Wednesday, August 26, 2009

up close and personal

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to take Olivia to a super cool place. There is an animal sanctuary about one hour from our house called the Black Pine Animal Park. One of my Mom's students from this past year, Kellie, is a volunteer at the park and invited us to come for a visit. We were able to get some behind the scene access to some of the coolest animals I have ever seen.

We started with a tour of the cat house. There were many indoor and outdoor cages filled with lions, tigers and leopards. One of the first animals to catch my eye was the male lion. He was large than life and so regal. I could not believe how close we were to this guy. I could have just stood and watched him for hours...very fascinating!

Then Kellie took us indoors to see where the cats go to cool off. We were able to get inches away from these animals. They are quite calm because they are captive and trained to be good with people. I was able to put my hand against the cage while one of the lions gave it a big lick. It was probably one of the bravest things I have ever done. If you have ever had a house cat lick your hand you know that their tongues are rough, like sandpaper. Well imagine that, but 100 times the size. Olivia was not interested in getting that close to a tiger, but I am glad I gave it a try.

Some of the bigger cats were a little intimidating to Olivia. Not surprising, considering how close we were to them. She was interested in the black bear though and even fed him a couple of marsh mellows. Kellie told us that this black bear did not have any teeth, only gums, so there was no reason to be afraid. I think this may be the only time in Olivia's life that she will have the opportunity to feed a black bear so I am glad that she did it. She probably will not remember doing it, but luckily I caught it on video. He was a sweet bear and we all took turns feeding him marsh mellows. He sure seemed to like them.

After the cat house we moved on to another area of the park. This area housed a lot of farm like animals. There were goats, donkeys, llamas, etc. We were introduced to a sweet little goat and his little horse friend, Mini. Kellie gave Olivia some food to give to them and she immediately became their best friend. Mini was the tiniest little horse I have ever seen. Olivia was not scared at all to hold out her hand and feed them. I think this was her favorite part of our visit.

Next we were introduced to Johnny, the camel. I never thought I would get this close to an animal that weighs close to 2,000 lbs! It was quite fascinating to stand face to face with such a large animal and look into his eyes. We all took turns feeding Johnny a snack and I even had my picture taken with him. What a sport he was! Although Olivia thought he was cool she quickly lost interest and headed back to see her goat and horse friends.

Our last stop was the monkey house. At this point Olivia was quite tired and was begging to go home. We were not going to leave without seeing everything so Todd stayed outside while Kellie took us in to see all of the monkey's in their cages. Monkey's are fascinating creatures because although they are quite smart they can be quite nasty to humans. We had to stay far away from the cages and only Kellie was allowed to touch them. There was one monkey in particular that grabbed my attention. I cannot remember what kind of monkey this is, but there is something about his face that is so interesting. Just look at this eyes!

This was such an awesome opportunity! Olivia is still talking about all of the animals she saw and the things she got to do. I really suggest taking a trip to the Black Pine Animal Park if you live in Fort Wayne. It is really worth the trip.

Well I think our summer is drawing to a close. Olivia starts school next week. We had a class picnic on Monday which allowed her to meet some of the other kids that will be in her new class. She is excited about starting a new year in a new classroom but I am a little nervous for her. She is going to be the youngest in her class and most of the kids are between the ages of 4-5. I know my Olivia and her personality and I have no doubt she will be able to hold her own. I just hope that the other kids welcome her and the other little ones into the class with loving arms. It will be an adjustment and a challenge for her, but Olivia loves nothing more than a good challenge and I think she will grow by leaps and bounds this year. I can't wait!


Aunt Chris said...

I've heard so many things about that place..we really should go and check it out. Olivia sure was brave!! I'd probably be a little "chicken" close to all those big cats!! Can't believe it's time for another year of school...but I'm positive that Olivia will have a great time. Won't be surprised if she ends up being the "leader" of the big kids!

Anonymous said...

You really got some great shots of the animals. It was a very interesting day, and gave Olivia a chance to see some incredible animals. Kellie is a very special person.