—————–zoo cartoon————-

The New York Times:

When I took a job as a zoo keeper one summer in college, I imagined it as a position of considerable, if peculiar, glory. It was volunteer work, which I thought indicated a certain nobility, and it would take place almost entirely outdoors, so while everyone else I knew struggled to stay awake, joylessly checking and rechecking their e-mail, I would be basking in the grassy splendor of Central Park. I envisioned hosing down elephants, tossing mackerels to sea lions, forging a gentle connection with an orangutan. Man-eaters would go cuddly at my touch. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that my main experience with animals, to that point, had been with a pair of guinea pigs and a portly golden retriever.

The zoo keepers who care for man-eaters, I quickly learned, tend to have some experience. My charges would present no greater danger than a nibbled sleeve. There was Othello, the large and cranky cow. A cluster of dirty sheep with food pellets stuck in their wool. A couple of pigs with dandruff and bellies that scraped the ground. A noisy gang of goats. Some doves. It was the most dispiriting assemblage of wildlife I’d ever seen.

Sometimes during lunch I would walk from the Children’s Zoo, where I worked, to the Main Zoo, and I’d watch the polar bears sleep or the penguins pop like corks from the water, and I’d eat my sandwich, feeling spurned and mournful.

But as the summer wore on, the weather improved (slightly) and the camp groups began to arrive. This was a welcome bit of excitement, both for me and the campers. They would come storming in wearing matching school T-shirts (P.S. 165 Summer Adventurers, Bronx Day Camp K-5, whatever), shrieking and shoving and gleefully ignoring their counselor’s pleas to make good impressions. They usually came up to about my waist.

The youngsters were usually ambivalent about the whole idea of feeding the animals, but still they would elbow each other for better places. Then, once every hand had its dribble of food pellets, a popular or boastful camper, usually a boy, would walk over to the goat pen and stare skeptically at the group, deciding which to feed.

The goats, named Sparky, Scooter, Pearl, Spanky, Susie, and Newman….would all hurry over as if it had been days rather than minutes since their last meal. When they felt especially ravenous, the animals would turn their heads sideways to squeeze between the horizontal bars of the fence, and then work their lips in a funny, desperate way, like someone coaxing water from a feeble drinking fountain.

At the first touch of goat saliva, the popular boy would curse and frantically wipe his hand on his jeans, hamming it up, while his female classmates staggered with laughter. The goats would look around impatiently, waiting for the chaos to subside so their meals could resume.

To read the full article: If I Worked at the Zoo – New York Times

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