Sunday, July 15, 2012

FAQ - What’s the saddest thing about being a zookeeper?

Linda and a Yearling Doe

Without a doubt, it was always the death of an animal.  I was always upset when something died.  Sometimes death just happens. An animal is old or has developed an incurable condition. Some species, like hamsters and mice, have very short life spans. 

The worst was when through ignorance, I allowed a creature to die. 

It happened once with a ferret. I had been given what I was told was a female.  She seemed just fine for several months. Then she got pregnant! We were delighted.  As the weeks went by, she got bigger and bigger.  I began to worry when she never gave birth. She was swollen like a tubby little balloon. One morning, I found her dead in her cage. I took her to the vet for an autopsy. Come to find out, it was a neutered male whose body cavity had filled with fluid.  He had some sort of urinary infection. I felt guilty for the longest time and berated myself for not knowing something was wrong.  It was one of the few times when I wished I’d had veterinary training. 

Occasionally something happens in which there is no medical cure. Then the decision must be made to euthanize an animal.  That happened with one of our deer.

We had eight white-tail does in our compound. Clover was one I had bottle-raised. She was one of three I had raised at one time.  They had all been brought to me within a week of each other.  She was about two by this time. Of the three, she was the most shy and least tamed. It was just her basic nature. She would allow my husband and me to pet her, but stayed away from guests in the zoo. 

I don’t remember exactly what happened, but she was running with the other deer across the back of the compound.  She tried to jump a fence into the sheep and donkey pen.  I’m not sure if our standard donkey, Brighty spooked her or what, but she missed and hit the fence.

I came running when I heard her bleat in pain. She had a compound fracture on her right foreleg.  We immediately called our vet who came right out.  We could not approach her in her pain and terror. There was nothing we could do to save her. I had to go into the house while the vet shot her. I wept for days over Clover.

If you have any questions about being a zookeeper, about my zoo Storybook Farm Petting Zoo, about animals, or about The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple, please ask!

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