Columbus Zoo, August 12

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Today we ventured to the Columbus Zoo. Every time I visit a zoo, I noticed that pregnant women are very well represented. What is it about zoos that attract expectant mothers? When I myself was pregnant sixteen years ago, I visited the Tacoma Zoo several times. There’s nothing quite like pregnancy to make one fall to earth and see that we very much belong to the natural world, no matter what lofty heights our minds may reach.

The crowd was very dense today. I felt lucky that I was able to linger long enough to steady my camera in front of some of the animals. I reside in a fairly small town, and I don’t know how folks from large cities grow accustomed to heavy crowds and thick traffic.

My daughter and I were hoping to see the supremely puffy Pallas cats frolicking about, but they were resting both times we visited their area today:

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This tiger was likewise occupied:

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The avian population looked as splendid as ever:

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We managed to secure a good standing place for the Cheetah Run, where we learned that cheetahs can accelerate to top speed in as little as three seconds. The cheetahs at this zoo also have a Labrador companion who tries his best to sprint like his feline friends:

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After I’d returned home and reviewed all the pictures I’d taken, I realized that I didn’t capture any good pictures of family members who joined me on this trip. In this one, a concrete feline looks like he’s planning to eat my dad’s arm:

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He’s Got a Lot of Love to Give

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My sister is wont to say that someone, whether animal or human, has a lot of love to give when it is highly unlikely such an observation is true about that subject. I have no idea if there is any irony in thinking that the hippo-costumed man in this picture also had lots of love to give as I could not see the expression on his face when my daughter approached him. We encountered him nine years ago during an ill-fated trip to the Toledo Zoo, when my daughter had one of her worst ever meltdowns at the snack bar because no straws or lids were available for the drinks (for good reason, to prevent wildlife-damaging litter).  By the time I took this picture, she was in a serene mood, having drained all of her tension through lid/straw protest.

Enough years have passed that I can discuss just how hard this era was for us. I had started working full time for the first time since before she was born, and she was freshly diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Her school had urged me to get her evaluated at a counseling center because she was getting sent to the principal’s office several times a week. I released the center’s findings to the school, and they banned her from the end-of-year zoo field trip because of her diagnosis. There is no point in window dressing this episode: this damned-if-you-do/damned if you don’t scenario sucked, most of all for my daughter.

So we made a special trip to the zoo on the following weekend, which went well except for the royal tantrum at the snack bar. We had begun play therapy at the counseling center. While she actually liked her therapist, she needed a lot of persuasion to walk into the building to see him. Once she decided to take off running from the center rather than go inside. This was not a good thing for two reasons: the center was situated in a crime-ridden part of our city, and I weighed around 250 pounds at the time. Once I caught up to her, I could not get her back to the center without carrying her. By the time we reached the building, my heart felt like it was going to explode from all of the exertion, and I wished that the ground would open and swallow me whole.

In the intervening years, I lost the excess weight, and my daughter mellowed out. She was diagnosed with autism last year, and the diagnosing psychologist looked at her history and mentioned that ODD was likely a misdiagnosis along the way.

Looking at this picture shows me that we both survived and had many bright moments along the way, even if we labored in darkness for so long.