Sunday, March 19, 2017

No Green Beer, Just Sleeping Ferrets, Lizards and Rat Kisses

 *Warning: readers with a phobia of snakes should just scroll to the end of this post, unless you are freaked out by rats too, and in that case,  just look at the middle*

While there is some Irish in my family background, I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, never have.  I'm not certain when this happened, but it seems to have become a National Holiday for University students everywhere.  They skip classes and start drinking at the crack of dawn, and by nightfall, the streets are littered with noisy, sozzled, green-clad 20-somethings.

To avoid witnessing all that, after work on Friday I decided to head to the Western Fair District, where Little Ray's Reptile Zoo, Animal Ambassadors, and Little Tracks Petting Zoo joined forces to present "Diversity of Living Things" during March Break.  I thought that if I went over the dinner hour it wouldn't be as crowded with parents and their kids - after all, I was going so I could pet "all the things" and when you're a woman of a certain age, you don't want competition from some adorable little tyke when you're waiting in line to pet a lizard.   Upon arriving, I saw that I was the only adult there without a child in tow, which meant I spent a lot of time chatting to the volunteers who were very accomodating to my many requests  of "can I touch that??".

I wasn't a big fan of reptiles (snakes, lizards, etc.) when I was a kid, but as an adult, I conquered my fear of snakes after being able to touch them in controlled environments, and have become quite fond of them.  (I borrowed a small boa constrictor for a burlesque routine when I was in my 30's - remind me to tell you about that some time).  There were several snakes, lizards, a scorpion,  a Pixie Frog (which looked like a large wet green pancake with eyes) , as well as chickens, goats, bunnies, llamas, etc. 

Just look at this sleeping beauty!  He (or she) is a Savannah Monitor lizard, native to Africa, and the smaller cousin of the Komodo Dragon.  They are around 40 - 50 inches in length.

I am fascinated by the intricate patterns and colours of reptile scales

These are the scales of a Carpet Python, a native of Australia that can range in size from 5' - 16'

This handsome guy is a California Kingsnake, native the the West Coast of North America

I asked one of the volunteers from Little Ray's Reptile Zoo if I could touch one of the pythons, so after a bit of a tussle (the snake was not keen on leaving his enclosure), they brought this one out for me.  For those of you who think snakes feel slimy, let me tell you they most certainly don't.  They are cool to the touch and their skins feels almost like plastic.  There's no doubt that they are very much alive, as you can feel the powerful muscle that is their body underneath their skin.

A volunteer was carrying this Nigerian Uromastyx around and when I got out my camera to get a shot, he was ready to show off his posing skills. 

He had the coolest spiked tail - a subtle reminder of their dinosaur ancestors

Every 15 minutes there was a live show for the kids that featured some of Little Ray's reptiles, or some impressive birds of prey.  I missed the Birds of Prey presentation, but watched one of Little Ray's staff talk about tarantulas (he is holding one in his left hand).

Having had my reptile fix, I headed for the cuddlier critters...

Like this guy, a four year old Red Kangaroo.  He was in a large, fenced area in the middle of the floor with a few tortoises (to keep him company, I guess...).  I was disappointed that the volunteer who was in his enclosure didn't provide us with any information about him, and looked bored as she tried to interest the kangaroo in what I assumed was a bit of food, which he politely ignored.  I imagine it had been a long day and being surrounded by kids for hours can be draining for anyone, but it would have been nice to see some engagement and learn something about this little guy.  I wanted to yell out, "for heaven's sake, you are hanging out with a kangaroo - show a little enthusiasm!"

The kangaroo didn't seem to be stressed or nervous, and came close to the wooden fence so we could get a closer look at him.  As part of a touring animal exhibit, I'm sure he's become used to this sort of thing, and while I have mixed feelings about petting zoos, and zoos in general, this is quite likely the only chance that most of us who were there are going to get to see a live kangaroo. 

The tortoises that were in with the kangaroo

This goat from Little Track's Petting Zoo was enjoying a scritch from an accomodating bystander

I was fascinated by this bad-ass chicken with the toe floofs.  It's a Silkie, a breed known for its unusual fluffy plumage and their gentle, friendly personality.  I was making soft "buck buck" sounds (I am the kind of person who talks to chickens) which captured its attention.

More Silkies, in different colours

A shout-out to this lovely volunteer who was friendly and informative, and endlessly patient with the adults and children who crowded around her while she held a sleeping ferret.

