Last Sunday, we went to the farmers’ market in Williamstown for some fresh fruit and grub. The centrally located petting zoo looked like the perfect spot for my kid to test out his gentle patting skills.
We have been here before – quite a few times, actually – and the petting zoo owner recognised us, saying: ‘This time, please don’t let your kid open the guinea pig gate. My babies get anxious when they run free.’
We got our little cup of animal seed, which my son immediately poured into his gumboot. He was so disappointed, but then he pulled off his gumboot and started eating the seeds. A moment later, all the petted animals sprinted over to him, licking their lips (and beaks).
Baby lambs, chickens, bunny rabbits and some tiny, furry thing (perhaps a rat), came running at my son, pecking him all over, trying to find a grain… my poor son. I reached down to grab him and realised he was laughing hysterically. He was enjoying being wrestled by farm creatures, and rolling around in their shit with a mouthful of seed.
So, I let him go and, boy, did he squeal! He chased after the animals, running them around in circles like a sheepdog, scaring the bejesus out of them, and clapping like a mad man; all the while, I’m shouting, ‘gentle, Alfie, gentle’. It was so joyful to watch, and I was able to relax with another mum while our kids ran riot.
Then, Alfie started getting rough. He is so obsessed with holes lately that he realised the hole in the gate allowed him to reach the clasp. So he unlocked the gate, and pulled the fence peg out; the side fell off. Then he spotted another hole: the one in the lamb’s backside were poo was coming out. So, he chased after the lamb, catching the poo.
Then he saw the teeny tiny baby guinea pig come out of a tunnel hole.
I went to grab him with his pooey hands and he saw me coming for him with my ‘time to go home’ face. He grabbed the baby guinea pig before I could reach him, and held it close to his chest as he ran away from me. I feared an Of Mice and Men situation in which my son’s undying love for tiny furry animals would come to a bitter end. I released his grip by tickling him; the guinea pig coughed and ran back into its hole, scared forevermore. My son eyed the hole off.
It was time to go; one near-death experience was enough for this mum – and those poor, poor animals.
We got home and Cheef Dog was happily waiting for us at the side gate. He came running inside and Alfie ran after him, squealing and shouting ‘mumma, mumma’ (he calls the dog ‘mumma’ – let’s not go into this). Cheef Dog sprinted to the couch and I caught Alfie just before he got there. Alfie reached out his hand and firmly patted Cheef Dog across his back saying, ‘dental teeth’, which I will take as ‘gentle Cheef’, over and over again.
‘Dental teeth, dental. Dental teeth, dental.’
Perhaps the petting zoo has helped him to get this gentle thing down pat?