April the Giraffe and the People's Choice Awards
Animal Love, April the Giraffe, Blogs

April the Giraffe & The People’s Choice Awards

This morning I was enjoying my morning coffee and watching a show that I had recorded on the DVR off of the E! network. I saw an ad for the People’s Choice Awards show that will be broadcast on Sunday, November 11, 2018, and thought to myself, “OOH! I have to set the DVR for that to see if April wins her category!”

Immediately after that thought I nearly spit my coffee out as I laughed out loud as I realized I had just remembered to watch to see if my favorite giraffe would win her category of an award show. “Boy, that’s yet another phrase I never thought I would say,” I thought, and continued to laugh as I wondered if we would see her walking the red carpet with a tiara perched upon her ossicones and perhaps a designer wrap around her elegant neck, something couture that would accent her beautiful reticulated pattern.

Of course, it is more likely that we would see Jordan Patch accept the award, as he is the owner of the Animal Adventure Park where April, her beau Oliver, and baby Tajiri all live, but it is way more fun to think of April strutting her stuff in Hollywood even if it is far-fetched and silly. I mean, she certainly had millions of people (myself included) laser focused on her every move as we waited for her to go into labor in the spring of 2017. She would be the tallest and most statuesque female at the show and I’m certain she could wear any designer very nicely with that long neck and her height. But all joking aside, this innocent giraffe has managed to continue to inspire millions of humans without making a single sound or having any idea about how many people around the world are head over hooves in love with her.

I have written about April the Giraffe in the past, and have no shame in my love for her. I still have not made it to Harpursville, New York to meet her, but I hope to do so in the summer of 2019. Until I can meet her, other giraffes have helped satiate my giraffe love, like the ones who reside in the beautiful and lush savannah at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Just like the midterm elections, I did what I could and voted, so now all there is to do is wait and see the results. Of course, I will be happy for whichever animal star wins because I am happy that there is an animal star category at all! But there is just something so special about April and the fact that her personality managed to shine through to her millions of fans via a simple, ordinary camera perched up in her barn.

It’s still somewhat hard to describe how different she looks from other giraffes, how her face seems softer and her expression more friendly. I am sure some readers think that I must be rather insane for thinking that this one giraffe has provided so much comfort for so many people simply by being.

I am still in multiple Facebook groups with thousands of members who have formed friendships and connections over our shared love of this giraffe family, but particularly because of April herself. While some people simply remember that pregnant giraffe who had her time in the spotlight, there is still a loyal fanbase that continues to find inspiration in her simple life eating carrots and chilling in New York state with Oliver and Tajiri.

Some of the group members are like me and just share photos of other giraffes or giraffe quotes and products that we find, and others reach out in a much more personal way to be comforted about hard times in their lives, about losses they have sustained, illnesses that they battle, depression and loneliness that they face daily. They do this because they know they have found friends, a tribe of sorts from all around the world.

My family laughs at my April the Giraffe obsession. They’ve gotten used to me surprising them with news like, “April is pregnant again! She’s due next spring!” or “April’s son is going to get to stay at the park with her!!!” This can be confusing because we have a neighbor who is also named April. Needless to say, it can get confusing when I do not add “the Giraffe” to my excited outbursts.

Even if April the Giraffe does not win the People’s Choice Award for Social Media Animal Star tomorrow, she will still be the favorite giraffe of millions of people around the world and I doubt it will affect the number of romaine leaves and carrots that she receives. Plus, she’s with calf again, so she might just break the internet again and reach a whole new level of stardom next year. We will just have to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and watch.

Animal Adventure Park YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q

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Animal Love, Blogs

A Manatee, a Bird, and Faith in Humanity

I have a confession to make, although it probably is not a very earth-shattering one.

I am easily distracted by animal videos.

Yep. They get me every time. It's why I sat and watched and waited for April the Giraffe to give birth last year. It's why I end up pulled into the antics of the dogs in so many of the dog owner groups of which I am a member. And it happened again today.

