January 18, 2013


When people hear I work at a zoo, their first comment is usually something like "Cool! With the polar bears? The tigers?" They get really really excited about it, until I break the news to them.  "No, I don't work with the polar bears, or the tigers, or even the wolves..."  The look on their face immediately goes from "You're so cool!" to "Ugh, that's lame".  But then I start to tell them about the animals I do get to work with - the owls, the hawks, the porcupines, the fox, the musk ox girls and a certain dall sheep lamb.  I like to call them the "quirkier" animals of the Zoo.  And all of a sudden, they're intrigued.  Intrigued with me being able to take a porcupine on an outreach, take a Dall sheep lamb for a walk, harness train a red fox or even handle an owl.  I'm instantly cool again. 

I have many zoo experiences, stories and memories that will stick with me forever, but there's one that I will never forget... the story of the two little musk ox girls. Those quirky little musk ox. (If you want to refresh your memory, you can read herehere, here and here.)

Most people are so confused with my infatuation for this amazing animal.  "Musk ox? They're so hairy and big.  What's so special about them?" But then, they get it when they see my relationship with these two "little" girls.  That I know the spots to scratch or that I have to be sneaky when I go to leave or else they won't let me. That I know their little quirks. They see the special relationship I have with these girls and suddenly I'm cool again. 

I helped raise these two. Maya since she was a day old and Katie since she was about 2 weeks old.  We used to play soccer with them, take them for walks around the zoo and we even took them on an outreach downtown once (that's another interesting story, for another time).  As they got bigger and stronger, and their horns got longer, we stopped working with them.  My relationship went from scratching the spots every day to just saying "Hi" as I walked by.

Yesterday that changed.  Yesterday, I went and socialized with them.  I can't even tell you how long it's been. Sure, I was a little nervous at first.  Those horns were so long.  Maya is so big. So many questions ran through my head, "What if they don't remember me?" "What if they're way too strong for me?"  "What if things don't go well?"  All valid questions, remember, they're still wild animals.

But what happened the second I stepped into their habitat, made my heart skip a beat. It instantly made my week (and what a week it's been). It reminded me why I love animals, especially the quirky ones.  I think their hearts may have skipped a beat as well, because they rushed over to me, with a hop in their step.  All of that time we spent training, socializing, building a relationship with them, they still remembered. Maya, the largest, and strongest, of the two, immediately came up to me and rested her head against my stomach.  Something so big and solid, most likely well over 250 pounds by now, and something that could have easily pushed me over, was so gentle.  It was like she was 25 pounds and a day old again.  She remembered me!  She still loves me!  I immediately starting scratching the spot that she used to love, she leaned into my legs, but gently enough so she didn't knock me over. When she was done with the scratches, we moved on to playing soccer.  All she wanted to do was play soccer with me.  For me to kick the ball to her so she could push it around with that strong head.

And so that is what we did, we played soccer.  I played soccer with my quirky little musk ox girl and loved every minute of it (which in a sense, may make me quirky as well).

Try doing that with a polar bear.

What's your favorite animal?  Is it something popular? Or something quirky?



  1. I really like reading your blog!

    And by the way: In my opinion you have a great job. ;)

  2. I just discovered you through Kym at Travel Babbles, and I'm so excited to have found you! I grew up in Anchorage and the musk oxen were some of my favorite animals in the zoo. I'm your newest follower and I can't wait to read more!


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