From The Zoolatry Human: in my "salad" days as a twenty-something SWF, I called Washington, D.C. home. And for quite a few years was a FONZ, a Friend of the National Zoo, and a volunteer for animal behavior study. With full time employment, my volunteer hours were usually from midnight to 4 a.m., escorted in and out by security. The downside: the zoo was a quiet and eerie place in the dark of night, strange sounds, and many "little things" that go bump in the night like bugs and mice and more. The upside: quiet, private, alone time with magnificent animals, to watch in wonder, to enjoy.
There was preg-watch for Femelle, a lowland gorilla, whose keepers ultimately found her not to be pregnant but merely suffering excessive weight gain.
And the well known pandas (of the Nixon era), Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing for whom I did behavior watches in advance of their introductions to one another and their hoped-for "love affair".
But my favorites were the "cats", always the cats, the "big cats". And my special girl among them was Kesari, daughter of the famed white tiger, Mohini. Kesari had traditional golden colors but carried the genetics for white cubs. I went on preg-watch for her numerous times though never had the pleasure of being "on watch" when her time came. But in the years that lay ahead, she did have many healthy and beautiful cubs, many golden and some, the rare white.
Kesari is the one who gave birth to my own life long love of cats, big and small.
For many years, we had dogs (they're quite wonderful, too), cats not allowed due to family allergies. It is only within the last three years, that cats came back into our lives. Maggy and Zoey are marvelous, both are independent and aloof, but not lap cats, affection being doled out in small doses, on their own schedules. Maggy is majestic and queenly, Zoey the court jester, the comedienne.
When Annie first strolled by the window in early May, a tiny kit in her mouth, a new love affair began. She brought all three of her kits to the woodpile in the side yard. Soon, "dad" came by, though he did not visit regularly, they did seem to be a family. We watched her nurture the kits over time. She was a good mother. Observing them daily, their behaviors, the lessons Annie would teach to her young has been an absolute joy. I felt almost like a FONZ again. Eventually, we were able to trap them, and have them spayed. We lost Delta at that time; and Bravo ran off, not to be seen again. Recently, Dad has been coming daily... at first we simply called him Tom, then TomDad, and he is now officially T.D. We hope to trap and neuter him in the next week or two.
In the mornings they come around 6 a.m., Annie and Charlie... they are hungry and eager and so do not run but will stay close as we set out breakfast. T.D. comes mid morning for his food. At dusk they return, a bit more shy and skittish, yet ready to eat and play. I've found it amazing that Annie always waits at the edge of the garden while Charlie eats; no matter how hungry she may be, she waits. She's the protector, guarding against the raccoons, possums and armadillos that try to steal the food and are a danger to little Charlie. Annie only eats when Charlie is done! And if the bowls get low on food, they may share what remains. Afternoons and early evenings, they are often at play (and at work) in our backyard, as Annie appears to be teaching Charlie the intricacies of the hunt for lizards, tree climbing competition and run-and-jump events.
Zoey has willingly (?) given up a number of her toys: whiffle balls, furry catnip mice and more for Charlie to play with. They usually disappear within a day or so... Charlie must now have quite a stash of toys back at their nest! Last week, we took one of the extra cat trees from our back porch and moved it to the front porch ... Charlie investigated, and found it to be acceptable. She and Annie often perch there after meal time, grooming and talking with one another.
The porch also has a couple of oak and iron park benches and a weathered old rocker. Tonight as I was finishing up this post... well, you'll see. Enjoy our photo gallery below. Charlie Rocks!