Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The time the gator got out.

I started my career as a zookeeper while I was in my early teens. I began working for a little company that took exotic animals out to schools to teach kids about them. Those of us who stayed at the company office and took care of the animals were called keepers and the ones who took them to the schools were known as interpreters.
My interview for the internship at Mobile Zoo. Best interview ever. Has nothing at all to do with this story, but look, a lion cub. Aw.
One day one of the interpreters decided to pick up some extra hours as a keeper. She was a sweet woman and a really great teacher, but she was unaware of the animals personalities and quirks. Like Big Al's penchant for escape. She only learned of his Houdini-like prowess when she'd opened the top of the alligator tank and he took off like a dragon.

He wound up running into the mammal room and curling up underneath the Jerboa cage, tail ready to thrash and mouth open. I entered the scene to find the interpreter trying to bribe Al to come out. She jumping back terrified whenever he hissed at her. He was only about four feet long so he was sort of a little guy. Even as little guys, alligators can be slightly intimidating.
Reptile fans will recognize this stance. This is not Big Al and just an image off Google, but you get the point.
Big Al might have been little but was also a lot of hot air. Al loved snuggles and would usually calm down when picked up. I know, weird, right? So I reached under the tank, grabbed his tail, and pulled him out, scooping him up under his belly and getting hold of his neck so he couldn't twist and bite--not that he would.

The moment I picked him up, he stopped hissing, closed his mouth and snuggled in. I had no trouble at all getting him back in his tank. The interpreter; well, she chuckled and let me take the lead the rest of the afternoon.

Crescendo of Darkness

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