The little guy had been petted into a stupor, and stayed sound asleep while multiple strangers stroked his soft fur.

There was a pen containing about a dozen adult rats, and as it was pretty quiet I asked the volunteer who had been holding the ferret if I could pet some of the rats.  I told her I previously had some as pets, and missed them very much.  She brought out the girl in the photo above, who was pregnant, and you could feel the little baby bumps in her belly.

I spent a lot of time at the rat display, talking to the volunteer and sharing stories about Ginger and Ruby. and she graciously allowed me to hold one of them (touching and petting was fine, holding was not permitted).  As you might be able to tell from my blissful expression, this was my favourite moment of the night. As much as I love my cat, there is nothing like whisker tickles and ratty kisses.  I wish I would have got the name of the volunteer who made this happen, and was kind enough to take a photo for me.  It was a good thing I saved the rat display for last, as I was pretty teary afterwards.  If you happen to see this, thank you so much.

I felt a bit guilty after showing sharing my affections with unfamiliar critters so I made sure to give extra attention to this guy when I got home, shown here with his current favourite toy, a piece of velvet ribbon.


  1. cute! I love little ratty kisses. And all the critters frankly. We've had ourselves rather a zoo-full around here in the past. Some days I miss having pets but not enough to have any right now. I'm glad you were able to have a good visit with them!

  2. Hello, Sylvester! Aren't you a beautiful boy? I love that he plays with a purple velvet ribbon, that's one classy cat!
    What a wonderful day out, Shelley! I adore snakes and lizards and tortoises, too. You're right, they feel completely unlike what you're expecting. Snakeskin is so tactile and utterly fascinating. I bet the Animal Ambassadors were thrilled to chat to a fellow adult.
    I wonder if Jacob needs a kangaroo as a companion? He's currently underneath my computer, scrabbling away as it's too cold to put him out.
    That photo of you and the rat is adorable. Ferrets are a popular pet with many Northern & Midlands based Brits. xxx
    PS "I borrowed a small boa constrictor for a burlesque routine when I was in my 30's - remind me to tell you about that some time" - ...don't keep me in suspense.

  3. lovely picture of you and the rat, so cute!. Glad that a volunteer was so kind and supportive, there're always some lovely people taking care of animals!
    Love to see Sylvester looking so handsome (and elegantly playing with some ribbon!)
    I'm also looking forward to read about that burlesque show with a boa!!!

  4. Wow you certainly got some really great photos! That last one of you is very dear.

    You are a much braver woman than I. I don't mind holding or petting some reptiles, but I stop at snakes. I think this stems from my brother chasing me as a kid with a snake and putting it under the bathroom door where I'd locked myself. I was literally standing on top of the toilet tank screaming my head off. I think I must have been about not really so much of a kid.

    I can tell you that when we saw kangaroos in the wild on Kangaroo Island in South Australia it was truly amazing. An experience I'll never forget. We stayed at a camp in a cabin and came out and had our morning coffee with kangaroos and wallabies.

    I MUST hear about the burlesque story!!! Good grief lady! That is far too good to keep to yourself!


  5. I'm chiming in with a request for the burlesque story too!

    I love the picture of you and the little rat - you do look blissed out by it. That's so awesome that you're able to get a little "fix" in and visit these animals. I also have mixed feelings about keeping wild animals in captivity, but it's so amazing to see them in person. Your beautiful boy Sylvester looks like a wee pasha, very grand.

  6. This was a very touching post, written with reverence for all the beautiful creatures that you encountered. This is what the world needs and you give it with abandon. Empathy for all living beings was expressed lovingly. Thanks Shelley.

  7. Oh how I wish I could get such pleasure from chewing a velvet ribbon. Sigh. There are so many beautiful creatures here, the textures, the patterns, the diversity. The connections to the past. I can feel the love in the photo of you with the rat. Visiting Western Fair District was a perfect idea.

  8. I read this post with so much joy. It is good to see and know that there are more creatures which deserve our love. Snakes are of course always loved for the wrong reasons (kill them and use their skin). I share your feelings about zoos. Can only stand them when the animals have loads of space and an environment which is like their natural habitat.
    I agree with Suzanne, I want to hear the story of you with the boa constrictor.
    And when I saw you with the rats, I knew you would be in tears. Very understandable.

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