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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Daddy, Daughter and a Giraffe

When I was a little girl, and still to this day, one of my favorite places to go is the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. In my 26 years of life, I have probably visited the zoo over 100 times and out of all of those memories there is one that stands out the most. A little over 23 years ago, my mom started to date my then soon-to-be step dad. While they were dating, he started a ritual of daddy daughter dates. Every couple of weeks, we would go do something fun together, just the two of us. Recently, when I asked him why he started these dates, he told me that he knew that he would marry my mom someday and that he wanted to have a special bond with his new daughter. When I was little I didn’t know the reason; I just knew that I loved spending time with him because he was fun and I had never had a dad before. As they dated then eventually got married, our bond became stronger and stronger. A couple months after they got married, my new dad surprised me by taking me to the Hogle Zoo.

It was late spring and the sun was shining. The flowers were blooming and you could smell the popcorn and hotdogs from the food stands. You could hear all the other children laughing and screaming as they saw their favorite animals. I always loved seeing the elephants spraying water at each other, the bears playing in their pond, the penguins jumping and sliding on their tummies and the baby meerkats playing hide and seek. Out of all these animals, my favorite were the giraffes. Even though the giraffes were pretty far from the entrance and you had to pass several animal enclosures before getting to them, I would always high tail it to their enclosure.

“Daddy! There they are!” I screamed excitedly as I ran to them as fast as my little legs would take me.

“Slow down sweetie, you don’t want to scare them away,” a booming but soft voice said behind me. Obeying him, I slowed to a walk sighing dramatically annoyed that he made me slow down.

At the Hogle Zoo, 23 years ago, there were two parts to the giraffe encounter. The first part you were able to go into the building where the keepers fed and cared for the giraffes. The second part was a large field inset into the ground about ten feet and had a wooden fence around it to keep people from falling. On this particular day, most of the giraffes were outside in the field. As we approached the fence we could see a couple of baby giraffes running and playing together along with a few adult giraffes grazing on leaves. After what felt like ten years, we finally reached the fence. I quickly climbed up so that I could see over it and reached out my hand. To my surprise the biggest giraffe swung his head down towards the fence and licked my hand, searching to see what I had. I quickly pulled away giggling because his tongue tickled on my skin.

“I bet if you reach your hand out again you may be able to pet his nose,” said my dad.

“Will he bite me?”

“No,” he said adding with a laugh, “they don’t eat small children. That’s the tiger’s job.”

I slowly put my hand out again and the giraffe let me pet his nose. His nose was wet and soft like velvet. His fur was warm from the sun and he had the biggest eyes and longest eyelashes I had ever seen in all my three years of life. His breath smelled really gross like rotten eggs but I didn’t care. I was petting my favorite animal in the entire world. As I was petting him, one of the baby giraffes came up and nuzzled his shoulder. As he started to lift his head, I quickly wrapped my arms around his nose and held on tight. He didn’t even seem to notice that I had grabbed onto him and continued to lift his head. Before I knew it I was off the ground and halfway over the fence. Then all of a sudden, I was no longer holding onto the giraffes nose; instead I was in my dad’s arms. Confused and scared at how fast everything had happened, I started to cry.

“It’s okay sweetie, don’t cry, you’re safe,” said my dad in a calm but shaky voice holding me tightly to his chest.

“No it’s not,” I sobbed.

“Did you get hurt?”

“No, but I wanted to go with the giraffe.” My dad started to chuckle and I got even more upset because he was laughing at me. He finally stopped laughing and said, “sweetie, you can’t go with the giraffe.”

“Why?” I asked, still sobbing.

“Because like me, he is a daddy and he needs to take care of his baby just like I take care of you.” He then pulled me into a tighter hug and continued to say, “plus, you are mine and I won’t let you go that easily.” Hugging him back and burying my head in his chest after a couple of minutes I started to calm down. I have always felt safest when I’m in my dad’s arms, with my head buried into his chest listening to his heartbeat. He always has and continues to give the firmest yet comfiest and warmest hugs.

“How about we let the daddy giraffe take care of his baby and we go see the gorillas,” said my dad. Lifting my head from his chest I tentatively nodded my head yes. He wiped my tears and snotty nose then started to tickle me. I started to giggle, completely forgetting that literally one minute ago I was sobbing. My dad then put me down but didn’t let go of my hand and we were off to see Gorgeous the gorilla and her pet cat.

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