“What are you up to?” the mailman asked me.
“Cleaning as usual. When your roommates are dogs…”
“Living with animals is like that. Have a nice day!”
I return to the zoo that is my living room with junk-mail all of which is for Bear to shred.
When I lived in San Diego I lived, literally, two blocks from the zoo. It was the 80s. San Diego was not as big a city as it is now, and while the zoo was fancy, it was a lot plainer and simpler than it is today — and cheaper. We (my ex and I) always bought season passes. His sons spent part of the summer with us and a season pass took us to the zoo and Wild Animals Park (since renamed…) as often as we wanted to go.
I love animals. I went to the zoo a LOT — at least weekly during the “off” season when the animals had more freedom from observation by tourists. The first year we lived there — and I was desperately homesick for Colorado — I hung around with a Rocky Mountain Goat in the petting zoo and imagined we were having similar feelings. The goat was very tame having been brought in as a very small kid and raised by the zoo staff.
The shows with the trainers and animals were amazing. I saw a cheetah whose best friend was a golden retriever. (You can learn more here. It’s a wonderful testament to dogs) I learned that mountain lions purr. I learned the difference between seals and sea lions. I watched raptors demonstrate their wing-span. I learned about the tragedy of the white rhino. I learned about the California Condor rehabilitation program and how it was going (it is run by the San Diego Zoo). I learned WHY zoos are good things and I ended up subscribing to that philosophy after taking my niece on a truck ride through the San Diego Wild Animal Park to “mingle” with giraffes and rhinos.
But even more interesting was the behavior of the animals when no one was paying attention to them. One early morning, I was strolling down the steep hill where the lions (tigers and bears, oh my!) were then kept. The lions were at the bottom of the hill. I heard them roaring. Really ROARING. I also heard the unmistakable snuffle grunt of a large pig. I know about large pigs because, when I lived in China, they roamed the streets of my village, freely feeding on garbage and scraps. I’d also heard hundreds of them killed for meat. A pig’s life in China was a strange mixture of liberty and death.
What was going on?
I crossed to the other side of the road leading down the hill. I wanted to watch without being part of the scene. If it really WERE a live pig, right?
Snuffle, snuffle, GRUNT!
ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!!
Snuffle, snuffle, GRUNT!
I got where I could see the lions, male and female, looking through the fence of their enclosure, trying to see around a huge Natal plum hedge, roaring. What were they trying to see?
Then I saw it.
A ground’s keeper, with a shovel, behind a shed, on the other side of the hedge, out of sight of the lions, was using a shovel on the pavement to clean the mud, debris and garbage from a rain gutter.
It sounded JUST LIKE a pig!