This morning I was all set to be a productive member of society, or at least maybe just get some work done, and I started my day like I always do, opening Facebook as I enjoyed my second cup of coffee. As I was scrolling through my news feed, I came across a live video from a news station that showed good samaritans sitting next to a beached manatee on a beach in Florida.

 

Manatee at viewing center 2014
Manatee at viewing center 2014

Let me preface this by saying that I adore manatees. I love all marine mammals, really, but manatees and dolphins are at the top of my list. I am fortunate that my family lives in Florida near a manatee viewing area and whenever we visit during the winter or early spring, we make sure we make a trip to go and watch for glimpses of these magnificent animals who have come to the area in search of warmer waters. I have stared for hours into the dark murky depths, waiting to see a dark grey nose poke through the water and to hear the sound of the manatee taking a breath before sinking back below the surface.

 

As I watched the live news feed, a small crowd of people stood waiting for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to arrive with a rescue team, and had put damp t-shirts and towels over the top of the manatee's back and placed umbrellas to block the sun to keep her cool and wet. A few women were bringing buckets of water from the ocean to pour over her from time to time. Two men sat next to the manatee, one of whom had the tell-tale scar from a knee replacement running in a pink line down his tanned leg, something I have seen frequently during my many visits to Florida.

Over the next hour or so I watched as the rescue team arrived. According to the woman who led the rescue, female manatees frequently beach themselves to get away from unwanted male attention and can often safely just wait for the next high tide to take them back out to sea, but if it is an extremely hot or sunny day, the FWC will intervene and help them back to the water. With great care and as much tenderness as they could use to not cause the manatee any pain, they inserted a microchip so that they could identify her if they came across her again, and then led the group through the process of helping her back to the water.

A large group of men and women had volunteered to help carry the manatee on a stretcher made for marine mammal rescue, and my eyes got watery a few times as I watched this group of humans work very carefully to slide large strips of fabric under her, making sure they did not catch her face or her flippers as they slid the material between her body and the sand. The next step was to use those pieces of fabric to roll her over onto one side to slide the stretcher underneath her, and then roll her to the other side to pull the stretcher all the way underneath her body. I watched as the man with the scar on his knee joined the rest of the volunteers as they knelt down beside her, knowing that many people still have pain even after a replacement, yet he was down there on hands and knees, helping her all the same.

It was amazing how patiently she laid there letting people move her body about. Granted, manatees are not exactly known for being aggressive or harmful to humans, but she is still a wild animal and could have easily started to thrash about and potentially injure someone. She seemed to accept the fact that they were helping her.

Once they got her loaded onto the stretcher, they carried her to the water and into an area deep enough for her to swim away on her own. I watched as the person in charge made sure that her face was not dragging in the sand as they trudged to the shoreline, an extra bit of compassion that made my heart happy. They stopped several times to gently lower her to the ground and take a break so as to not injure themselves, since carrying a thousand pound animal is a labor-intensive task no matter how many people you have doing the heavy lifting.

Eventually, they reached water deep enough that she flipped her giant tail fluke and swam away on her own without any encouragement. Her departure was followed by cheers and celebration, and I watched while men (who I assumed were strangers) hugged each other, shook hands, and headed back up to the beach to return to whatever they had been doing before they all came together to help an animal in need. As for myself, here in the Chicago suburbs, I wiped happy tears from my eyes.

I have written about this before, but every single day on social media and on the news on TV, we see humans doing inhumane things. We see abuse and neglect happening both to animals and to fellow humans, day in and day out.  It is not easy to go through the world as a compassionate animal lover because we feel our hearts break every single time we see another member of our own species exhibiting cruelty and evil. But then there are days like this that restore our faith, that remind us of the fact that for all of the horrible things that we see, there are just as many people helping and nurturing and saving our animals and fellow humans.

Literally, right after clicking off of the manatee video, I came across a friend's status of how she had spent part of her morning. She had shared a short clip of a bird that was caught in the ribbon of a balloon that had been tied to a mailbox, probably by homeowners who were identifying their guests that they were having a party of some sort, since that seems to be the main reason a balloon would be tied to a mailbox. The bird was struggling to get free from the ribbon but was too tangled to free himself.

