Jim and I left last week on a trip, long planned, to play for a few days in Chicago with friends. Who knew it would be such good therapy, in part because good friend and dynamite animal trainer Laura Monaco Torelli arranged for us to get a behind the scenes tour at the Shedd Aquarium. Laura worked at the Shedd for years with Ken Rameriz before she left to open up her own animal training business, and asked her friend and marine mammal trainer Jessica Whiton to give us a tour. Jessica generously devoted much of a morning to us, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
We got to play with Beluga whales. It’s the first time I felt happy since Willie died, and you didn’t have to be there to see why.
I am of the opinion that Beluga whales are not real animals. They’ve been created by some animatronics outfit to elicit oxytocin in humans. Nothing real could possibly be this cute. I sense some nefarious purpose in this creation, but for now, I am still savoring the awe inspired by these gentle creaturs.
We got to do head bumps, high fives, hand shakes, and several husbandry cues, and we all left blown away by the animals, and the dedication and skill of the trainers. Here I am head bumping a new friend. It was all I could do not to jump in.
We also got to feed sea otters cubes of frozen krill. No photos from this, sorry, (we were gobsmacked and barely able to think straight). But here’s a photo of their adorable cuteness:
They actually are this cute. And they have pockets under their forearms to store rocks for breaking open clams and abalone shells. And they liked to put the krill cubes on their tummies and swim around. And they are yet another animal too good to be true. Do you see why I titled this post “marine mammal therapy”.
We also got to meet Iris, a Magellanic penguin, and marvel at her tiny feathers. Beside the outer guard feathers and down, she has special feathers that alert her when her feathers are disrupted and she’s no longer water proof. Too cool. Here’s a close up of her feathers.
You too can meet Iris too, through the animal encounters program at the Shedd. Don’t miss it if you’re in Chicago, it’s an amazing place.
We also got to see Hamilton again with friends Matt & Kelly (kick ass animal trainers in their own right at Tip Top Tails in Grand Junction, MI), Meg (another amazing trainer, founder of Pup Up Social Learning) and her husband Randy . Here’s Meg and Randy in front of Jim on our way in.
It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, and a welcome respite from grief and loss.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Going home from Chicago was a bit, uh, rough. More on that next week, in part because I had cataract surgery yesterday and can barely see. (Thus, please ignore all typos.) But thank god for good friends and amazing animals. What would we do without them?