A friend and I spent the day at the zoo last week. Colorado Springs has a wonderful zoo, on the side of Cheyenne Mountain with lots of natural habitats. As zoos come and go, it’s a pretty special place.
The art of keeping wild animals in cages has improved over the last few decades, and some species tolerate it well. Other species would be extinct without zoos. Still, I can debate both sides of the love/hate zoo argument. In the end, seeing the kid’s awe and enthusiasm will melt a cynical heart. For so many people a zoo is the only chance they have to experience animals, and we need more people to care about animals enough to want to protect them.
While we were there, a docent talked with us about the ways that animals end up there, and how they work with individual animals to help them assimilate. In the giraffe pen, I saw a male weaving and tongue chewing, I know what that would mean if a horse was doing it.
To tell the truth, the work looked familiar and my farm has been called a zoo from time to time. It isn’t necessarily a compliment and neither job is as romantic as it sounds. Still, mountain goats look enough like my goats, llamas and camels are related, and zebras are equid enough. Infinity Farm has 7 species. Having a pond brings more wild animals around and I can tell seasons by the birds traveling through. Then there’s Hank, the cat who regularly brings down adult rabbits for lunch. Do you want to tell him he’s domesticated?
Infinity Farm gets lots of visitors and we love company. Once an entire busload of folks from a nursing home came for a visit. The animals were thrilled that day. And of course, people do drop by to meet Edgar Rice Burro. That’s expected when you live with a celebrity.
Horse-crazy girls come for lessons, and tell their Moms that they want to live in a place just like this when they grow up. (I hope they do, but I hope they have a second bathroom.) Sometimes couples come visit, and as they leave, I can almost hear the wife say, ” See, Honey, it could be worse. You could be married to her.” Well, if it means they can get another cat, use me as a threat. It’s fine.
All the signs say one more summer is over. Geese are on the pond, hawks are hunting the pasture. The mice are moving inside the house, and the flies have all gone nuts. Even for flies. The horses are well on the way to growing thick winter coats. Edgar, more conservative than horses, started his winter coat 6 weeks ago.
Between the June fire that turned us into an evac zone, and four floods in August, it’s a summer I’m glad to see behind me. Fall brings the best riding weather, but I always miss the great visitors we get during the summer. Infinity Farm/Zoo had a long list of great animals visit, some really fun humans, like Carrie from Houston, and even more kids than usual.
Noah came from urban Virginia, he has horse-crazy girl cousins who take lessons here. Afterwards, he asked to pet Grace. I told him one of my favorite horses is named Noah, and he had the good manners to smile big. Naturally I tried to suck him into doing my chores.
We went out to bring horses in, stopping on the way for Sebastian to smell Noah’s breath, and to share some goat chat, it’s just good manners. Before we got the first horse in, I’d lost count of the times Noah said thank you. The hugs started before the second horse was in her run. Eventually his family dragged him away, but I got a thank you card this week. A thank you card from a teenage boy? What is this world coming to? He signed it City Boy.
I’m not sure what the future holds, the world is a pretty complicated place for all of us species to survive. Change happens. When I was young, I could babysit to buy enough horse hay. Now a parent practically needs a second job to keep a horse. Will the day come when horses and farms become zoos literally? In the future, will owning horses become so out of reach for mainstream folks, that horses will live in zoos?
It’s depressing to think about, until I remember the kids who visit the zoo, and my farm. Change will come, but I feel a bit better knowing horse-crazy girls and city boys like Noah are on the job. I have faith they will remember these animals and do their best to pay it forward.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.