The tangled bird my friend rescued
The tangled bird my friend rescued

My friend's status said, "Coming to work this a.m., saw this. Of course, I turned around & had to save the lil dude. He was wrapped around balloon string on a mailbox. Had to chew string to break it.😂 Dudes mate was trying to attack me the whole time. Finally gnawed thru string & could hold lil dude to unravel him & he was biting me the whole time but he is now free & flew off into the sunrise with his mate. Happy Friday peeps."

Of course, I met this particular friend because of a shared love of dogs, so I am not at all surprised that she is the type of compassionate human who would use her own teeth to chew through a ribbon while being attacked and pecked by a different bird, to free an innocent Robin and save his life, but I am nonetheless still extremely proud to call her a friend. How many people might not have even noticed this bird, or driven past without stopping? How many people might have written it off as "just a bird" instead of caring about saving an individual life regardless of the species?

Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. is quoted as saying, "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking." No one was looking when the first person originally discovered the beached manatee before the TV crews showed up, and nobody was looking when my friend saved a single bird from dying this morning. I am so thankful that we have people with character like this to help the animals that we are on earth to protect. It helps us get through the day with joy and a happy heart, and it helps the animals live to see another day of their very precious lives.

Watch the full video of the manatee rescue here:

Want to help in the efforts to help Florida manatees? Here are some resources

Adopt-A-Manatee: https://www.savethemanatee.org/how-to-help/adopt-a-manatee/

The Manatee Store (I saw a dog collar and leash in here!) : https://www.shopsavethemanatee.org/

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission: http://myfwc.com/get-involved/support-fwc/

April the Recently Pregnant Giraffe: Congratulations to April, Oliver and Animal Adventure Park
Animal Love, April the Giraffe, Blogs

April the Recently Pregnant Giraffe: Congratulations to April, Oliver and Animal Adventure Park

April the Recently Pregnant Giraffe: Congratulations to April, Oliver and Animal Adventure Park

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

April the Recently Pregnant Giraffe: Congratulations to April, Oliver and Animal Adventure ParkToday started like any other, with Jackson and Tinkerbell giving me their Labrador wake up call at 6 a.m. As a lifelong dog owner who is not an early morning type person, I have mastered the art of tending to my dogs and then going back to sleep if my schedule permits. This morning I was ready to curl up on the sofa and get a few more hours of sleep when I checked my Facebook news feed and saw the words, “I see a hoof!” in the April the Pregnant Giraffe group that I joined a few weeks ago. I immediately brought up the live feed on YouTube and saw for myself a single hoof and a few inches of baby giraffe leg protruding from April’s back-end.

Five hours later I am still watching as April and Oliver’s baby stands protected by his mother, looking around their stall at the Animal Adventure Park in Binghamton, New York as she continues to clean him/her. Thanks to the Facebook Live posts that the park streamed, viewers had an incredible up close view of the entire process, from the excitement over the second hoof, then the head, and then finally the baby’s fall to the ground and first movements. Click here for their video. 

I have watched other videos of giraffe births since I started watching April’s webcam, but watching this live as it was happening to a giraffe who millions of us have watched for nearly two months, was incredible. To many of us it feels like we have gotten to know April, with her beautiful soft expression and silly hay showers. We tense up watching her try to lay down with a hundred and fifty pound, six-foot tall baby inside of her body. We have made up silly humanized conversations between April and Oliver when they meet at the wall. We have set our schedules by her pre-bedtime lettuce and carrots in front of the camera. We have fallen in love with this beautiful giraffe.

Watching April’s maternal instinct kick in and the immediate love for her baby is a perfect depiction of the mother’s love that I write about so frequently in the animal world and something that will stay with me for a long time. To me it is that mother’s love that should tell every single human being that animals are sentient beings with feelings and emotions and that it is our responsibility to be kind to them, to be humane to them, and to treat them with respect and dignity.

