Sunday, July 29, 2012

Call of the Wild

Animals and their appearance, sounds and habitat are big part of a the syllabus in Toddler 101. Brayden has been getting really good at identifying his favorites (zebra, elephant and lion) so Brian and I decided to take little B to the Animal Ark wildlife sanctuary just outside Reno.

Animal Ark is a wildlife sanctuary is located just outside of Reno in the Red Rock area. It’s a perfectly-sized animal park for little ones. Given Brayden’s recent fixation on animals, Brian and I figured it was time for him to see the real thing up close.

The first creature to greet us was Larry the Lizard. Brayden was equal parts curious and unsure about this quick moving little reptile.

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We got the park exactly at opening so we could enjoy the cooler part of the morning and also when they do the feedings. The bears were ready for their breakfast of apricots, citrus fruits and fish so made our way up to their enclosure to watch.

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The bobcat was up next. Brayden was totally cute and kept calling it “Avery” and would meow in honor of his own feline fur brother at home. The bobcat was really social and kept walking by the viewing window.

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After the bobcat encounter, Brayden eschewed the idea of the stroller and decided to run wild himself.

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Because I know this willful child’s favorite word is “no”, I decided to give him some opportunities to say it. I kept calling to him to slow down or come back and he just giggled and screamed “No!” back at me.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, a nice woman named Debbie who was there with her son and other friends asked to take a picture of Brayden. Why? Because she’s a designer for Old Navy and Brayden was wearing a shirt she had created for their toddler line. Seriously. And if that’s not totally random enough, she knows one of my childhood friends, Julie, who is also a designer for Old Navy. Talk about a seriously small world. (And for what it's worth, I was dressed head to toe—right down to my flip flops—in Old Navy myself so I imagine we looked very brand loyal during all this.)

After stops by the mountain lions, desert tortoise (who knew there was such a thing?) and cheetahs, Brayden climbed back into the stroller for snacks and water while we watched the other family of bears.

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All along the way, we made sure to touch on the chirps, growls and howls of all the animals we met. As I’m sure you can imagine, there was a lot of roaring going on up until this point. But the best animal sounds moment happened at the wolf’s den. The wolf was a new animal to B but he really took to the concept of howling. Here’s a super short 30-second clip of Brayden auditioning to be the littlest wolf in Alcide’s pack on True Blood.

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Since these were wild animals after all, we did get to see some interesting, if not somewhat disturbing, primal instincts at work. Case in point: when the jaguar starting hunting Brayden. When we first got the habitat, we took a couple of pictures and the jaguar couldn’t have cared less,…

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...but then Brayden got wiggly and squatted down on the ground while whimpering like a baby would. The second the jaguar heard the distinctive sounds of a vulnerable young one it ran straight to the enclosure boundary and stared intently at the area of the wooden fence he knew Brayden was behind.

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Memo to self: Don’t let Brayden anywhere near jaguars.

Our last group of animals included falcons, owls, coyotes and foxes before we loaded back into the SUV and trekked back to Reno. It was a very successful outing and Brayden spent the whole drive home hooting, growling and meowing—which is always a sure sign of a good time.

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