The first time we visited a petting zoo, Saucer Eyes had just turned one and had somehow skipped the toddling phase. Instead, he ran…everywhere.
A transient zoo — part of a traveling street fair — it consisted of just one pen with a handful of furry things and some chickens. We arrived late, near the end of the day, just as the zoo was closing. They were no longer allowing visitors into the pen itself, but there was still enough time for Saucer Eyes to thrust his hands through the fence and onto the cruddy coats of a few select species.
For a moment, under the spell of summer heat and sleep deprivation, I forgot that Saucer Eyes was my child and instead watched with detached curiosity as a short, two-legged mammal raced to cavort with some unimpressed four-legged ones. Then it dawned on me…
“Hey, that’s my kid! He’s going to get his hand bitten off by a llama!”
I sprinted by his side, eyeing the animals nervously, hoping no one had a craving for toddler appendages. I didn’t realize that petting zoos — at least, when they’re actually open for business — give customers snacks to feed the goats, shorn sheep and the like. By the end of the day, the poor creatures probably felt stuffed silly and had no desire to chomp on a 1-year-old’s fingers, no matter how adorable or, say, ketchup-stained they were. They barely moved as Saucer Eyes brushed his hands across their bodies.
The second time around, two years later, we were better prepared. And by better prepared, I mean we arrived a good half hour before closing time. We bought tickets, received a paper cup full of what I can only assume (and hope) was livestock feed and then Daddy accompanied Saucer Eyes into the pen.
The animals seemed just as disinterested this time but they did move around and responded favorably when offered the mix in the cup. Best of all, Saucer Eyes, now more sedate at the worldly age of almost 3, was happy to be where the action was, instead of outside looking in.
Check out photos and more from Saucer Eyes’ petting-palooza through a project I created with the new Story app from Disney.
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