Ever since seeing “We Bought a Zoo” a few weeks back, I’ve had a hankering to visit some of our furry and feathered counterparts. While we were driving home from (yet another) vacation last week, we ventured upon a tiny zoo in the North Georgia mountains. Owned and run by a man who lived on the property, it was straight out of the movie, minus Mark Walhberg. (Darn it.)
Tom and I were most interested in scoping out the big cats. There was a White Siberian tiger, a lion, a cheetah and a panther. Though they were all snoozing, standing twenty feet from a collection of animals that could knock you out with the swipe of a paw was awe-inspiring for us. Jacob, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be the slightest bit impressed.
While Tom and I preferred the zoo’s more exotic offerings, our little guy had different ideas about what animal was tops at the tiny zoo. He liked the peacock, the zedonks (a too-cute hybrid between a donkey and zebra) and the ring-tailed lemurs, but it was an unassuming little horse that really caught his eye.
As soon as Jacob saw her, he began squealing and kicking with excitement. As we walked closer to the fence, Jacob got more vocal. When the horse saw us approaching, she trotted over and stuck her small muzzle through the fence, touching Jacob’s leg. (Don’t worry; I was keeping a watchful eye.) That was just too much for our little guy. Instantly, he broke into a great big belly laugh. Over the next few minutes, he continued to squeal and laugh. For Tom and I, watching Jacob make a new friend was the most memorable part of the day and one of my favorite parenthood moments so far.
Our encounter with the little horse made me think about what fun it is as a parent to see things through the eyes of your child. If Jacob hadn’t been with us that day, I would have walked right by the horse’s pen without stopping. But where I saw a dusty old horse, Jacob saw a friendly and fascinating creature worthy of a second glance.
The fresh outlook of a child turns even ordinary things into sights of wonder. And at least for me and Tom, it made a small horse and a tiny zoo in the mountains of North Georgia into the stuff that memories are made of.