A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Coco R.I.P.

(Above: Bobo and Coco. Photo by Annie Wong.)

Sad news for everyone who has ever loved the animals in the petting zoo at Children's Fairyland in Oakland: Coco the pony died Jan. 17 of old age. She was 38, which is way older than her normal life expectancy.
That's true of most of the animals at Fairyland: They live much longer than average because of all the tender loving care they get there.
And Coco's final months were as happy as human effort could make them. She retired last June, along with her devoted companion, Bobo the sheep. Their caregiver, Yvonne Backman, decided that Coco's arthritis would be helped if she had a new home where she could roam freely all day, which she couldn't do at Fairyland.
It was vital to place Bobo along with her because Bobo was so devoted to Coco, he'd go into a panic whenever he lost sight of her - which happened pretty often, because he's nearly blind. He'd utter pitiful little bleats of terror until somebody led him over to her.
It wasn't easy finding a home that would take them both, but Backman finally found the perfect place: Goats R Us in Orinda, which rents goats to UC Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Park District to clear brush from the hills during fire season.
Goats R Us's owner, Terri Oyarzun, bent over backward to make sure Coco and Bobo's transition to their new home would be as easy as possible.
They had the same food, same supplements, same feeding time, same wakeup time and same bedtime that they had at Fairyland. No detail was overlooked, including placing Coco's feed bucket on the same spot where it had always been.
Coco loved her new home so much, she slept every night outdoors under the stars - another thing she couldn't have done at Fairyland. As always, Bobo kept her company, even though he would rather have been indoors. (Since she died, he's slept inside his shed every night.)
"She got to be a pony again," said Oyarzun. "She didn't have any more responsibilities to the public. But she still got visits every week from Yvonne and the other folks at Fairyland, so she never felt like her old friends had forgotten her. She had the best of both worlds."
Her passing was peaceful, and the ever-faithful Bobo was with her when she died.
That was therapeutic for him because it helped him understand that she was really gone forever, not just moved to another shed or pasture.
Everyone was worried about how he'd take Coco's death, but a minor miracle has occurred: Bobo has made a new friend!
His new buddy is an eight-year old chestnut horse named Piggy B, who lives in the adjoining pen. The two of them spend hours and hours every day at the fence, communing and commiserating with each other. It's a win-win situation all around.
Kudos to Backman. Kudos to Oyarzun. Between them, they made Coco's final days happy ones. It was no less than she deserved.
If you've never been to Fairyland, you've really missed out. It's an oasis of gentleness, peacefulness and calm in the middle of Oakland, where everything is attuned to the scale and sensibilities of a little child.
And now Fairyland is making it less expensive, which is a blessing in this terrible economy. Instead of forking out $7 each time for each adult and child, you now can buy a 12-month pass for only $75 that will give you - plus up to three kids - unlimited admission.
You'll also get free guest passes, special glow-in-the-dark Fairyland Magic Keys for each child, free admission to the Jack O'Lantern Jamboree in October and Fairy Winterland in December, free cotton candy for the kids at the Johnny Appleseed Café and much, much more.
And while you're there, be sure and visit Coco and Bobo's successors, Dori the pony and Twinkle the lamb, in the petting zoo.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@california.com.

1 comment:

Rich Lieberman said...

As a kid growing up in Oakland, I remember feeding the ducks near Lake Merritt and going to fairyland and petting the animals. Mother goose and pink popcorn too.

Nice story, Marty.

Rich Lieberman