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ZagZig Memories of Ziggy Zagging at the Zoo

The zoo is one of my favorite places to go, and not just because it reminds me of our house with four kids, three dogs and at one point or another, cats, a fish and a lizard. Some days the kids are like the gorillas that choose when they want to engage with or ignore you behind the glass, and the dogs think I am the zoo keeper, ready to clean up their mess when they decide is it too rainy to use the outside facilities.

Last week I had the privilege to take some kids from the high school to our local zoo. With our own kids growing quickly and some already out of the house, we don’t spend as much time there as we once did and I miss those moments and fond memories.

My passion for the zoo started as a kid, when my own grandpa often took me to

Brookfield Zoo, just outside of Chicago. My parents dropped me off at my grandparents’ house on a Friday night, and on Saturday morning, after Grandma cooked me the perfect poached egg, Grandpa popped in the kitchen and off we went to the zoo.

Part of our routine included a first stop at the home of his favorite animal, and an infamous one at Brookfield Zoo, Ziggy the elephant. Ziggy was special in that he seemed to always get himself into trouble, either falling into the moat or attacking a zookeeper, and because he was my grandpa’s favorite, he became my favorite animal too. Every visit Grandpa read to me the plaquard with all Ziggy’s adventures and how the zoo handled him along the way.

After my Grandpa passed, I continued this tradition with my own kids when they were young. Each visit, we read the Ziggy story and I followed up by fondly telling them about my trips with my grandpa, and they would ask the same questions I did. It was a tradition, and I love tradition.

Over the years, we moved several times, and finding and touring the zoo was part of our ritual of getting acquainted with a new city. The kids found their own zoo Ziggy, but this time it was in the form of a Tapir. As the kids recount it, the Tapir almost peed on me when I was pointing at it in its cage; in actuality I think he was marking his territory and I must have threatened him with my dadly presence with my cubs in tow.

One new tradition I started with my own clan was attending the dolphin show at the zoo. You see, even in my late 40’s I remember that my own grandpa would protest when I as a child wanted to see the dolphins. He said it was too much money, and took him away from his time seeing Ziggy. Yes, the dolphin show cost a little extra, even for zoo members, but I have pictures of the time when our kids got picked to help with a dolphin trick. (Truth be told, I thought about pushing my son aside and volunteering myself, but then my friend the Tapir might have thought less of me.)

The zoo means a lot to me, and there area a lot of great standout role model dads in the animal kingdom that we have come to know and love (you can read more about this in the book ZagZig Parenting). It is not just about the animals though; for me it is all about creating memories for our family that include the unpredictable nature of creatures on four legs, two legs, those who love water and those that fly in the sky. As I started this post, these creatures include my own two -legged species who marvel at life, imitate the monkeys, whine when they are hungry and sleep well after a day in the fresh, aromatic air.

Like it is says in the Lion King song, The Circle of Life, the zoo is a consistent legacy story that involves their great grandfather and their own father. In the future, and I can wait, I will tell my own grandchildren about Ziggy the elephant and the Tapir who almost peed on me, and yes they will discover their own animal encounter that will make them giggle and smile for years. Like the song says, through despair and hope, through faith and love, til we find our place on the path unwinding….It’s the circle of life.

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