Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rat in a Blender

This mornings foam sported a male gorilla carrying a baby, followed by an annoying bird.  coffeefoam

I have been thinking a lot about my past employment as a Zoo Keeper lately.  Reading Kari Lynn Dell’s hilarious blog post, Montana For Real: The 50-50 Day regarding recalcitrant gates  seemed to bring old memories all rampaging back in an alarming out of control, lemmings towards the sea, kind of way.  

I can see now that I have been in a period of adjustment during the almost two years since my retirement after thirty-two years of scraping fecal matter off walls while being bitten, chased, peed on, stepped on, trampled and, in general, harassed by all kinds of Birds, Reptiles and Mammals out to avenge their captivity, (or perhaps, just having a little fun.)  I think I have been in denial.  

At first when I was at home in my nice warm house on a miserable sleet-blown day I would eat breakfast in bed enjoying my warm feet and then looking outside at the dripping cold would roll around with glee thinking: “I wonder what part of themselves the ‘Zoo Keepers’ are freezing off today- ho de hoho!”  However, now that the thrill of staying indoors 24/7 has worn off somewhat, some of the my good Zoo memories are flooding back. 

My first bird raising experience was in 1976.  I was an Assistant Zoo Keeper assigned to the nursery at the Family Farm at the Woodland Park Zoo. My first task, which I remember with vivid clarity, was to put a rat in a blender.  We had gotten a nest of orphaned snowy owl chicks in and I innocently asked my co-worker Violet, “How do we feed them?  “Well,” she said, “You go to the reptile house and you get a rat, which you then kill, de-bone and put in a blender -- then you shake the owl nest and when the chicks open their cute little mouths you pop a little rat-goo in.”  Oh - My - God, did she think she was talking to a “animal professional? 

Snowy Owl chicks are just about the cutest things on the planet, but I found myself thinking, ‘there must be another way!’   But no, there was not.  I learned a valuable Raptor, (birds of prey), Motto:  "We do not eat Post Toasties!"

So I killed, boned and blended and the chicks ate, fledged and were released to the wild.  Seeing those luminous baby owl eyes looking up at me with grateful ‘Thanks Mom’ love made it all worth it. I became a Zoo keeper one owl chick, baby gorilla and sick kinkajou at a time.

Oh, and I probably forgot to tell you that I got the job of Zoo Keeper by accident.  I was volunteering, doing graphics and aviary plant care while beginning the next new, Great American Novel, when I let the temporary Zoo director buy me a martini at a new exhibit opening party.  Next thing a Keeper job comes up and I get it.  I thought to myself -- Well, I can do this job for a while until I finish my book.  I did -- after all, major in Art & English, gosh darn it.  

The three things I learned from all this that I can impart for your edification are: 

1.  It really IS not what you know but WHO you know. 

2.  Don’t ever take a job with good benefits and pay and think it will be easy to ditch it to starve in an attic for ‘ART’.

3.  And most important --  Reading Proust, (even in French), will never prepare you to put a rat in a blender.

© Robin Wendell  2009

Next Zoo post- The Gorilla Made These Hand-shaped Bruises On My Arms, Really!

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1 comment:

  1. Call me crazy, but I am SO JEALOUS! I have always wanted to work at a zoo. Second only to an aquarium where I get to swim with the dolphins.

    Will not, however, be making strawberry daquiris any time soon.