"Our Little Trooper"

"Our Little Trooper"
"Let me live, that I may praise you!" Psalm 119:175

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"The Best Day Ever!" (Hippo Adventure)

Last Friday, we had the amazing opportunity to surprise Rowan with an early morning trip to the San Antonio Zoo.  But this wasn't any normal zoo trip.  This one was going to be epic, because some very special people heard about Rowan and arranged for him to go behind the scenes at the Africa Live Hippo Exhibit.

Anyone who knows Rowan, knows hippos have always been his very favorite animal.  Here are some pictures of him with just a few of his stuffed hippos over the years...as you can see, hippos have helped see him through some pretty tough times.

Now, back to the behind the scenes tour...
We arrived at the Zoo around 8:00 am and met up with our dear friend Suzanne (who happens to be Cindy the therapy dog's handler/owner).  Unfortunately, Rowan didn't recognize Suzanne at first without Cindy being with her, and because he only sees her when he's sick in the hospital. But once he did, he had a big hug for her.
Next we met Laurie, who was in charge of all the volunteers at the Zoo.

And she introduced us to Anita, who cares for the hippos.

Anita led us around the back of the exhibit to a restricted area, and into the Hippo Barn. 
Rowan had no idea just what he was in for...none of us did!
Talk about up close and personal...

Anita told Rowan all kinds of Hippo Facts.

Then she let Rowan feed them by hand.

Look at that mouth!

Next Anita took Rowan back into the actual Hippo Exhibit,
 since the hippos were still in the barn eating breakfast.

This is the part of the exhibit where you can usually see the hippos,
but you usually have to watch them from inside the Africa Live exhibit.

Rowan was standing above the 150 thousand gallons of water that fill the hippo tank.
It's full of lots of tropical fish too.

Here is the window that we are usually on the other side of, looking at the hippos through this glass.

Rowan just stood, staring in awe.

Rowan couldn't believe where he was, couldn't believe what he was doing,
but he hugged Anita several times and told her thank you.
Next we headed back into the hippo barn to see if they were done with breakfast.
Anita showed us their teeth.

We got to see their special pink "blood sweat" which comes out of their pores. 
It isn't actually blood, but it looks like it.

Rowan, myself, and Rowan's nurse Cindy all three touched the Hippo's chin.
Looks like he liked it too.

We learned their names too of course.
The male is "Tumbo" and the female is "Uma".
One is already 39 and the other one is going to be 39 this year,
and have been together at the Zoo since they were about one year old!
They have had 10 babies together, and some of them are at different Zoos around the country.
They weigh about 5000 pounds each!

Of course we washed our hands when we were done touching them and feeding them,
and then Anita asked us if we'd like to go see some more.

Rowan got to peek over the edge of the African Wild Dog Exhibit, another favorite of his.

She explained the water filtration system for the Hippos and Nile Crocs.

Rowan threw in another hug:-)
And then Anita asked if he'd like to meet "Chuma"
We weren't sure who Chuma was, but were excited to see it all, so Rowan said sure.

As if the day could get ANY better...Chuma, was the oldest male Okapi in the Zoo
 (and I think they said the oldest known male at any Zoo) .
Okapis are Rowan's second favorite animal at the Zoo.  Someone must have told them;-)

They let Rowan feed the Okapi by hand too!
They like Kale.

Rowan wasn't near as timid to feed the okapi as he was the hippo (understandably).

Rowan already thought that they were really cool, but "even cooler from an inch away" as he put it.

Look at his face, he was so enamored with these gorgeous animals.

...but not so much of their HUGE tongues...haha! Check out Rowan's face here.

I think Chuma liked Rowan too.

This is one happy boy! Hippos, African Wild Dogs, Okapis...Oh my!
Rowan, his nurse Cindy and I, all had a wonderful morning.
We can't thank Suzanne enough for setting the wheels in motion for this special day.
We were blown away by Laurie, Anita and everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to make this happen for Rowan.  It was a dream come true.
As you can see, after 2 hours, this early in the morning,
Rowan was EXHAUSTED...
but a good exhausted.
We love you Suzanne! Thank you SA Zoo!

Before we even got out of the Zoo parking lot,
here is the final picture of Rowan's Behind the Scenes Adventure...sound asleep.
Notice: even his travel neck pillow is a Hippo:-)
When Rowan woke up, 5 1/2 hours later that day, the first thing he said was
"Was that a dream?"!
It was his "Best Day Ever", as he sang earlier for Suzanne and Anita.
Rowan also told me later that evening,
"I try to make my mark Mom,
but today somebody else made their mark.
They were so generous."
It was a day we will never forget...