Have you had any monkey lovin’ recently?  I have!  As well as a bit of lemur-lovin, dog-lovin, tortoise, kangaroo, camel, zedonk, goat, pig, and even porcupine-lovin (though not necesarily in the following order)! 

Alright, so before you think I’ve finally lost my mind, I’ll explain. The kids and I were invited to go visit a friend of a friend who has a very unique lifestyle.  She and her husband are both veterinarians, and developed a passion for kangaroos a number of years ago.  My understanding is that they began raising the kangaroos and wallabies, and their mini-menagerie began to expand through animal donations, rescues, and some limited exotic purchases.  They have a cute little house sitting on 3 acres of land that has become their “compound” of sorts.  It looks pretty normal from the outside, with a pretty, if tall, painted block wall surrounding their boundary.  We knew it would be something special though, as soon as the gate began opening. 

We were first greeted by the family dogs, consisting of an Australian shepherd, Great Dane, and Basset Hound.  Then the owner walked out—a wonderfully kind lady who is truly passionate about animals of all kinds—with a capuchin monkey on her shoulder.  She directed us to park, and then the fun started.  After we unloaded, (and got assurances that all animals had been hand raised, and thoroughly socialized and people-trained) we all got to greet the monkey.  Slowly, the monkey began making rounds to investigate, groom, and love each of us visitors.

 

Caico the Capuchin Monkey

Caico the Capuchin Monkey

 Before I knew it, she had jumped into my van through an open window, and was perfectly content to stay there and investigate the upholstery and carseats. 

Caico exploring my van

Caico exploring my van

 We then got a tour of the prairie dog and guinea pig yard, which, by the way, was designed as rodent heaven!  They had the most square footage of probably any domestic guinea pigs on earth, with all the sand they could dig in, fun little houses, toys, and climbing things, and tons of room to play.  Since they were used to people, we were able to pet them.  As the monkey continued to jump from one visitor’s shoulder to another, we made our way over to the otter enclosure.  She had a breeding pair of otters who also had all the space they could desire, a fresh-water pond, toys, and things to stimulate themselves.  As soon as the owner called, one came running over to us, she reached in and picked him up, and everyone got to pet.  This is when we learned the monkey was pretty much friends with every other creature in the place, so as we were trying to pet, the otter and monkey played with each other.  It was absolutely adorable!  We watched the otters play for a while, then I looked up to see a rather large lemur creeping across the top of the fence, about 8 inches from M.  I quietly told M to look, and I think she was so shocked to see this “thing” inches from her face, and reaching out to investigate her, that she just froze.  I couldn’t believe she didn’t scream and run.  M actually reached up and started petting her. 

 

Ringtailed Lemur

Ringtailed Lemur

The lemur then jumped onto a nearby tree and sat watching us.  The kids eventually got bored watching the otters and sat down to rest in the shade for a moment (it was well over 100 degrees).  As they were sitting there, another lemur came from seemingly nowhere to check them out.  From then on, we became a lemur and monkey playground.   

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The kids got to feed them treats, and it seemed like every time I looked up, another lemur was investigating my stroller, trying to climb into the diaper bag, or attempting to share the baby’s bottle (which I quickly learned to keep the cap on!) 

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Caico on my shoulder

Caico on my shoulder

Mowgli the Red-Fronted Brown Lemur on JR

Mowgli the Red-Fronted Brown Lemur on JR

At one point I was holding N, and Caico decided to come investigate.  According to the owner, she loves the feel of black hair, and she would just rub his little head.  It was sooo cute!

At one point I was holding N, and Caico decided to come investigate. According to the owner, she loves the feel of black hair, and she would just rub his little head. It was sooo cute!

Then Mowgli decided to join us.  All I could do was cover the baby's face!  Of course the critters were harmless enough, but they were enthralled with the baby!

Then Mowgli decided to join us. All I could do was cover the baby's face! Of course the critters were harmless enough, but they were enthralled with the baby!

Lemurs investigating my stroller.  They quickly realized there were snacks and baby formula in there somewhere, and they were determined to find it!

Lemurs investigating my stroller. They quickly realized there were snacks and baby formula in there somewhere, and they were determined to find it!

JR holding a ferret

JR holding a ferret

We were then given a tour of the room that houses the parrots, toucan, and sloth.  Although we got to pet the sloth, he was a bit hungry, which apparently made him a bit cranky.  He threatened to bite a couple of times, but fortunately he moved so slowly, he was never really a threat to anyone.

 

2 toed sloth

2 toed sloth

At this point, we walked over to the livestock enclosure, which contained emus (A can honestly say his feet have now been mistaken as emu-biscuits! Not that he was too thrilled when he actually got nipped!), zebra, zedonk (zebra/donkey cross), camels, lamas, pot-bellied pigs, fainting goats, a donkey baby, and who knows what I am forgetting!

 

Donkey foal checking out the kids.

Donkey foal checking out the kids.

JR holding a fainting goat kid.

JR holding a fainting goat kid.

The lemurs followed us over to the livestock enclosure and continued to look for treats in my stroller.

