Welcome To the Zoo


Well, it’s finally happened. Our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, have left us.

Yep, they are currently floating around on a Disney cruise with the Mom, Big Sister and Brother. I’m not happy about it. Nope. Not at all.

Their Big Papa and Gigi have been left behind while they’re having fun for the next six days with Mickey and friends. And we have been tasked with a very important job – taking care of their pets. And we’re not talking about a few.

In this cold world, it’s nice to be loved and wanted. Sometimes, though, you can be loved and wanted a little too much — I’ll explain. Welcome, Dear Reader, to the Zoo.

For those seven magical years spent growing up back on Flamingo Street, my three brothers, The Sister, and I had two dogs. They lived in the backyard, and it was quick and easy to take care of them. Fill their dog bowls up in the morning with dry food, make sure the bucket was topped off with fresh water, and after dinner feed them any scraps from the table.

I know a lot of things have changed since that simple time back on Flamingo, and apparently taking care of animals is one of them. Pet care has gotten a whole lot more complicated and time consuming now-a-days. Let’s see if any of the following have happened at your house when you’ve gone on vacation.

One after another, the text messages of instructions came faster than I could read them. After ten, they finally stopped … and then three more appeared. Each set of instructions was longer than the last and came with a picture of the animal and his or her name. Also included was a picture of their food, where it was, and the feeding schedule for each pet.

Being a fire fighter, I fixed a lot of meals for the folks at my station, considering everyone’s likes and dislikes, all while prepping and having to constantly start, stop, and resume cooking around emergency calls. But nothing prepared me for the juggling act that must be performed to take care of The Zoo.

First there’s Travis, aka Handsome Man. A gray and black tabby, Travis is indeed a very handsome cat. But in order to take care of him, one must first find him. Travis is usually under the Mom’s bed … in a closet … behind drapes … or anywhere else he wants to be.

Once found, one must carry on a conversation while filling a bowl with wet food which is to be left in the righthand corner of the kitchen. Scoop the litter box in the laundry room, then put a scoop of dry food in another bowl and fill yet a third bowl with fresh water. This now takes care of Travis, aka Handsome Man, for the morning.

But we’re just getting started at The Zoo.

Next up is Carson, the chameleon, not to be confused with Cami. Cami the chameleon died last month. Carson eats the small mealworms kept in the fridge right next to the vegetables for the pigs. We’ll get to those four adorable things in a minute.

Carson gets six worms in a bowl at the bottom of his cage and must have his blue and white light switched on in the morning. (They will be turned off later.) Mist his plants with water, but don’t mist him or he’ll turn light green with black spots. And in addition to the blue and white light that’s only on during the day, make sure his red light is on both day and night. This takes care of Carson for the morning.

Yes, there’s more to The Zoo.

Say hello to Frankie. In a short time, Frankie, the painted dragon, has grown to be about a foot long. He loves Super Worms, which are in a jar next to his cage. His two lights must be cut on in the morning. Let him warm up for ten minutes and then hand-feed him three to four Super Worms. And make sure you mist him while he feeds; he likes that. You can also give him some lettuce; it’s kept next to the vegetables for the pigs.

Very important! Close door to the room when finished, and make sure Travis, the handsome tabby cat, isn’t hiding under the bed. He has tried eating Frankie twice already.

Next up, Bubba.

Being an outside cat from somewhere in the neighborhood, Bubba is an honorary member of The Zoo. A much larger version of a tabby cat, Bubba gets dry food and water as needed. His main role in The Zoo is taunting Handsome Man who is trapped on the opposite side of the sliding glass kitchen door.

This brings us to the four pigs in The Zoo.

With big black round eyes and multi-colored fur, Guinea pigs are the most adorable pets ever. They squeak and coo when you greet or pick them up. If they start to whistle, put them down — the whistling means they’re upset and might bite. On the first day, I got whistled and nipped at because I didn’t feed them fast enough.

The Guineas can get one of the following each day: cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, or lettuce. Also fill their bowl full of dry food; the bag is located on the shelf above their cage, and then give them one handful of hay. Hay bag is located just to the left of the cage on the floor. And don’t worry if they dump their food bowl over – they do that all the time.

But make sure you don’t feed them too much or they’ll start looking like Bubba, the chunky tabby cat who lives outside and taunts Handsome Man. Think taking care of The Zoo is now complete?

Nope, there’s more.

Evening trip to The Zoo duties: Turn off the house lights you left on during the day. Turn off the blue and white light but leave on the red light over Carson’s cage. Say hey to Frankie, the bearded dragon, give him another Super Worm or two, mist his face and cut off his lights. Squeak back at the pigs and tell them they can’t have any more food, but you’ll see them first thing in the morning. Find Travis to make sure you didn’t actually close him in with Frankie. Play with him (maybe try to teach him to fetch) then scoop his litter box one last time.

This now concludes all morning and evening activities at The Zoo. I believe if the Mom and the Girly Girls get one more animal, The Wife and I are going to get shirts made up that say Caretakers of The Zoo.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]