(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017
Paul let Bindi the snake-necked turtle out of her enclosure to saunter around. According to the local pet shop, this kind of exercise would help to condition her gastrocnemius muscles. Whatever that was.
As Paul whistled and made himself breakfast, Bindi wandered around the dining room, minding her own business. Such as how she hadn’t had breakfast, how she was ravenous, and turtle pellets tasted like cardboard (she had personal experience of both).
Five minutes later, a loud shredding sound alerted the turtle owner to trouble. Running into the living room, Paul saw that the naughty turtle had ripped a massive tear in the wallpaper PLUS she had pooped all over the lovely, comfy sofa! Mouth open in horror, he grabbed the struggling criminal and dumped her in the hallway before returning to his (now cold) breakfast.
The day had NOT started well for Paul.
Bindi the Turtle wasn’t finished with her “exercise”. Waddling into her master’s office, she used that marvelously long neck to pull a photograph from a shelf.
It was an A2 sized, black-and-white photograph taken in 1934 during the Great Depression. In the image, several young kids – including Paul’s grandfather – were cheerfully parading along a brick wall. Granddad was now sadly senile, and the photo reminded the family he hadn’t always been that way. Restoring its faded pigments had cost Paul hundreds of dollars, and whenever he looked at the simple joy on Granddad’s face, he would smile wistfully and wish he had actually known the boy in the picture.
But Bindi didn’t have a mouth to smile with. She didn’t really care about any of the people in the photo either. The photograph was torn, ripped, shredded and scrunched under Bindi’s unforgiving beak and sharp claws. Mercilessly she mutilated Paul’s loving memory, gouging great holes in the glossy paper. She was so intent on her task that she didn’t hear Paul’s horrified screams, although she did feel somewhat alarmed at being thrown several metres across the house onto the recently pooped-on sofa.
Paul had had enough! He snatched Bindi up, and several forms of gruesome and ghastly punishment ran through his mind.
However, Paul wasn’t the only one that was ticked off. Bindi had been separated from her prey once too many, and it was time for tempers to clash. It was time for Turtle to meet Man in epic battle. Or at least for Turtle to meet Man’s fingers!
Paul yelped as he felt Super-Villain utterly defeat her foe. Sometimes he really hated Bindi! Tossing her into the enclosure and slamming the door in her face gave him great satisfaction, and he walked away, determined to finish his breakfast (despite the flies).
But Bindi was smart, Bindi was intelligent, Bindi was resourceful, Bindi couldn’t think of any more words with which to describe herself. With typical reptilian patience, Super-Villain waited till her luckless owner had gone. Then she ate the lock, and began her resolute crawl towards Paul’s passport…
Every morning the human employees open the gates to the guinea pig hutches, and then all the guinea pigs would rush out for breakfast, exercise and some digging (typically in places they shouldn't).
But this morning just before everyone disappeared, Cutie the Alpha pig insisted on calling a meeting: "I have something very unpleasant to discuss today. Have you guys noticed that all this week, someone has been messing up our hutches after we left? WHO IS IT??? This nasty character has been eating all our pellets, and even kicked over all the pellet dispensers! Not only that, his big butt even shoved all our straw bedding out the door!"
Who could it be? Cutie the Alpha stared at a certain prime suspect: "It must have been you, Blacky! You have the biggest butt and the most fur, practically like a broomstick!"
Blacky gazed back innocently: "It wasn't me! I got the furball on my butt combed off last month, when the human employees gave us the annual bath."
Cutie was not convinced: "But you're the laziest. You spend more time napping in the cages than all of us combined!"
"No no no, you're mistaken boss!" Blacky shook his head anxiously. "I've been working really hard on coming out to exercise with everyone. I even came when the human employees had that grass-eating party last time, remember?"
That was true. "It must be Chocolate, Caramel and Brownie then! You triplets are bickering all the time. You must have kicked the straw bedding out when you were fighting!"
The triplets, caught in the act of secretly turtle-pinching each other, quickly jumped apart and put their paws in their laps: "Nope it wasn't us! We've been busy lately. We even found that new veggie patch the human employees put in. Aren't you happy that we found you a new food source, so we didn't have to eat boring old grass all the time?" (That was true too. Everyone got scolded by the human employees for invading the new veggie patch.)