The lemurs followed us over to the livestock enclosure and continued to look for treats in my stroller.

A real treat was when they had the camel lay down, and the kids got to take turns sitting on one of the camels.

 

JR and A on the camel.

JR and A on Sayid, the Bactrian camel.

I lost count of how many times I asked the lady for reassurance that the babies were safe and wouldn’t get bitten or sick from the lemurs and other animals they were being exposed to.  I could tell just from the upkeep of the place, though, that there was little to be concerned about.  As a vet, she knew these animals in and out, and their living quarters were immaculate!  They were very obviously happy, healthy, friendly, and well-mannered animals.

 We then walked over and toured the ant-eater and one porcupine enclosure, and JR got a lesson in how ant-eaters eat.  It was pretty neat to get to pet him!  Just for the record, the ant-eaters and monkey happened to be great friends as well!  At this point, we were pretty hot and dehydrated, so she invited us around to her back porch to sit in the misters and have some cold drinks and a snack.  We willingly obliged.  While we sat and enjoyed ourselves, we learned that you don’t eat or drink around there without sharing with whatever animal asks! 

M sharing her snack with Caico

M sharing her snack with Caico

 As we played and took pictures, she started bringing out her baby animals that had been rescued or orphaned.  We got to pet or hold each one.  There was a baby beaver, a baby tortoise (M just loved this little guy), a baby kangaroo, a baby Muntjac Deer, and a brush-tailed bettong (similar to a kangaroo-rat).

 

M holding Deer Abby, the baby Muntjac Deer.  This little girl was precious!

M holding Deer Abby, the baby Muntjac Deer. This little girl was precious!

JR and the baby beaver

JR and the baby beaver

M holding a baby Brush-tailed Bettong

M holding a baby Brush-tailed Bettong

After a lengthy cool down and snack, we visited another enclosure that held several different types of kangaroos and wallabies, as well as pantagonian cavies.  In one enclosure, the kids were turned loose with the instructions “feel free to try to pet them, just don’t run.  JR and M spent a good 10 minutes walking around the field trying their best to pet the kangaroos, who, of course, thought a game of “catch me if you can” was great fun! 

Kids trying to pet kangaroos and wallabies

Kids trying to pet kangaroos and wallabies

After wearing the kids down a bit, the lady called one of the kangaroos over and gave him a treat to sit there and let the kids pet him.  It was amazing.  The animals were so comfortable with whatever she did with them or asked them to do for her! 

Petting the kangaroo

Petting the kangaroo

She then introduced us to a kangaroo who had to have one of his hind legs amputated.  A lot of people doubted they could amputate and he survive, but her and her husband did it.  As far as anyone knows, he is the only kangaroo to survive such a surgery, and not only survive, but thrive.  This guy hopped around just like the other kangaroos, perfectly balanced on the remaining hind leg, and his tail.  It’s always a great reminder what TLC can do in an otherwise bad situation! 

 

Kangaroo with only 1 hind leg

Kangaroo with only 1 hind leg

But we still weren’t done!  Then she led us over to another porcupine enclosure.  She called “Spike” out of his underground den, and he curiously came out.  Once he knew a treat was involved, he showed no hesitancy as she invited the kids over to pet him.  Another porcupine followed soon after.  The owner then allowed the kids to walk around and collect quills dropped by the porcupine over time, so they could have souvenirs.

 

Spike the porcupine

Spike the porcupine

Finally, we went back to the porch to cool down once more.  We learned how to tell the difference between male and female tortoises, how the zoo had gradually accumulated their animals, and a little about the owners themselves.  A got to ride the large tortoise.  He couldn’t have cared less until the big guy started crawling away, and then A’s eyes got big as golfballs and he didn’t know what to think as he realized it was alive!

A riding the 3-legged tortoise

A riding the 3-legged tortoise

This guy lost his leg in an accident involving a cord being wrapped around his leg.  The choice was euthanasia or amputation.  They figured they would try to amputate and see how he did.  Obviously, he did quite well!

Finally, we got to meet a munchkin cat, which looks like a regular cat except that it has very short legs, and the family dogs. 

Yes, the cat is standing up.

Yes, the cat is standing up.

 

the Great Dane

the Great Dane

As if all that wasn’t enough, we also got a tour of the monkey’s bedroom, and got to watch the owner change the monkey’s diaper and put her dress on. 

Changing Caico's diaper

Changing Caico's diaper

Putting her dress on

Putting her dress on

Finally, we all agreed it was time to let everyone (including the monkey) take their naps, so we said our goodbyes and headed home.  It was such an amazing day, and just full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to touch exotic animals we usually only see behind bars or glass.   It was fascinating watching them interact and do their animal things, and the personalities were as varied as the animals themselves.  I would love to go back again one day, but if not, I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Oh, and I got to take my own souvenir of sorts.  You see, at one point, the monkey tore, bit, and scratched part of my stroller handles.  I actually wasn’t angry in the least, as it will be such a funny and unbelievable explanation–should anyone ever ask!

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