A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Baa Baa Black Sheep

                                        (Above: one of the new lambs)
Ever since Twinkle the sheep died last September, everyone at Children's Fairyland in Oakland, from Juan the alpaca to Puddles the duck, has missed her terribly.
But today there are nothing but smiles because this weekend Fairyland will welcome Twinkle's successors: a pair of 4-month-old lambs.
The lambs – both males – are Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, and that's important because Baybdolls are resistant to megaesophogus, the congenital defect that killed Twinkle.
They're called Babydolls for good reason: They're only 18 inches high. And that's as tall as they're ever going to get, so they'll look like lambs for the rest of their lives.
And they'll always act like lambs, too, because sheep born in the wintertime are especially gentle, loving and sweet. They like to snuggle more and get more hands-on treatment from their keepers than sheep born in the summer, who roam outdoors from an early age.
"They've been hand-held and coddled and adored and smothered with love," says Deborah Ramirez, the animal caregiver at Fairyland. "And they've been raised with alpacas, llamas and goats, so they should fit right in with the other animals in our corral."
The little guys, who were donated by Dr. Jamie Peyton of Elysian Oaks Farm in Winters, are chocolate colored with black faces and stockings. And their wool is the same grade as cashmere - Class C.
They haven't been named yet, and that's where you come in. Fairyland is celebrating their arrival with a naming contest. Submit your suggestions in special boxes located throughout the park or at www.facebook.com/childrensfairyland.
The winner will get lunch for four people, plus a behind-the-scenes V.I.P. tour of Fairyland's animal area.
Speaking of animals, you've probably heard of therapy dogs and therapy cats who visit hospitals and nursing homes. But would you believe a therapy camel?
Get ready to meet Hump-Free, an honest-to-goodness dromedary - that's a camel with only one hump – who does animal-assisted therapy at a ranch for troubled kids.
He and his buddies – Quill-Amina the hedgehog, Interrogator the alligator, Scooter the Macaw, Scarlett the cockatoo, and Galindo the jungle cat – will visit Fairyland next Saturday, June 2, for a special guest appearance.
And there's still more animal news! On June 12 Fairyland will re-open its Little Red Henhouse, which has been closed for decades.
The new residents will be three heirloom chickens, so called because they look like chickens used to look before the food industry started producing freaks that can barely walk because of their enormous breasts and thighs.
One is a blond Silkie – think of Snoopy's pal, Woodstock – one is a reddish-colored Orpington, and the third is a black Cochin.
They are being donated by Allison Lindquist, executive director of the Oakland-East Bay SPCA, who raises heirloom chickens as a hobby.
"They're crazy beautiful," says Fairyland's executive director, C.J. Hirschfield. "And she hand-raised them, so they're very docile and friendly."
If you'd like to help support this precious local treasure, the most enjoyable way I can think of is to attend Fairyland's major fundraiser of the year, the annual gala dinner on June 7. Fairytale attire is optional.
If you don't have children, it's a rare chance to see Fairyland in person because at other times the park has a safety rule: No child admitted without an adult, and no adult admitted without a child.
Visit www.facebook.com/childrensfairyland for details.