Thursday, September 25, 2008

Animals, cages, and paradigm shifts





The boys and I went to the zoo on Tuesday for a special homeschool safari class I signed Holden up for. It was a gorgeous day to be out. We have had the nicest shorts weather that I can remember for Iowa in September. But that is not saying much. It's just that I remember September to be much cooler and rainier.

The safari class was led by a zoo keeper who was good with kids. The first hour or more was indoor and about the training of their zoo animals. It was so weird to realize the training terms used for animals are almost the same as for humans. It makes me wonder which terms came first. Food motivators are a huge reward. Just the thought of training a human makes me sick. Like training them to cry it out or sleep through the night in a crib. It made me sad in some ways to see what these animals had to go through, but overall it seemed humane. There was no hitting or stunning. Some things we do to humans and their babies we would never do to another mammal and their young; not even in a zoo.

My favorite thing at the safari day was seeing a blue tongued skink from Australia up close and watching the kids touch its back. When we were in Texas last year the boys loved finding small American skinks by my sister's house. I knew they got big, but I had never seen one! The one at the zoo was at least a foot long from nose to tail.

After the indoor portion of the class we went to see their macaw that Miss Lori (zoo keeper) had trained. He could say lots of neat things upon request. And I was glad she told the kids how many times he bit her and even took a hunk of skin off her thumb when she touched his tail mid-way into the taming and training. He will only let her touch him now. Then we went to see the serval (small wild cat). There was another zoo keeper showing off all the cat's tricks. After that we were off to the seals.

One thing I have learned to appreciate about zoos is that they try to talk about conservation and our responsibility to protect wild animals. I just hate seeing animals in cages though. It somehow reminds me of how cut off we have become from the wild. It is hard to respect the earth, and its beauty when we spend so little time appreciating the outdoors. And the fact that we need zoos to feel connected and to conserve seems absurd.

All this reminds me of a movie I watched with Holden a few weeks ago, Planet of the Apes. I had not seen it before. It was the one with Mark Wahlberg. That movie was an animal lover's revenge on humans. I enjoyed it! The ending was quite surprising as well.

Thinking of that movie reminds me of the book, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Ishmael is a highly intelligent gorilla who can talk. Ishmael talks a great deal about mythology and its effect on ethics. (I got that from wikipedia). The book is a dialog between a Ishmael and a man who becomes his student and friend. It was different than any book I have ever read. It was very well thought out.


Thankfully Holden didn't ask me to buy him a bird or any other animal after the safari class. I'm hoping hearing about how Miss Lori was bitten helped me in that department. We did hit the gift shop for some candy on the way out though. I have been trying so hard to help him to realize that wild animals belong in the wild, not in cages. The same goes for my children.

Before having children of my own I would have thought nothing of human training, animal training or caged mammals (humans as well). It's funny how becoming a parent changes perspectives. Mindful associations change thinking as well. When Holden was an infant I was lucky enough to find La Leche League. That lead to many wonderful friends with children, books to borrow, and insights that were so foreign to me at the time; like parenting paradigm shifts. That is still a concept I struggle with daily because it is so ingrained in me that children are to mold, train, and control to our will and schedule.

Some life changing books that friends have loaned to me:


There are many other books I have fond memories of reading. I'm so grateful to all the thoughtful and caring parents out there who have taken the time to share their knowledge with me and the world through sharing books, words of wisdom, and friendship. It has made a difference in my parenting and marriage.

Today is park day with other homeschooling moms and kids. My uncaged boys will hopefully be climbing trees and having a wonderful day outdoors with friends. Yesterday was a grumpy, p.m.s. day for me. The kids were wore out as well. Sometimes I have to have a down day, and that was yesterday for sure.

A side note: I'm excited to say that this evening I am going to photograph the Hina dolls at Julia's. I'll have an update about them by this weekend.

Cheers to all friends of animals--wild or tame!

~Heather xoxoxo

1 comment:

Snavleys said...

I'm with you, it's hard to see animals caged. We have a parrot and it breaks my heart that he doesn't even fly (his wings are not clipped). He was a rescue though and he is much happier here than where he was before. I just wish we didn't capture them in the first place. They belong where they originally came from. Of course, some could argue the dog thing too:)