"It can only be you then, Curlsy!" Looking around, Cutie the Alpha located a new target. "You've been so anti-social recently. You stay out under the trees even when the rest of us went home in the evenings. And last time you went out with the human employees for TWO WEEKS, doing who knows what. You must be a spy!"
Poor Curlsy started crying, "I didn't do it! I can never go home in the afternoons because Caramel always hogs my igloo! And the human employees kidnapped me last time because there was a lump growing under my chin. I thought it was pretty convenient, coz then I could start storing extra food in it like the chipmunks. But they took me to some strange place, poked me with a sharp needle, and I fell asleep. When I woke up, my storage area was gone!!!! I overheard them mumbling something about having spent a thousand bucks. Hmpf, we're worth way more than a thousand bucks! Anyway, it wasn't me!"
Cutie raised a back leg to scratch his head, "Then who is it? We must find out! I hate sleeping in a messed up bed, and I hate not having pellets to eat when I get hungry at night!"
Everyone started head scratching, butt scraping and paw licking to encourage some brain neuron movement. In the end the guinea pigs decided that Puffy and Spotty would stay behind today, hide behind the bushes, and catch the thief in his act!
Cutie the Alpha gave them one final warning: "I'm gonna kick that thief's big fat behind when I catch him! So you better confess now if it was you!"
So off everyone went.
Before long Spotty noticed a small blackbird hop down from a nearby tree. At first it was hesitant, looking around cautiously, then it quickly ran into one of the guinea pig hutches. A few minutes later ANOTHER blackbird flew down, hopped into a different hutch, dug around all the straw bedding with its beak, ate a lot of the pellets, and even knocked over the pellet dispenser.
They're the thieves! Spotty and Puffy ran off to tell the Alpha, who was troubled by the news: "So it's those snivelly blackbirds! But what can we do? They can fly, we can't."
Spotty suggested: "Should we get the human employees to help?"
Just then the smallest human employee child happened to run out of the house. Cutie exclaimed happily, "Great, let's tell him now!"
All the guinea pigs ran to the human child and talked all at once, trying to tell him the situation. But the human child was not listening. In fact, he looked somewhat nervous. He had a bag of sweets in his hand, which he downed in a few hurried gulps, and then he quickly chucked the empty bag behind the bicycle parked by the wall before running off from the crime scene.
Soon the other two human employee children came out, but they kept bouncing balls around, making it extremely hazardous to approach them. Cutie shook his head and said, "We better wait."
Finally they saw the human employee lady come out. She was about to change the straw beddings for them. Cutie demonstrated his leadership qualities: "Right, I'll go talk to her!"
But just as he got near her, she suddenly turned about and accidentally almost stepped on him! It gave him such a scare that Cutie jumped back in a hurry and ran for his life!
So blackbird thievery continued. The guinea pigs decided that it would be a problem for another day.
Nose twitching. Ears swivelling, side to side. Whiskers quivering, picking up even the teensiest little vibration. The wonderful scent! Oh, the redness of its stretched, ripe skin. It is a dream for every rat worth his salt. Careful now. Don’t get discovered. Careful little steps, pit-pattering across the kitchen table. I freeze, cocking my round, grey head, sniffing the air. Good. The cat is still outside. Keep moving.
Every inch of my minute rodent body is tensed and coiled, ready to spring at the first scent, the first shadow, the first vibration of anything that could be dangerous. Now just to tiptoe past the speckled green snake curled up behind the glass; humans keep some really WEIRD pets! All clear, not even a flick of the tongue from that foul serpent. Creep along the table top, almost there! The bowl of tomatoes stands ahead, virtually glowing with deliciousness. From this distance, the waft of heavenly scent nearly bowls me over.
Come on, come on. Grab just ONE tomato, don’t get carried away, just ONE. Or maybe two. One more can’t hurt. Just ONE more? I wobble, my arms full of tomato. I can’t crawl like this, I look more like a red bowling ball than a rat. Maybe… ah! An idea!
