We took Ruby to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium this past Sunday.
Sunday signaled the tail end of the kids’ spring break. Zac declined to join us, choosing sleep after his early morning church commitments.
We drove under a mixture of sunbreaks and cloud cover. Random cherry trees blossomed along the side of the highway.
The peacocks strutted around, fanning their tail feathers to admiring crowds. One man even snuck close enough to stroke the iridescent plumage. The tigers paced, eyeing the children hungrily. One of them even roared at us a couple of times. I was glad of the moat between us.
Even better was the people-watching. Shelton, despite a certain amount of ethnic diversity, often feels very homogeneous. But many people groups call Seattle and Tacoma home. Despite language and cultural differences, little kids all over the world flock to see animals.
We bought handfuls of goat feed for 50 cents. The fat and sassy mammals nibbled the pellets out of our palms, tickling them. The muskoxen strolled in their pastures, muscles rippling. We saw the red wolves, brought back from extinction by this very zoo, napping in the sun, unperturbed at their former situation.
Then, Ruby saw the camel rides.
“Oh, can I ride one?” she asked. Her face lit up with anticipation.
“Sure,” Jonathon said.
You could smell the camel dung from the aquarium. Okay, really from anywhere – the Budgie Station, the Arctic Animals display, you name it.
I watched the ungainly animals as the trainers led them around the fenced area. They lumbered along, chewing something, as their passengers slipped around on their humped backs. Ruby climbed onto the furry hill from the raised staging area. She put her feet in the stirrups and hung on.
The smile on her face said it all. Zoos provide a little taste of the far away close to home.