The Petting Zoo

The Petting Zoo is something that’s been around for almost one hundred years. (The first Children’s Zoo opened in London in 1938. Feel free to impress your friends and family with this fun fact). The city kids went to  the Petting Zoo at the local carnival and got to see what a cow, or sheep looked like, up close and personal. Most of us experienced this rite of passage, petted a goat, or hugged a llama for a happy time with nature’s furry little companions.

the Petting Zoo image by Penn State via flickr creative commons

the Petting Zoo
image by Penn State via flickr creative commons

But, there is a dark side to the Petting Zoo. Those involved in the Petting Zoo business have kept this dirty secret for far too long and it needs to be exposed to the world. It’s not stepping in piles of hot cow poop, up to your ankles. I’m not talking about the claw marks and the bites from a “domesticated raccoon,” either. This is not about the PETA People pointing at the sad pig faces and proclaiming moral superiority because they don’t eat anything that casts a shadow. I’m talking about people…

I was trapped in a Petting Zoo recently.  No! Not the Burning Man, or erotic art kind of Petting Zoo, for God’s sake. Not judging. But ewwww. No glory hole action for me thank you.


I posted a brief Facebook status about this “encounter” and I’m still in shock that it happened. A few times a month wifey and I take our therapy dogs, Tanner and Emma the Corgis to a memory care facility. A memory care facility is usually a locked, secure place where residents with Alzheimer’s and Dementia can live safely with supportive care. Part of that support is connection with the outside and, in this case, with therapy dogs.   The dogs visit with the residents, sit with them and have laid in bed next to bed ridden folks. For that brief period, their cares and worries slip away. We takes turns visiting with residents who can’t remember what happened ten minutes ago, but they talk about the dogs for days after the visit. It’s usually a meaningful visit for them and us, but yesterday it took an awkward turn.

Corgi doing his thing

Corgi doing his thing

One of the regular ladies we visit with decided that she wanted to pet me instead of my dog. So, what do you do in a case like that? Emma the Corgi looked up at me and her expression told me that I was getting attention that belonged to her and how dare I horn in on her time. What do you do when an old woman, cut off from her family and from the outside wants a little human connection? You let her pet you. And life goes on.

So, I became the goat at the Petting Zoo. I think the goats have it pretty good.

I became the goat image from chris horvath via flickr creative commons

I became the goat
image from chris horvath via flickr creative commons


  1. Awful sweet of you to be the petting zoo goat to someone in need of human connection. I’m disturbed to find out Burning Man has a petting zoo…nope…won’t go there. But really? 1938 was the first? Didn’t Roman bring back exotic things for their children to pet?

    1. I think we get as much out of the visit as do the residents. It is a cool experience, having seen the rapid decline of dementia of a family member. I had the same thought as you on the 1938 petting zoo. I would have been willing to bet a petting zoo wine way back…Lions and Christians do not count.

  2. Oh my gosh – I love this post. Such a lovely gesture and Emma is an angel!

    1. The dogs can sense who really needs special attention. They are so sensitive to people and their emotions.

  3. I am so glad you do this. I read a post recently from a woman who is trying to acquire a therapy dog for her autistic son. I had no idea how prohibitively expensive it could be! The purchase itself is only the beginning; it’s all the training, apparently.

    1. Dogs are amazing helpers. We take the corgis to a number of reading to the dogs sessions where kids practice their reading skills with a non-judgmental dog. No teasing, no fear of mispronouncing words, just the child and the dog. We have a number of kids on the spectrum who really open up when they interact with the dogs. It’s great stuff to watch.

  4. You took one for the team. Nothing wrong with that. Ha! Seriously, though, that’s a wonderful thing you and your family are doing. Keep up the good work!
    BTW, somehow I lost all the blogs I was following in the move, so I’ve refollowed. Weird, huh?

    1. Thanks and welcome back!

  5. Oh, wow. Just was breezing your comment section. I love that you help kids with their reading skills. That makes a lot of sense that they’d be able to open up to a dog. You get cooler by the second, don’tcha?

    1. Ha! The reading programs for the little ones are pretty rewarding. They forget we are there at all and just read and pet the pups. It’s something you have to see to believe.

  6. I extremely like this blog with respect to Petting Zoo. Such a stunning substance shared by you. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing. Continue Blogging.

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