 tiger births, so they are striking and unusual, the subject of many myths. These kind of birth flukes often bring with them flaws and as a mutation, they have no place in a breeding population.  Zoos that work in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan put forth by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) do not breed them, period. Southwick Zoo is a member of the AZA and is involved with the SSP for the protection and conservation of endangered species but this lovely youngster is not one of them. While we were there he was lolling about in tall grass and chasing, yes, butterflies.

Okay, I admit to enjoying the petting zoo areas of zoos. For those of us who rarely get close to deer and sheep and goats, being mobbed by them for corn can be a real hoot. Bud has lots of deer but he really enjoyed hand feeding them, too.

(Yes. The other goat is pooping away.)

Southwick has a large deer park at the far end of the zoo, covering a vast wooded area that appears to go on forever. But the deer know right where folks come in, corn in hand.

Uncle Buck Bruce has all of the enthusiastic, happy genes that run strong in this family and not very many of the ones that tip us to melancholy. He’s fun to be around because he is intensely curious about the world and full of positive energy. This photo captures him well.

(On second thought, it might not have been such a good idea to use the hat for corn.)

(I always snort at folks who have their Blackberries strapped to their right hip, like a techno weapon.)

This silly guy was a big hit. While all the signs were warning against getting too close to the porcupine lest he get anxious and start whizzing quills, he was doing everything but yelling, “Me! Me! I’m hopelessly cute, too!” trying to win our attention.

(I left all the photos large today-sorry for the slow loading, but they’re fun to enlarge.)

We saw lions and monkeys and wonderful red kangaroos nursing babies and giant tortoises. I didn’t see a single zoo employee and when I had a couple questions there was nary a docent there. Actually, the place was pretty well empty considering it was one of the most spectacular early autumn days I can remember. That made our visit especially nice and relaxed. Southwick Zoo is seasonal, closing in October. I don’t want to even think where all these critters spend the cold months of the year, but for now, with all of them living in spacious natural outdoor habitats with none of those dark, dank buildings that sometimes populate zoos- well, they too seemed nice and relaxed.

Tonight we head back to the airport and part ways, Bud flying through Minneapolis and I go directly to Chicago. I know he’s had a wonderful time and I sense that he is strongly torn: he loves his wilderness home and misses his cats but he’s lonely there, too. He talks more about this isolation and loneliness now but I think he’s not ready to give up his independence. We’ll plan another visit for Thanksgiving and then he’ll come to Florida for a spell this winter.

*No surprise that Mz. Bonnie knows that Edgar Guest wrote ‘it takes a heap of living to make a house a home.’ I think they teach that stuff at the Cow College University she attended. On the other hand, she will, of course, know this one as well. Speaking of cow colleges,  it must be a football Saturday…

24 responses to “Did He who made the lamb make thee?*

  1. Oh, Oh, teacher, I know the answer to this one. I love that poem, especially the parts about the stars throwing down their spears and God smiling. I think He smiles a lot when He sees how much you appreciate the beauty of this earth! Come by my blog, you won an award. Safe travels.

  2. What fantastic pictures. I love the deep thoughts woven throughout. Looks like Bud had a good time . . . it helps me to hear about your struggles with his distance and isolation. Really! My mom and stepdad live in a tiny town at 7000+ feet on the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s so far away and hard to get to in the winter and I worry — not for right now — but the future. My stepdad just won’t really consider leaving. Sigh.

  3. Wonderful photographs and contemplative post. It does look like a spectacular fall day in New England.

  4. I really wish I could have been there with you. I love days like that and seeing/petting the animals. The tiger cub is magnificent! Have a safe trip. I am pleased to know that Bud enjoyed himself and that he will leave the frozen north for FL this winter (even for a short visit).

  5. I embrace the lovliness of this post! It’s been a tough week around here and I so love zoos. We are zoo people – our mission is to support the good ones, help reform the not so good ones. Looks as though you had a wonderful outing.

