|Recently, I have caught up with a TV program that could have been created just for me. I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss it and might still be missing it if my son hadn’t mentioned it to me. It’s on the Animal Planet channel and is called Growing Up with a different animal as part of the title each time.
It is a wonderful hour devoted to the raising of orphaned baby animals by trained experts in special environments. These people are all so loving and kind.
All of the very little babies have to be taken home while they are still on a three hour or less feeding schedule. Of course, the surrogate parents are told it’s not wise to bond too much with their charges because later in time they will have to be separated. Try telling that to someone cuddling a tiny baby anything they’ve just fed and burped and watched fall asleep.
I’ve been watching the show for four weeks. I think it must be a reprieve of a weekly show because I’m watching every week day at four. So far I’ve seen twenty eight different kinds of animal babies, ranging from panthers to wolves.
The baby panther was a hoot, starting his new life as a very tiny kitten, sharing living quarters with two sweet bull mastiffs. My granddaughter has one named Otis who is a fierce looking, big baby, gentle as a lamb. The two on TV were lying, end to end, on a couch while the baby panther jumped back and forth, on and over them. They were snoozing and every once in a while would open a sleepy eye, but never twitched or grumbled.
The panther eventually grew tired and snuggled up and slept with them. The wolves were fascinating. The people raising them had a full family of wolves living in their preserve. When one of the females had a litter of four the pups were taken from the mother at a few weeks of age in order to bond with the humans as every wolf in the pack had done. This was to enable the people to work with the adult wolves as observers of life in the pack.
The pups lived for two months in the human household, along with over 20 dogs that had been adopted and rescued. Their mother had been very upset when her pups were taken and had spent her days endlessly walking within the compound looking for them. The people wondered if she would remember her pups There was no problem there. The reunion was joyous. There was another problem, however. Would the matriarch of the pack, a rather testy female who had gained dominance over the pack by killing her father, accept the pups or would they and their mother have to be removed from the compound? She not only welcomed the kids but became nicer to everyone. In addition, the young ones remained bonded to their surrogate parents.
The penguin sequence was lots of fun, primarily because the two young men in charge of the penguins at their zoo, loved their jobs and their penguins. They pointed out that the penguins had real feelings of affection, becoming upset if one or the other of them took some time off and expressing real joy on seeing their return. One of the penguins they hand raised refused to become a member of the general population hanging around the pool and rocks, preferring to hang around with them. It was a riot watching him toddle around following in their footsteps, watching their every move.
Today, I saw the best of the lot, the baby walrus. It was my son’s raving bout the program that started me watching and every day I’ve hoped to see a repeat of the walrus segment. My son said the walrus was the dearest cutest sweetest animal he had ever seen and he was right. He had been found stranded on a beach in Alaska and rushed to a walrus rescue facility in Barrows, where a team of anxious people awaited his arrival. Poor little thing was obviously starving and had been pecked at and hurt by seabirds. In two days he had been treated with antibiotics, fed nutrients and was on a bottle six times a day. Best of all, he was assigned to the best animal person I have ever seen. She fell in love with him on sight and he became her baby. Each of the adult walruses in the facility has its own human and the relationships are astounding, due to the personality of the walrus and the fact that in order to work with such a large animal you have to have a solid bonding.
There were many memorable scenes. The handler is a young small, slim blonde girl, not the least intimidated by the fact that her baby would grow into a giant with tusks. She knows that he will still be sweet and gentle. The sight of him, a 125 pound baby wanting her to hold him while he slept, climbing into her lap as she sat on the floor on a mat. He snuggled up and they both looked happy. The first year birthday party she gave him, with the other two ladies bringing their kids, two fully grown walruses who proceeded to eat his special birthday cake. He was so happy, he kissed everybody there and even kissed the camera. I had a lump in my throat as big as a golf ball.