I volunteer at a local zoo as a docent. I often call it my #happyplace. I love being a docent – you get to study the behaviors and natural history of the animals and share that knowledge with the guests. It is amazing, rewarding, fulfilling and sometimes spiritual.

We recently had a special after-hours event at the zoo and I volunteered for the full three hours. I was scheduled to work at big cat (lions and tigers) and on the train that ran through the zoo for the event. One of the docents on the train was having such a good time I asked if he wanted to switch stations. He asked me, “Do you want to go to giraffe?” Of course I responded Yes! So we switched.

When we arrive at a new station, the first thing we do is get eyes on the animals in the enclosure (the number one question we get at lions and tigers is, “Where are they?”) then chat with the docent already there (if there is one) to see what’s what. I arrived at giraffe and see a couple (guests) and another docent. The woman (guest) is leaning on the railing on her elbows looking forlornly into the empty enclosure. Her husband is rubbing her shoulders. The other docent is chatting with them. When I walk up, the docent tells me the giraffe are all in the barn and were not coming out. So I tell her about when I took my brother, sister-in-law and niece to the zoo a few weeks prior and I managed to get Molly (the giraffe) to come out. The docent tells me, “Well, [another docent] tried. They’re not coming up.” Everyone thinks this other docent is the “giraffe whisperer.”

A little time passes and I hear the woman saying, “I came here just to see them.” So I think to myself, what the hell? I can give it a try. Maybe it wasn’t a fluke when my family was visiting. I don’t know. I walk down to the far end of the enclosure where I could see the barn door. Molly is just at the door licking the wall (they do that). I call to her. “Molly! Hey sweet girl.” I swear she turns and looks at me. I put my arms up and start wiggling my fingers trying to coax her to come towards me saying, “Come here Molly girl. Come see me.” I repeat this. I swear, Molly turns and starts walking – suuuuuper slowly — toward me. I am patient and just keep repeating “Come see me. Come visit with us Molly girl.” And I’ll be damned if she doesn’t come out of the barn and follow me up the slope where I “deliver” her to the woman.

Molly posing with me for a selfie
Molly posing with me for a selfie

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. The woman starts crying. Her husband is hugging her. As I walk near her, I hear her say to her husband. “My dad. My dad is here.” Molly doesn’t stay long but the woman is happy and she and her husband leave. Then the other docent tells me the story. The woman’s father visited the zoo a few years ago. He grew up in another country and had never seen a real giraffe until he visited our zoo. He was enamored with them. Raved about them. He died 2 weeks later. I’m not sure the circumstances. The daughter had always wanted to come to the zoo to see the giraffe he saw and when she did, they wouldn’t come out – until I coaxed my sweet girl Molly out of the barn. THAT. THAT is why I love docenting.


I am a technologist, strategist, software engineer and data nerd who, in my spare time, is also an amateur photographer, animal lover, and low-carb/Keto advocate.

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