Monday, December 17, 2007

Friend to Animals Everywhere

In my last post I mentioned my step-dad. When I was a kid, we fought like cats and dogs, but we've both changed a lot in the past 20+ years, and now I feel really lucky to call him family. He can come across like a toughie, but he has a soft heart.

Many years ago, I was with my parents at a small zoo. Some of the animals were in a fenced enclosure. Signs indicated that you could purchase a handful of pellets from a vending machine to feed these animals. There was the usual assortment of livestock, goats and whatnot. And, for some reason, one ostrich.

All the animals understood the system well. If a hand came over the top of the fence, they would all rush over to try to get to the pellets first, including the ostrich. However, there was a sign on the fence that specifically said:

DO NOT FEED THE OSTRICH

Sadly, the ostrich didn't know that. He lived in a state of perpetual frustrated yearning, hoping against hope that eventually someone, some kind soul, would give him some pellets. He couldn't understand why the humans never offered him treats.

My step-dad was very into feeding the animals. He chuckled as llamas and sheep nibbled his palm. He didn't mind being slobbered on. But what did bother him was the forlorn look in the eyes of the ostrich. Poor bird! He was hungry too!

I looked over just in time to see the ostrich rear back his head like a hammer ready to strike, and then peck down with all his might on my step-dad's out-stretched hand. My step-dad yelped. Pellets scattered all over the ground. The ostrich bent happily to eat. My step dad looked a bit mournful, holding his sore hand, but later swore that he did not regret feeding the ostrich. He felt it was the morally correct thing to do.

And would he do it again, given the chance? A couple of years later, my parents were vacationing in Florida. My mother phoned me.

"We've just been to the petting zoo."

"Did you have a good time?"

"Your dad's been bitten by a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig."

Same story, different zoo. My step-dad has often said to me that he'd rather err on the side of being too generous. He sleeps better at night knowing that all the petting-zoo animals are well-fed, even if he sometimes gets bitten.

3 comments:

San said...

Great story! Some things are worth being bitten for.

tamara said...

definitely worth being bitten for. everyone should follow that code.

jameil1922 said...

lol. that's cute.