Monday, May 16, 2016

The Seal Whisperer

Saturday morning, we woke and downed a quick breakfast. Peter had a soccer game at 9:30 and Sam was scheduled to take the field at 10:00, but recent rains closed both fields, and the games were cancelled.

"Let's go to the zoo!"

Uncle Bill and Aunt Jackie were in town visiting, and the only thing they wanted to do while they were here (besides see Sam and Pete play soccer) was go to the zoo, so we used the early start to get a jump on the crowds. We went to the National Zoo in DC and I have to say it was the most fantastic experience we have ever had at the zoo.

Admittedly, it didn't start off so great. The first exhibit we went to was for the fancy pony then we went to the elephant, otter, and beaver. None of them were in their cages. We were feeling a little dejected. But then as were were walking from the beaver down to where the seals were (our perennial favorites), we stopped at the wolves.

I was standing next to the wolf pen not expecting to see a wolf at all, because I've never really seen a wolf in the wolf pen at the zoo. The grass is high and the exhibit is built on the side of a hill. The wolves tend to stay at the top of the hill far from people. But as I was standing there and everyone else had run or gone ahead, out of the brush, a wolf came trotting up and stared straight into my eyes. It was pretty magical and gave me goose bumps. He did this a few more times, trotted back into the brush as wolves will lope, then come back out and looked at me even though Peter and Clem were whining for me to come down the path to join them.

Eventually, I broke gaze with the wolf, and we went our separate ways. I caught up to everyone at the harbor seals who were in the middle of doing tricks and being fed fish and squid out of a bucket. Elise and I marveled at how many tricks the harbor seals knew while Sam and Peter marveled at the contents of their breakfast.

After that, we walked down to the seals. There is an underwater observation window where you can watch the seals glide by. They swim by with their eyes closed like flippered torpedoes. But the kids figured out that if you put your hand up to the glass, the seal will stop and follow your hand around. It looked as though they were training the seal and they were definitely playing together.

After we left the seals, we could have seen no other animals and it was already the best experience I had ever had at the zoo. Though we started off not seeing very many animals, after that point, not only was every animal out, they were all in rare form. We couldn't tell if it was just spring, the sunshine, or mating season. Even the alligators moved. All of them. When they usually just sit there like statues with their mouths gaping open.

At one point, I was trying to watch an alligator slither through the tall grass, orangutans balance on a high-wire high overhead, and a group of four elephants cross the savanna all at the same time and felt like I was in a scene out of The Jungle Book.

We even hit the reptile house, the large ape house and aviary to see the flamingos and peacocks (and the common raven. Not sure that exhibit will be making many memories any time soon, though!).

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