Friday, October 14, 2011

10/14/11 Phoenix Herpetological Society

Having some extra vacation days and our children on fall break, Susan invited Joe and I to join her at "great place to work" event at the Phoenix Herpetological society. I, loving snakes, was TOTALLY up for it!

We've had a number of family get-togethers. The Kiddo has met and played with her two sweeties before. However the long drive from south Chandler to north Scottsdale was eerily quiet as the children were not quite sure about this whole adventure.

That changed soon enough once we arrived!
I'll admit, I was filled with some trepidation (Despite attesting that ALL "great place to work" events sponsored by my amazing employer have been fabulous) when we arrived... The building is a house with shed off a dirt path... how big can this place REALLY be?

Were we ever in for a crazy cool surprise!
Since we were one of the first visitors to arrive, the children admired the tortoises living outside the house in stone pens along the drive. Susan and I signed in, entered two drawings for the kids: one to feed a monitor, the other to feed the alligators, obtained scavenger hunt cards and moved into the 'snake' shed. Housed in the double garage sized shed were dozens and dozens of both exotic and local snakes, baby turtles AND baby snakes (so cute!). The kids chattered excitedly over the styles of snakes and started looking for the answers to their scavenger hunt cards... all shyness gone! 

We then wandered outside after the owner informed us it was time to feed the desert tortoises their daily lettuce. It's my FAVORITE bulk Costco romaine style. 
We were allowed to climb into the  tortoise enclosure and feed these HUGE creatures! They trod on feet and followed you where they could eating the lettuce out of your hands, their shells clacking and clunking together along the way. We spent a good 40 minutes in the summer sun feeding the tortoises... trying not to get our fingers bitten off by these strong beaked animals. 
Next, it was time to wander and find the rest of the animals on the scavenger hunt cards.
We fed the snapping turtles, vicious critters! Not nearly so nice as the tortoises...
The kids founds some bigger tortoises to pet. My Kiddo is SUCH a good kid... I told him to sit on the below tortoise and ride him, he quickly responded, "No way, Mom!!" And the worker lady standing right there 'yelled' at me "These tortoises are NOT for riding!!" 

In my defense, I WAS kidding..
We had many things to find on the scavenger hunt forms: Elvis the king cobra, a banana iguana, the BIG boa (whose name I have forgotten! YIKES!) and other creatures. The facility is HUGE! 

It was very cool to talk with the workers... and learn that none of their critters had escaped and they take great pride in keeping their neighborhood and neighbors safe.
My favorite (to Susan's surprise) was holding the baby boa! I was so thrilled! The kids all pet the larger boa, held the little boa and then washed their hands for a lunch of pizza and soda.
I have ALWAYS wanted a pet boa... but never had one. Maybe someday!
The day passed more quickly that we expected! We saw the monitor eat a chicken leg in a few bites. 
We got some help from one of the owners on finding some of our missing scavenger friends.
Before we knew it, it was time to return to the front to find out who was going to win the opportunity to feed the alligator. My friend's daughter's name was drawn... but there was NO WAY she wanted to feed the alligators we'd just met... and they have a TON of them there! Each with there own story and their own personality.
Her son, too, passed on the opportunity as did the Kiddo... but after a little coaxing the Kiddo decided maybe he'd go ahead and try this feeding the alligator thing.
He was VERY brave and fed Tuesday and her slightly more aggressive male cage mate (when Tuesday decided she wasn't really all that hungry). Tuesday was raised in a home to think she was a dog. When she arrived at the PDS she was SCARED of the other alligators, not recognizing that they were just like her.
I agree, she seemed a gentle giant in the way she treated her handler and the Kiddo during the feeding. He cage mate? A bit more aggressive. It was an INCREDIBLE opportunity and one that I know the Kiddo cherishes... after all, he's got the shirt to prove it!
It was VERY hard to get a decent shot of him feeding Tuesday... but here is the proof!
Tongs: Who'd a thunk it? So versatile!
After a quick cookie snack and some water, it was time to take our hot, weary selves back home to Chandler.
We all had a FABULOUS time... what an unique event that resulted in cherished memories. 
The ride home? Yup, the mom's couldn't get a word in over the chattering and laughing of the youngsters in the back! Day off mission? Complete fun success!