I manage to stumble off the high table and to the entrance of my hole. My cheeks are sore, the 5 tomatoes inside my mouth are stretching them to the maximum. I keep thinking, I’m not a bloody chipmunk! I spit the tomatoes out. Quickly, quickly, roll them into the hole, into the larder. Gods! The larder’s almost empty! I can still cram in at least… I do a quick calculation, while eating one of the tomatoes. Another 5 tomatoes at least, I reason. No, 6! On account of the one I just ate! Okay, got to climb back onto the table, and grab 7 more tomatoes, just in case I run out. Maybe 8, actually. Or 9. They can be kept in the living room. Good. Okay.
Oh no. I cower behind the glass of tomatoes, shaking so hard I can hear my teeth banging together. No, no, no, I’M TOO HUNGRY TO DIE! The cat blinks and regards me with a cold, acid green eye. I notice only too well that slowly, inch by inch, the dreaded razors on the cat’s paws are sliding out of their sheaths. In my fear, I’ve already devoured 2 tomatoes. It’s called stress eating. Slowly I slide back across the table, carrying the remaining 7 tomatoes that were left in the bowl. The cat is crouching, ready to pounce. I keep backing up, placing one foot deliberately in front of another. That is, until one of them hit thin air. AHHHHH!
I land on the floor, just in time to see the cat pounce a second too late. The cat has jumped right off the table and it is only in mid-air that he realises his rodent snack has escaped. I watch as the cat, soaring gracefully in mid-pounce, face-plants in a pot plant that is right in his path.
I roll the tomatoes into the living room, shaking like a sack of jelly. Phew. I won’t go outside again, not after a risk like that! I won’t even go outside for a … wait. Is that a CREAM PIE OUT THERE! MY LARDER IS EMPTY! I’ve got to go, my appetite is calling me!
It's Knobby here.
I'm a silkback central bearded dragon. That means I have no scales.
Most of my brothers and sisters have scales.
My parents probably had scales, although I've never seen them.
Apparently that's just the way it is. Very strange.
I don't mind it really. But the human employees worry about it.
They worry I wouldn't shed properly. I'm flaky most days.
So I get special privileges. Like a hot bath every night.
Well, most nights. Sometimes they forget.
I wish they wouldn't forget. I like baths.
Anyway, I'm writing today.
Because Banana is busy.
And the guinea pigs aren't allowed indoors this afternoon.
They went running in the veggie patch in the rain and got very muddy.
There were footprints everywhere. The human employees were not happy.
Ellie's on time-out too. She pooed on Marbles. Marbles was not happy.
So I get to write today.
As I said, Banana is busy.
Digesting. She says she won't be out for a couple of days.
She ate her very first rat this morning.
We all watched. It was very interesting.
She always ate mice before, but now mice are too small for her.
After a mouse she gets hungry after only 3 days.
The human employees say her meal should last her at least a week.
Eating too often is not good for snakes apparently.
That's strange too. I eat crickets everyday.
Well, almost every day. Sometimes I feel depressed and don't want to eat.
But theoretically I can eat everyday. I eat veggies too.
Banana never eats veggies.
She should. Veggies help MY digestion.
Anyway, we all watched her eat her first rat.
She said it smelled funny, but she was really hungry so she ate it.
It took her a while to work out how to eat it, because it was bigger than a mouse.
She accidentally swallowed it from the back end.
She said she meant to eat from the head end, because then the legs of the rat would fold up right.
But with a meal 5 times larger than her head, it was difficult to see which end was where.
She did fine from the back end though. She sure has a big mouth!
She squeezed the rat halfway down her body. Very impressive stomach muscles.
Then she went home to sleep. And digest. And won't be out for a couple of days.
I'm happy she's not hungry any more.
Banana's my best friend.
On this bleary hot Thursday afternoon, the Sunny Zoo family is gathered in the backyard for a family meeting.
