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.
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.
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.