6's & 7'S
and all things crazy
When I was in kindergarten, a harmless field trip to the local zoo turned into an experience that I still remember vividly 48 years later and considering the events at the Cincinnati Zoo this week and all of the outcry on social media related to it, I thought I would tell you a story, and maybe make you think a little bit before you rush to judge.
My kindergarten class took a field trip to the zoo, and my dad was one of the chaperones. As a class, we listened to a long spiel from the zookeepers about how dangerous the animals were, don't do this, don't do that, and whatever you do, don't feed the animals. Fine, all I cared about was seeing the animals, and as I toured with my friends, I became absolutely fascinated with the elephants, and they were equally fascinated with the peanuts or popcorn that I kept popping in my mouth. I snuck a peanut through the fence and to my delight, one big smiling elephant (they are always smiling, right) took it. No harm, no foul, adults were crazy. Okay, I was a headstrong kid, even at five.
So I filled my hand with goodies and I waited, yes, I WAITED, until my dad was distracted with another kid, and held out my hand. Instead of sticking his trunk through the fence, my two ton friend stuck his trunk over the fence and I gladly held my hand up to him. And instead of grabbing one peanut, he tried to take them all---by grabbing my hand up to the wrist.
He didn't MEAN to do it, he wasn't trying to hurt me, and when I tried to pull away, he did what his instincts told him to do and pulled back. By the time 'the adults' realized I was screaming for a valid reason, he had my arm, up to the elbow, in his trunk. My dad grabbed me, the zookeeper ran to our side, and my friend Phlegmy sneezed and released me. He wasn't hurt in the process, nor was I, other than getting a stern lecture and a shower from the zookeeper, a good butt tanning from my dad, and being called Snotty for the rest of my kindergarten year. I'm sure it was pretty funny to everyone who didn't have their arm up an elephants trunk.
But it could have been horrible. Elephants are BIG and they are strong, and although they are very smart, they are wild animals and act on instinct. Phlegmy's first reaction, with all the screaming and me pulling, could have been to run---and if he had, it would have turned into a pretty bad day for both of us, I suspect. And I'm sure, being lower on the food chain, it would have been a worse day for Phlegmy than me.
Was I stupid? Yes, I was five. Sue me. If you never did anything stupid when you were five, feel free to judge me.
Was my dad a bad parent? It took less than ten seconds for all of this to occur. If you've never been distracted from eyeballing your kid for ten seconds, feel free to judge him.
Was it the zoos fault? They had taken all of the precautions necessary up until that point. It was the last time I ever went to a zoo where you could actually get close enough to the elephants to feed them (probably because of stupid five year old Kelly). And although it was resolved without me or the elephant being hurt, I'm sure the zoo had an emergency plan in place, just in case...
And THANK GOD social media didn't exist at the time so everyone in the world felt they were suddenly entitled to judge me, or my parent, or the zoo for what happened.
I'm not sure I totally agree with the idea of zoos in the first place, but they do exist, and since 175 million people visit them each year, a lot of people are okay with the idea. And as long as they are around, there will, at times, be problems. Although there haven't been many historically that resulted in injuries to patrons by the animals, the chance is always there, because they are wild animals. They are smart, and they are strong. Sadly, the recent event in Cincinnati resulted in the death of a gorilla. Not his fault. It was a horrible turn of events, and as a lover of all animals, I am truly saddened by his death.
But, who are we to judge the people directly involved? I know people that take their kids hunting at age four and do you know how many kids get lost in the woods each year? And not one of those parents would hesitate to put a bullet or six in a bear or any other wild animal that even looked like it might get close to that child.
So, unless you:
Never did anything stupid at the age of four,
never lost sight of your child for more than 10 seconds,
would choose the life of an animal over the life of your child...
then quit bashing this family and calling them out on social media. Their lives will forever be affected by this horrible incident. Maybe it will encourage more parents to leash their kids when they are in public situations, but I doubt it because most think THEIR kids would never do X, Y, or Z. Until it happens, of course.
And if you think zoos are inhumane, then quit visiting them, and use all the energy that you are expending to do something about that.
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