A family trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo

The kids and I doubled up on zoos over the weekend, going to the Pittsburgh Zoo Saturday and Oglebay Good Zoo Sunday. By Monday, I never wanted to leave the house again.

We joined forces with Sassy Saint’s Girl Scout Leader and her daughter to hit the Pittsburgh Zoo. This time, we managed to make it to our destination and back without being lost for more than a few minutes (we did make a couple of circles through the Strip District) which was a huge improvement over our last visit. I’m still not sure how we ended up in Westmoreland County, but I do know Leader’s inability to work a GPS was at least partially to blame. We did end up getting home around midnight … after leaving after dinner.

My Little Professor, armed with a map and a “Zoo Key” was our unofficial tour guide, and he was set on visiting the penguin exhibit. He wanted to know which ones were named after Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. I had no idea, so I told him “the really tall, quiet one” and “the one obsessively and repeatedly practicing his belly flop into the water.”

Some day, he’s going to realize I’ve been faking all along and I’ll really be in trouble.

Since you can never get enough hiking on hot, humid afternoons while small children beg for drinks/ice cream/to go home, interspersed with complaints that they’re hot/hungry/bored/have aching feet, we went to the Good Zoo with my Sister Foo-Dog, her boys the Heathenish and Fatty Lumpkins, and Grandmama.

The Good Zoo no longer has ocelots – a type of large cat – and for that, I am grateful. When Sassy was about 6 years old, I took her to the Good Zoo and we went to see the ocelot. I thought she’d enjoy it, because she’s a cat lover.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. She read the educational description and burst into tears because the ocelot is endangered. Not a quiet weeping, but an out-and-out heartbroken sobbing. People were staring.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Oh, Momma, the ocelot is endangered!”

“This ocelot is cool! Look, it’s just hanging out on a branch and chilling! It’s fine, this ocelot is OK!” (Honestly, though, it hadn’t moved the entire time and could have very well been dead for all I knew.)

“But … but … there are … ” (sob) ” … ocelots being hunted … in the wild!”

She wailed for a good 10 minutes, while other people stared at us and wondered what kind of horrible mother made her child cry so hard. I’m still amazed no one called Child Protective Services.

So, when I saw the zoo no longer had the ocelot on exhibit, I did a little soft-shoe shuffle, hoping it had been released into the wild or transferred to another zoo. Otherwise, Sassy might have another break down.

However, we didn’t completely escape animal-inspired emotional scarring. Fatty Lumpkins – he’s almost 6 years old now, and we’re going to have to give him another nickname – was fascinated by the black swans, which roam free around their pond.

“Hey, Foo, remember when you were Fatty Lumpkins’ age and were bitten by a goose here?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Check out Fatty Lumpkins.”

Fatty Lumpkins stomped up to the swans and struck a body builder-style pose. “I’m not afraid of you, swans!”

The swans, who were probably tormented and teased by small children on a daily basis, ignored him.

“Hey, swans!”

The swans honked at each other. They were probably saying something along the lines of “can you believe this kid? Pfft, he’s delusional.”

“Hey, swans!” He stomped his feet in his best sumo wrestler imitation.

One of the swans moved half a step closer. Maybe it was preparing to launch itself in feathery vengeance. Maybe it was just shifting position.

We’ll never know, because Fatty Lumpkins went white as a sheet and ran. “Grandmama!”

So much for not being afraid of the swans.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)