I realized last week that as I’ve had April’s webcam up for large portions of the day while I am working and doing other things, I do not have on the news as much, I am not reading the trending news stories as much, and my stress level is way down. I talked about this in my previous blogs April the Pregnant Giraffe: Why We Love Her So Much and April the Pregnant Giraffe: The Love Continues, but I cannot say it enough, that there has been something so soothing and relaxing about watching her.

Of course we cannot put our heads in the sand (that behavior is for egg laying creatures) and ignore the world around us or the very serious matters that make up day-to-day life, but this certainly has been a nice break from the tension of the last few years in our world. Not to mention my giraffe obsessed friends may not believe in the same politics that I do, may not have voted for the same people, but we are once again united as animal lovers, which is why many of us became friends in the first place.

Thank you once again to owner Jordan Patch and his team at Animal Adventure Park for sharing this incredible journey. I personally hope that the webcam can stay up so we can continue to be part of this giraffe family’s life. I also hope to make a visit out there to meet this sweet mama and her baby in person and support the entrepreneurial dreams of the owner and his family. In the meantime, make sure you shop their online giraffe store, I cannot wait to get the April’s View Crew shirt that I ordered! I am not an affiliate or associated with them in any way, I simply want to see them succeed in every way because of their love of animals.

 

 

April the Pregnant Giraffe: The Giraffe Love Continues
Animal Love, April the Giraffe, Blogs

April the Pregnant Giraffe: The Giraffe Love Continues

April the Pregnant Giraffe: The Giraffe Love Continues

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Last week I was at Walt Disney World with my husband and kids and as we stood inside the Twinings Tea Shop in Epcot and waited to take a free tea tour, I glanced over at a woman next to me and out of the corner of my eye caught the Toys R’ Us logo on the bottom left side of her phone. I turned to sneak another look at her phone and confirmed that she was indeed sitting in the tea shop, live streaming April the Giraffe from Animal Adventure Park.

I caught her eye and said, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one checking on her while we are down here!”

As I write this blog my family is probably planning my giraffe intervention. I will admit I check on her…a lot.

I talk about her…a lot.

I think about her…a lot.

I randomly share giraffe facts that the keepers at Animal Adventure Park have shared or that I’ve Googled…a lot.

I have started to just call her April instead of April the Giraffe and refer to her in casual conversation, like when I wanted to sit on the ground on our last of four theme park days and 15 miles of walking each day and all of my joints hurt. “I feel like April when she tries to lay down!” I said, as they all rolled their eyes and commented that they were pretty sure I didn’t mean our human friend with the same name.

Masai giraffe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

During our Spring Break trip our first stop was to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we went on the Kilimanjaro Safari twice. Both times we got to see an adolescent giraffe and several adults, and on the second trip we were treated to a giraffe running rather quickly across the grassy area. As an animal lover I’ve always loved Animal Kingdom but somehow my new appreciation of giraffes, especially knowing that they are so endangered, made me look forward to that part of the trip more than any other.

When we went to the Festival of the Lion King show our daughter declared, “Ok, you have a serious problem!” when I asked which area we needed to sit in to be in the giraffe section. If you’ve ever attended that show, you know that the crowd is broken into four groups: warthogs, giraffes, elephants and lions. Guess where we sat?

Festival of the Lion King

As we wandered around the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area I happened upon a goat that was going through the Flehmen sequence of testing another goat’s urine and happily reported to my family that I knew what he was doing. As a dog blogger and as…well, as me, a person with many random facts floating around in her head, they are not surprised by some of the things that come out of my mouth that maybe should have stayed in my head, but I think the comment, “Hey, I just saw a goat doing the Flehmen sequence and drinking her pee to see if the female was fertile!” was still a bit of a surprise.

When we shopped at Disney Springs and I wore my very unofficial t-shirt that I bought from TeeSpring that has a plump pink giraffe with a heart and just the words The Wait 2017,  the entire staff of Vera Bradley came to talk to me to find out where I had purchased it. They happily explained that they had just finished a conversation about April and their own obsession with following her journey to motherhood and loved my shirt.

