Growing up we had a lot of strange animals (no snakes actually, though we found quite a few)…. My dad would hear about something and run and get some animals. During grade school dad heard about a person with a collection of animals and decided he wanted one. We all loaded up and ran in to get what we could AND came home with a deer…. Pictured to the left is Bambi. He was friendly and as long as he didn’t have antlers on, we could interact inside the fence.
My dad would try all sorts of things though. At one point we had a crow that my dad found that would ride around on Bambi’s antler’s. It had an injured wing, so the crow was perfectly content to ride around. After a while my dad got more deer and we had a whole menagerie.
These were Fallow Deer, indigenous to Germany, and I’d swear my dad’s goal was to use them as lures to get deer to come closer while deer hunting. We would have the local game warden visit each year to make sure ours in captivity were legal and not white tail (local deer). Deer can jump amazingly high, so my father had high fences for them made out of old grain bins. The only escape I remember took 6 men to get the deer back in the pen, and I remember the deer standing with all 6 on it’s back.
While picking up Bambi we also got to see an old monkey named SOB (mean! and abused) and some honey bears. I wanted them SO bad at the time. My father tried later to trade for the honey bears but couldn’t make a deal. I remember the visit by the guy with the bears (they are little bears), and the bears got loose in his truck and locked him out while he was dropping off deer at the time.
SOB ended up taken from his owner and became a test subject for the University of Illinois. Even with all the odd animals we had and the quirky behavior my dad would never have abused an animal. Even a dog we had (Peanut, and yes the matching dog was Butter) that bit my dad while he was trying to help with an infected ear, ended up going to a family with no kids. The dog really had been ‘provoked’, so it wasn’t the dogs fault – and my dad knew it!
Later my dad and a friend tried Beefalo and decided it was GOOD! So they ran out and got two buffalo. We got the girl who my brother and I named Buffy. She was added to the herd at our house. Pictured below is my mother with the buffalo feeding chickens from the look of it.
It’s funny, at the time, although we all had a healthy respect for the animals and knew what each could do and when… we were in and out of the cages to feed them all the time. I’m sure I didn’t think twice about standing there to take this picture and I’m sure my mother fed the chickens, gathered eggs, and fed buffy and the deer like this a million times.
Buffy escaped once in my memory. An owl got into the chicken coop and couldn’t get out. As it flapped trying to get out through the top whole (an old grain bin top that had been cut off) – Buffy got scared and exited through the fence. I’m sure that was a site for all the cars coming up the road. Note: My parents do live on a dead end road and knew everyone around, but still a buffalo in the road on your way home ha
s to be a surprise.
Now as my dad’s memory goes, talking about animals is a way to connect. Seeing deer, a snake, or the fact that my son decided to make a pet out of a frog he found at their house is a great talking point with my dad. These deer were in my parents field! I do wish I had a way to show my dad pictures, I’m thinking I should move them onto my iPad to show him an image that he can see better – maybe put together a slide show of the things that he would find interested. Konnor’s new frog, Konnor’s toad, the deer by the house, even his dogs (did I mention we had 32 dogs at one time growing up!)
We did have a few other unusual animals for short stints, but they always moved on quickly. Everything from a ferret that tried to use a litter box in the kitchen to a a swimming pool filled with fish. My father ended up with a pond filled with catfish that were trained to come to the sound of his footsteps so that he could feed them dog food!