Almost everyone is here (except the fish and the mystery snails, whose life support system does not support out-of-aquarium excursions at this stage, which has been an item on the to-do list for the human employees in a while). Some are enjoying the sun (Knobby the bearded dragon and Banana the python), some are hating the sun (the frogs and Marbles the gecko, who have hidden themselves under the unmowed grass in the corner), and some are as always eating in the sun (all the guinea pigs, and Ellie the parrot who is decimating the new capsicums in the veggie patch, hoping the human employees would not notice).
It is an important day. They have taken time out of their respective busy schedules (mostly involving napping and snacking) to actually get together and talk about WHAT they want to say for the very very very first blog post on the Sunny Zoo website!
"Order! Order!" Banana raps a branch against Knobby's basking rock. "Are we ready? Who is doing messaging duty for the fish and snails today?"
There is suddenly a rare silence, broken only by the occasional surreptitious sound of hay-chewing by Chocolate the guinea pig. Sadly, messaging duty for their aquatic friends is not one of the more popular jobs around the house. It involves constant running back and forth between the outdoors and the indoors, telling the fish and the golden snails what has been said outside, and telling those outside what their aquarium mates think. Kind of like interpreting, except with a lot more physical exercise than what any of the animals consider personally healthy.
Banana sighs, slithers to a storage box by the lawn, and pulls out a glass jar. In the jar are several small pieces of paper, all neatly folded (she likes everything to be organised). "Since there are no volunteers, we're going to draw lots again!"
"Awwwww............." There are groans all round.
Banana ignores them and pulls out a piece of paper with her teeth. "Blacky! You're up today! Where are you?"
Blacky the guinea pig is nowhere to be found, and it takes the others quite some time before they locate him at the other end of the lawn behind a succulent bush. It seems he has already gone back to his scheduled nap. They have to wake him up, remind him of the important task at hand, and it is only with bribery of extra carrots that he agrees to do messaging duty today.
"Right, are we ready, can we get on with it now?" Banana asks with her usual serpentine patience, while the guinea pigs slowly totter back to sit in a circle around her. In the mean time, the frogs and Marbles the gecko have dozed off - being nocturnal, they find it extremely difficult to stay awake in the day time, and often miss big chunks of the others' conversations during family meetings. Frequently they are surprised they didn't know about something, and the others are also surprised they didn't know about something!
The others wait as Ellie the parrot gently pokes the frogs and Marbles awake with a pointy claw. "Ouch that hurts!" spits Marbles, not appreciating the wakeup call. "What did you do that for?"
"Yeah right! Yeah right! Yeah right!" chorus the frogs, all staring at Ellie accusingly.
"Wake up, wake up!" screeches Ellie. "Meeting time! Meeting time!"
"I know it's meeting time, you didn't have to poke me!" spits Marbles again, and wipes his sleepy eyes with his tongue. "How would you like it if I poked you with a sharp stick when you're asleep?"
"Yeah right! Yeah right! Yeah right!" chorus the frogs, always ready for some fracas.
Marbles continues to grumble. Ellie, whose language skills do not yet match her mental capabilities, resorts to childish screaming at the top of her voice. Before moving in with the others she had lived in a pet shop being caged next to a cockatoo, and apparently that cockatoo had won a few noise-making competitions! From that remarkable expert, Ellie had learned quite a few negotiation skills. Since then Ellie has perfected the scream to a certain high-frequency pitch that Knobby once described as "a skinny nail being constantly driven into one's brain".
Banana sighs again, feeling her patience wither away. She gazes around: the guinea pigs are chatting amongst themselves and chewing on grass, all except for Blacky who has fallen asleep (the fish would not be happy about THAT!); Knobby the beardie has gone into stiff-mode because the sun is setting and temperature has dropped significantly; Ellie, Marbles and the frogs are still busy trying to outdo each other in a screaming match.
Slowly Banana removes the hearing aid from her head (ah, blissful silence!), glides away from all the family hustle and bustle, and slips into the house. She carefully and elegantly coils herself at the computer keyboard.
They'll just have to live with whatever she types up then!!
The Sunny Zoo
The animals at the Sunny Zoo enjoy their many freedoms, including having access to the Internet and a blog.
(C) The Sunny Zoo 陽光動物園 2017