Baby giraffe, Disney Animal Kingdom

Fortunately for my family, after those three days the giraffe talk calmed down a bit and our family bonding time continued with me snatching views here and there of April, Oliver and the humans we have grown so used to watching come into their barn. The teens have told me, “You know, if you really want to see a baby giraffe being born, there are a ton of other videos on YouTube!” I have tried to explain that it stopped being about just wanting to see any old giraffe being born a very long time ago. Now it is more about April than even perhaps about her calf.

Last month I wrote about why so many of us are captivated by this one particular giraffe in my blog April the Pregnant Giraffe: Why We Love Her So Much. A little over a month later I find myself looking at her with a tenderness I feel when I look at my dogs. There’s something about this girl’s temperament that seems to shine through the simple webcam in her stall and right into your heart.

I found a page on the website of the place where she was born that was called the Catskill Game Farm in Catskill, New York, a place my family must have driven past every time we went up to our winter and summer vacations in Warrensburg, New York. Of course back then I was all about the horses that I would spend the week riding at Ridin’ Hy Ranch, not wondering if there were giraffes anywhere nearby.

Now called The Old Game Farm, the site says that April was born and bottle raised at that park and that she has an exceptionally sweet nature that not all giraffes have, even saying that she has a “soft approach” with other creatures like humans. I think it is that “soft approach” that we can see through the camera.

We see it when her female handler Alyssa is with her, giving her nuzzles and kissing that giant baby bump. We see it when she raises her big beautiful head for leaves of romaine lettuce and carrots. We see it in the silly faces she makes when she is reaching for her treats and it melts our hearts the same way our dogs do when they are just doing dog things. When April is simply doing normal giraffe things, we fall in love with her a little more. Of course some of us have been lucky to see her laying on the ground with her head resting on her belly bump, one of the most emotionally beautiful things I have ever seen an animal do.

There is a tenderness to this giant creature with the long neck and legs as she playfully tosses her hay in the air, when she stares out the windows that are perfect giraffe height, when she and Oliver touch heads over their shared wall. Her expression on her face just seems kind and serene and when she’s walking around wiggling her ears she seems sweet, vulnerable and in possession of a beautiful soul, like even though she has hooves that can kill a lion or break another giraffe’s jaw with her huge strong neck, she would never hurt anyone.

In my blog and in my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, I frequently marvel at the beautiful love and friendship that spans our different species. When it comes down to it, the fact that we could harm each other but do not, is critical to those friendships, to that love and trust that we share with our dogs just like April the Giraffe has with her handlers.

We get to see this love and trust in our own relationships with our dogs on a daily basis, but to see this with an animal like a giraffe is something entirely new and special and is one of the reasons so many of us are glued to our screens.  I know that I am personally grateful to the team at Animal Adventure Park for allowing us to witness the beautiful relationship that they share with April. That simple webcam has filled our hearts and souls with love, wonder, and joy as we watch their beloved giraffe prepare to have her calf.

Watch April the Giraffe here at the Animal Adventure Park YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q/live

 

 

 

Animal Love, April the Giraffe, Blogs

April the Pregnant Giraffe: Why We Love Her So Much

April the Pregnant Giraffe: Why We Love Her So Much

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

April the Pregnant GiraffeI found out about April the pregnant giraffe from a meme on Facebook. Then I saw a few friends post that they were spending way too much time watching the pregnant giraffe on her webcam.

“Whoa, there’s a webcam of a giraffe about to give birth? I’m in!” I thought. And so I searched and found the Facebook page of the Animal Adventure Park in Upstate New York. Then I clicked on the webcam.

Several days later I am not ashamed to admit that I have had April the pregnant giraffe’s webcam feed streaming on my phone for most of the day. Every day. Of course I am working, I am writing blogs, and doing all of the things I do each day. I even started writing a tiny bit of my next book. I am not glued to the video feed, but she’s right by my side in a virtual way as I do other things and I glance over at the streaming video on my phone from time to time.

