As you'll know if you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, my trip to Drusillas Park on March 22nd 2017 was awesome! Not only was the "keeper for the day" experience itself amazing, but the keeper we had was wonderful (both in general, and with me as a blind person). I'm very grateful to have such a fantastic friend who arranged this for me, and also very grateful to the people - and animals - at Drusillas Park for making my day so awesome. So... Thank you, Karl, Julie, and the rest of the gang at Drusillas... People and animals alike!
Anyway, we took loads of photos, as well as a couple of short videos, and the post would get WAY too long if I put them all in one post. So I'm seporating it in to several posts, which will be published over the next couple of weeks on Sundays and Mondays. There are four posts in all, of which this is the first.
It was pouring with rain that day, but it didn't dampen my enjoyment one bit. Hey, I'm from Wales, and used to just getting on with things despite the rain. My only concern with the rain was how our camera would manage taking the photos with how much it was raining. I'm told it did a good job of compensating for all the rain though, so that's a relief. OK, time to get on with telling you about the day.
We caught an early train, making sure to allow for delays, to be sure we weren't late. Naturally, since we'd allowed for delays, there weren't any. So we were there over an hour early, and they sat us in the cafe with a cup of coffee for Kelly, and a cup of tea for me, to wait until it was time for my keeper to come meet up with us.
Kelly passed the time checking out the stuff he could see from where we were sat in the cafe. Like this real estate sign:
These pictures of wolves:
And this dynamite:
(I'm not sure what it was made of... Kelly wouldn't go over and prod it for me to find out, and wouldn't take me over either).
Then our keeper, Julie, came to fetch us, and took us back to the staff room to give us the pre-keeper experience talk, and on the way there we couldn't resist stopping to say, "Hi," to these Goeldi Monkeys:
When we finally made it to the staff room, Julie gave me my very own name badge and shirt with the zoo's logo on. Here's me with Julie, all ready to start the day:
After that we headed to the store rooms to check out the dry food some of the animals eat, before heading to the kitchens to prepare some fresh vegetables for some of the animals. We didn't take photos of me sorting the vegetables. Part of this is because even Kelly got involved with this to speed things along, and part of it is that we didn't feel it was anything worth taking photos of. If anyone feels they missed out by not seeing a photo or two of me chopping vegetables, I can always get Kelly to take one of me in our own kitchen... It won't be all that different, to be honest. It was cool knowing I'd be feeding the animals food I lovingly prepared myself though.
With the food prepared and in a bucket, we headed off to see some animals.
First we stopped to say, "Hi," to their donkeys. I don't remember the name for the kind of donkey they were, but they're the small ones that are around the same kind of size as Shetland Ponies (as you'll see from the photos in a moment).
There were two donkeys, Cocoa and Drucilla. I bent down to pet Cocoa, and Drucilla the donkey tried to hug me, since she felt she wasn't getting enough attention. I have to say, having a donkey try to hug me is an entirely new experience. I've petted donkeys before, even ridden on some of the bigger ones when they still did donkey rides on the beaches, but never have I had a donkey walk up to me while I was petting another and attempt to hug me by putting her head across my shoulder. Naturally, I hugged her back, because who wouldn't? Here's a photo of me bent down hugging Drucilla the donkey:
When I got up to leave their house, Drucilla tried to beat me to the door to stop me leaving...
But there were other things to see and do, so I had to leave the cuddly donkey behind.
After the donkeys I cleaned out the Meerkat nesting box. I figured you wouldn't want photos of me scooping dirty sawdust and stuff from a wooden box, so we didn't get any photos of that. However, when we went in to feed and have our "meet and greet" with the meerkats, we hat to get some photos.
I can't remember the names of all the Meerkats, though Julie did tell me what they were, and I certainly can't remember which identifying mark belonged to which, so I can't name them as I share their photos. Here they are anyway...
Here's a Meerkat on a rock in their enclosure:
Here's a Meerkat on a stump in their enclosure:
Here's a gang of Meerkats:
And here's one of the Meerkats exiting their burrow:
Because it was such a wet day, Julie put a black bag down on a large rock in their enclosure for me to sit on. Naturally, one of the Meerkats immediately tried to steal it...
...And, no. Me sitting on it did not stop the attempts to steal the bag. Haha!
Once I was sitting on the rock, the Meerkats immediately came to check me out. I'd been a bit worried about them potentially being afraid of my white cane (which was no longer white by the end of the day, as I'm sure you can imagine). But apparently it was a fun toy to investigate, swing off, and jump on and off of. Anyway, here are some photos of the Meerkats checking me out and climbing on me:
Also, here's a short video of me being climbed over by the gang of Meerkats:
I got to feed them, and petted them a little while they were jumping on and off of me. It was great fun! I could have sat there all day, but there was more to see and do, of course.
You'll have to find out next time what we did after the Meerkats though.