In the days shortly after my dad died in July, as you can imagine, things were rough. Thirty-something years of having a constant presence in your life, followed by five months of rapidly declining health, followed by his suddenly being gone… it’s something I still consider impossible on busy mornings when I’m stuck in traffic.
Although, as an ethical vegan, I don’t support zoos or any other exploitation of animals, I took my mother to the county zoo that she and Dad had gone to and enjoyed over the years. (I state this not to excuse myself for going, but to put this visit in context.) Mom & Dad’s favorite place to visit was the prairie dog exhibit – a colony of the furry critters playing and burrowing and tumbling over one another under a glass enclosure for all to see.
I have to be honest – I understand why people willingly visit these places. They like animals (to the extent that they don’t eat certain ones) and zoos have done a great job making themselves look like havens for education and conservation. But as I watched the admittedly adorable prairie dogs that day, I thought back to a road trip I took to South Dakota a few years ago, where I got to watch the free-living prairie dogs in Wind Cave National Park. There was no glass enclosure for them to live inside. They were free to live their lives. As they should be.