Last night I was on a conference call when her zookeeper did her nightly visit. Each night someone comes into her pen, cleans up any excrement on the floor, refills their hay, gives her snuggles, feeds her some lettuce and other treats out of a bucket, and they turn off the lights, leaving April and her beau Oliver with a nightlight.

“Oh, man, I missed her giraffe turn down service,” I said out loud to my husband and our middle teen. “Oh, NO!” my husband teased.

“Your giraffe still hasn’t had her calf, huh?” my daughter asked.

“Not yet,” I answered, “Trust me, you’ll know, I’ll probably send a group text if it happens when nobody else is home!”

I posted on Facebook yesterday that I’ve become emotionally attached to this giraffe. Fortunately I am able to laugh at myself in a self deprecating manner, but it is true. My heart goes out to this giraffe who is 700 miles away.

Watching the webcam, you can see how full her belly is, so round that it looks like she swallowed a beer keg. Every now and then you can see movement within her womb, her silky fur rippling with baby kicks. You can see when she lays down on the ground that it is with considerable effort, just like any mother at the end of her pregnancy. When her zookeepers come to give her lettuce and treats and check on her, your heart melts when she nuzzles them with her head and gets petted like our beloved dogs. Your heart just goes out to her and you want her to be as happy in her giraffe life as we are watching her.

I asked my friends, why do you think we are so obsessed with her? My friend Debby put it perfectly,

“With so much negativity and fighting in the world today, its nice to celebrate something we can all agree is good.”

I think Debby is spot on accurate!

In 2016 we had many of our beloved celebrities pass away, especially for those of us who are part of Generation X, many of those performers were part of our teenage years and our childhood years. We miss the celebrities but I think there is more to our grief: there is the fact that all of us who were kids and teens in the 1980s are headed to turning 50, or already there. When those performers who we watched in those early days of MTV start to pass away, not only do we miss their music, but we feel our age, we feel our own mortality.

Then there are the politics. No matter what side of the political debate we are on, politics has landed in our Facebook news feeds, and it seems that there are no shades of gray anymore, and people are passively aggressively and indirectly called horrible names by people they thought were their friends. But April the giraffe is neither Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Green Party, she’s not with her or with him. She’s just a pregnant giraffe waiting for her baby to arrive.

I think we love April for the same reason we dog lovers love dogs and animals in general. They are enough like us that we know they experience joy and sadness, pain and pleasure. Animal lovers know that animals have feelings, thoughts, and we feel united with them because we understand that they are not just part of the food chain, that they are sentient beings.

Giraffe from Disney Animal Kingdom Safari

On the flip side, though, we also appreciate them for their differences, because although they have thoughts and feelings, they are not caught up in the type of complicated and sometimes negative thoughts that humans have. They aren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses, they don’t argue about politics or shame you on how you are raising your children. They don’t call you a snowflake or a racist bigot. They are easy to have as friends because all they expect is to be treated humanely and they aren’t caught up in their own heads like we humans tend to be.

Maybe we love being on baby giraffe watch because we simply can relate to the joy of a new life coming into the world. It goes back to a mother’s love that spans our different species. It doesn’t hurt that the father of the giraffe is in the pen next to her and they meet up at their shared wall frequently. If you listen to the zookeepers at the Animal Adventure Park, they have explained that he has a short list of priorities: eating and mating, which is why he’s not allowed to hang out with her at this stage, but it’s still cute to see them together just sharing simple giraffe moments.

No matter the reason, normal people like me have been swept in by baby giraffe watch. As long as you don’t stop living your actual human life, it sure is a nice change from watching the gloom and doom of the news and the bickering among friends over politics, and I am thrilled that the zookeepers put a webcam in her pen so we could all share in the joy. Thank you to the Animal Adventure Park for letting us share in this experience and the joy of waiting for April’s baby to come into the world.

Note: There are many fake feeds, so make sure you follow their actual Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalAdventurePark/.

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