Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chattanooga Zoo

About a week ago Shannon and I took Max to the Chattanooga Zoo. We have read countless books about animals of one kind or another. Max has perfected his monkey impersonation and lion roar, so we thought it would be fun for him too see some “real live” animals.

The zoo is open at 9am every morning. In order to navigat
e through the daily routine of meals, snacks and naps, we arrived right when the staff was opening the gates. Max is always game for a new adventure, so he was alert and talkative in his stroller. We entered through the gift shop. The little store was filled with stuffed animals and trinkets of all kinds. Immediately my son began his running commentary on everything we saw. “Monkey!” he would say, pointing to a furry puppet. “Jeep!” he said pointing to a safari playset.

I couldn’t wait to see his reaction to some of the live animals.

Because Max has always been a fan of monkeys, we began our tour at the chimpanzee exhibit. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was the first thing you come to as you enter the grounds.)

Shannon and I wheeled Max’s stroller close to the window so he could see the chimps. We anxiously waited for his reaction. The chimps were on the far side of
the exhibit, lounging on some rocks and eating some fresh fruit. “Look at the monkeys!” we said excitedly. “Breakfast” was my son’s response. “Right,” I said “they are eating breakfast.”
('Wow…monkeys sitting on a rock' I’m sure he was thinking.)
We made our way around the display until we came to the indoor portion that housed a 40-year old chimp named Hank. I don’t know if it was because Hank was in the A/C or because the wise old chimp was used to seeing people, but he was more active.

When we approached the window, the chimpanzee noticed us right away. Hank immediately made his way toward the large window we were standing in front of. The closer he got, the bigger Max’s eyes got. The chimp was right in front of the window when my young son began waving his little arms in front of his face. In a quivering voice he said, “ALL DONE MONKEYS DADDY! ALL DONE”.

“It's okay. Don’t worry son,” I said and we made our way out of the room.

We meandered in and out of exhibits pointing out the different animals. Max would repeat the names as we called them out. Eventually we came to a “farm” exhibit that was also a petting zoo. Using Max’s earlier reaction to Hank as a barometer, I decided we had better just look at the animals through the chain link fence.

Just as we pushed the stroller up to the barrier, a large potbellied pig began using the bathroom. Shannon and I looked at each other and then down at Max to see if he was paying attention. Max had an immediate reaction. He exclaimed, “Piggy poop!” Yes. He was paying attention. He repeated it over and over just in case we hadn’t heard him the first time. “Piggy funny!” he said. (Interesting how men of all ages naturally see humor in bodily functions.)

I was about to laugh myself when I noticed my wife looking at me. She was giving me that look, you know the one than means “don’t encourage him”.

Aside from the monkeys, snow leopards, red pandas, bobcats, snakes and other assorted creatures there was also an old fashioned carousel. All in all, it was a very nice way to spend a Sunday morning. Max had a great time.

On the way home my son was sitting in the back seat pointing out the different vehicles we would pass. “Did you have a good time at the zoo?” we asked. “Yeah” he said enthusiastically. “Piggy poop!”