Enriching one’s life through projects
It’s the perfect combination; Jena, Martha, Karen, Jack, Orllyene and me. Jena and Martha haven’t met yet, but both have a deep affection for animals, and Karen and Jack are always fun. It should be a rollicking good evening.
Mid-afternoon, the telephone rings. “Ron, I won’t be able to make it tonight. My 11 puppies take forever to feed,” Martha says apologetically. I crumble.
Orllyene has created a remarkable table setting; pink crystal serving bowls, lavender glasses purchased in Tlaquepaque, Mexico and gold and white china.
Jena, Karen and Jack arrive simultaneously. Jena hands me strawberries which I later crush and serve over vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. Karen’s home-grown lettuce is so delectable, it’s criminal to eat it. We’re having chicken parmesan, yams with fresh orange flavoring, string beans, and Orllyene’s bean and beet salad.
When dinner concludes, I press Jena for details of the enrichment work she is doing in the Congo. “They have nothing, so I bring huge bins of medicines, equipment and toys.” I assume the toys are for the Rangers children. Not so, and she explains, “I can either buy an expensive gorilla toy which they will eventually smash or I can make one from bamboo. This time I bring a red and a blue sheet.”
We gather around her phone and see a gorilla with a red sheet nestled in a mish-mash of brilliant green bamboo. “See, she is exploring all different possibilities of the sheet. See how she wraps it around her shoulders, and over her head, and then crumples it? And look over here, see this young gorilla, looking so nonchalant, planning to sneak over and get it, without her seeing him? The rangers were amazed at the gorilla’s curiosity and intelligence,” she says.
I prod her to relate another incident involving enrichment, at the San Diego Zoo. “We rigged up a half mile long corridor, with me at one end and a cheetah at the other end. A fabricated feather bait object was made and attached to a long line. When the cheetah is released I start reeling in the bait object fast as I can, keeping the object just far enough in front of the cheetah. The cheetah is coming straight at me and when he arrives, he grabs his trophy, and gives it a good shaking and then lays down and starts chirping. That was the happiest cheetah in the whole San Diego Zoo,” Jena says.
I find it tremendously inspiring to find people who have an abundance of creative talent and spend it on enrichment projects, don’t you?
Ron Walker can be reached at email@example.com