The Cheetah in Winter

I explained to Cameron for the 23rd time that I didn’t think there were cheetahs at the Vancouver Zoo. We’d seen the black panther, the tigers, and the lions. We’d even seen a lynx. But nowhere did I see any sign of a cheetah.

Nothing I said persuaded him that he was wrong. But that was okay – we saw lots, and had a fun day. Cameron spotted the still dozing grizzly with his sharp eyes, lolling under a culvert-den. We saw wallabies, which he refused to call anything other than kangaroos. Cameron learned that there were two types of camels there (well, three if you count the South American one), Bactrian and Dromedary. He got plenty of snuggle time and shoulder-riding time with Grandma and Grandpa, who are probably the most fun people I know of to visit a zoo with. They’re so interested in everything, with just the right level of intensity for a little boy, and lots of smiles and happiness.

I was pleasantly surprised. I knew that the zoo stayed open during the winter months, and it’s not like it gets really cold here, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a zoo during anything resembling a winter. But sure enough, with the exception of the hibernating bears and a few more delicate animals that needed more warmth like the lemurs, the zoo was pretty active.

We’d seen just about everything we thought, when I think it was Janice who looked at the map to be sure we’d been everywhere. Sure enough, we’d missed one little corner of the inner section. Just past the main big cats enclosures. Yes … it was clear that I’d been mistaken. With a happy yelp, Cameron clutched the map, and told us to go on ahead. He wanted to find the way himself, using the map. He wanted to find his cheetah.

Cameron wasn’t disappointed, either. The cheetah was out and about, pacing past her visitors, purrrring loudly as she neared us. I say she but I’m really not sure, it wasn’t obvious.  Cameron encouraged her to run for him, and she obliged quite nicely, dashing here and there, playing chase with the bush or something. And Cameron excitedly watched every movement, beaming a smile at Grandma or Grandpa every few minutes. He got to see a cheetah. He knew it was there, and then he found it with the map.

Surprisingly, the rest of the day didn’t fade away to nothing in the triumph of having found the cheetah, he still remembers about the camels, the mini train ride, and the monkeys that tried to play with kids’ hair through glass. But hand him a map and he’ll pretend he’s hunting his cheetah at the zoo again.And he’ll remind me that there really was a cheetah at the zoo.

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