    Thanks for the terrific post.

  6. As I previously said, it is always good to read your posts. The animals are marvelous. I’m partial to the giraffe…the porcupine is a cutie too.

    Safe travel to you all. I’m so glad you got to have time with Bud, and he with you.

  7. What fun! I love zoos, as I think they play a great and important role in engaging people’s interest in nature and wildlife.

    Great photo of the tiger. Doesn’t he look like you could just walk up and hug him?

  8. “Thanks FC” ??
    Did you get a Sony?

    Love petting zoos too. I had a great horned bill poop on my head once as a kid in a petting zoo. Bent down to pet a goat and didn’t notice the huge bird above me.

  9. Great photos, even of the pooping. I love walking through zoos on pretty days. White tigers are gorgeous. We don’t have any big cats at our closest zoo; we have to go to Seattle for that.

  10. I don’t want to hear about Tigers. Not so fond of Wolverines lately either, at least the local ones. My wife would love to get that close to deer. They’re her favorite animal. She was distressed to hear that they opened a special hunting season for her deer up in Alcona County here in Michigan.

  11. I haven’t been to a zoo in ages. Thanks for the pics – I think that porcupine is cute, too!

  12. I think the last zoo I visited was out in Colorado Springs. It’s been a looooooong time! These photos are lovely and your thoughts are quite deeply moving. I love this blog, Vicki. It is a contemplative and peaceful place in my day.

  13. You are a deer lover though a bit prickly and stiff-necked. Here’s looking at you, Kid.

    Oh, the “fearful symmetry” (innocence and experience) of the lamb and the tyger, yea, the wolverine and the SPARTAN!

  14. Amazing photos.

    I adore them all… that porcupine! Wow!!

    The deer are vermin, tho. Just sayin’.

  15. You shoulda knowed Uncle Buckster wouldn’t have no broken down zoo to take you to. Too sly.

    Glad to see you are still getting around some. Travel broadens one, so it says.

  16. Great photos. Love the work “embiggen.”

  17. AHAHAHHAHA…cow college. Well they do make ice cream (fabulous ice cream btw) from those cows. But I am still partial to the maize and blue.

    Petting zoos- I think because of all the visits we made to India as kids, I never really got the hang of petting zoos.

    Something about goats being practically everywhere. Although, my mom does swear I adopted the goat that was supposed to be the bait for the man eating tigers as my pet.
    …seriously, I’m not surprised I did that.

  18. We have a great zoo here in Naples. It’s small, but really A1. Recently we had to vote to save it from an pending land deal, … but that was before the land boom.

  19. Did He who made the skunk bear make the SPARTAN?

    Could a cow college be, among other distinctions, home to the nation’s premier rare isotope facility – National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory – and host of the in-residence Juilliard String Quartet? Could a cow college produce five winners of the Pulitzer Prize and more Rhodes Scholars than any other university in the Big Ten? Alas, that other university in Michigan will, sadly, always covet MSU’s “Magic.”

    Is it STILL football Saturday? Time does not fly when you’re not having fun, n’est-ce pas? But I heard that there was a new passing record set at the Big House during your homecoming game! Surely*, you could blog about that…oh, wait, wrong team!

    Yoga Nidra might be your only help in getting unblocked and letting go just now.

    *Please don’t call me…

  20. I’m cracking up at Bonnie’s post, er, comment. 😀

  21. Holy Toledo! Where are you?!

  22. I read on FC’s blog that you are headed this way today. Wanted to be the first to welcome you “home”. Sorry about the heat. We’re all sick of it and tried to send it packing, but it wants to linger. Have you got your Rays gear ready to wear? You are walking into a frenzy down here, so be prepared! Maybe we’ll see you at the shrimp store! When you are done snuffling that child that is.

  23. I am protesting your blogging silence by snacking on junk food and posting this social commentary from The Onion:

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