When I was a kid, my Aunt Judi used to sing us this song called "Animal Fair." It was very evocative, conjuring images of animals playing and grooming under the moonlight. One line, "the old raccoon by the light of the moon was brushing her auburn hair," always caught my fancy. I've read other versions where it's a baboon instead, but their rainbow colors aren't as magical in the moonlight. The raccoon is a night animal; he's a masked menace. He burgled his way into my trash time and time again in North Carolina, but I still find them intriguing, as if they have another personality hidden under that mask that's mild-mannered, more Clark Kent than Cat Burglar.
I wanted to pair two animals that you might catch a glimpse of in the woods. The bear is something I've only seen once in the wild, and though we were alarmed, he was a bumbling sort, more interested in the grass than in the family bathing on the river dock not far away. Here the bear and raccoon are a happy pair, and they ride in the parade in style, bedecked with bells as they announce their arrival...so as not to startle anyone. :) This is the first in a series.
My family dog, Fozzie, really should've been named Godzilla. As a puppy, he was a real Jekyll and Hyde, crazy one minute and sweet the next. When I say crazy, it's because he would go under the couch at nighttime and throwdown with...who knows? The other Fozz? He would bark and growl and then whine. The couch would wobble with his efforts. It was really, really odd. He's turned into a toothy, noisy berserker butterball, a weird combination to be sure, with a deep abiding love for my family, and especially my brother-in-law.
One day while visiting home I was watching Fozz sit in the family room with his head resting on the stair to the kitchen. All of our dogs, Merlin, Jumper, and Fozzie all sat this way. For a moment, he looked like a beast, a wild animal, and I thought about how weird it is to have an animal in the house. Here's Fozzie running in the park not far from our house. He gets so excited he can't really stand it.
I started to think about what it would be like to have a dragon that acted like Fozzie. So here he is, with the squishiest squeaky I can imagine. He's a little cross-eyed and his teeth are a little weird, but you can tell he has a big heart and a soft spot for tearing stuffing out of toys.
I think it's pretty clear by now that I love the zoo. I've already mentioned that we live within a short walk of the Central Park Zoo and walk by at least once a week, often stopping in to go face-to-face with a penguin or to hang out with the sea lions. A couple weeks in Singapore this summer with my husband helped that love grow. There, you can get really close to a lot of the animals, feeding giraffes, rhinos, and even orangutans. They've got an amazing zoo and bird park, and the night safari is a lot of fun. This past year my brother and sis-in-law had their first child, and I spent a lot of time telling him about different animals and the sounds they make. I even made a song up about animals he could see in the backyard called, "What can you see when you're sitting in a tree?" I started to think about what it would be like to bring your own baby to the zoo, at that age when they are excited and curious and the whole world is new. I wanted a mom and baby to be walking through a whole mass of animals; what we see are the animals they've seen for the very first time. I picture this drawing hanging in a kid's room, where mothers can teach their kids about animals: Can you find the baby kangaroo? Where is the mother giraffe?