Saturday Morning with Friends

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. What the heck was going on? When was the last time I actually set an alarm clock for 6:00 a.m. with the intention of getting up so early? I hit the snooze button at least twice.

Then I remembered. I had a very important appointment to keep this morning. After a quick cup of coffee I was off down the road to visit the Elephants at the Houston Zoo!

The Zoo sponsored this Elephant Encounter which took place in the morning before the Zoo opened to the general public. I have been enamored with elephants since I read the book When Elephants Weep back in the
early 80s.

We started off outside where we admired the beautiful creatures. We met the staff who care the animals on a daily basis. It is obvious that they are very fond of their four‐legged friends


While we watched, one elephant painted a picture and another lifted her feet so they could be inspected by the keeper.

The elephant that drew the most attention was Tess who is approximately 3 months old. Have no fear, Mom was standing very close by. Whenever Tess tried to wander away and explore on her own, Mom would take her trunk, grab Tess by the tail and pull her back to the safety of maternal presence. This did not seem to deter Tess’s desires to wander and kept Mom quite busy while other animals were engaged with the keepers. This technique has been adopted by human mothers. While walking around the zoo after the general public was admitted, I observed several children in harnesses being tugged by protective moms. I hope the human children had as much fun as Tess seemed to have.

After a brief lecture and demonstration of husbandry skills, we went inside to see where the elephants are cared for behind the scenes. Much goes into enriching the lives of these fine animals. Any training of the animal is focused on what will help the humans care for these animals. There were no circus tricks for entertainment. Only skills that will assist in caring for the elephants.

Then we were led out to an area where the elephants get bathed and we saw a demonstration. Since it had been very rainy in Houston for the past couple of weeks, the elephants had enjoyed the cool mud in their enclosure. The elephant even knelt down so that the keeper could wash his back. Once the elephant was all clean, then we were allowed to pet this beauty. I asked one of the keepers if the animal minded this much interaction. I was assured that the elephant was enjoying this, because of the added snacks and attention.

This was the first time for me to pet an elephant. The skin was softer than I had imagined it would be, like a fine leather. Standing next to the elephant was a humbling experience for me. I was dwarfed by even one of the smaller elephants.

I am very grateful to the Houston Zoo for this fun and enriching experience.

I dare say it was even worth getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the journey.

Until next week.…..

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