Bonzo: Florida-born pet zebra keeps her African heritage alive

Jambo, pet buddies!

That, in case you were wondering, is Swahili for “Hi!” And if you’re still wondering what that has to do with the price of dog biscuits, let me tell you about my interview last week. My assistant said I’d be traveling to Roseland to meet a pet with my same coloring – black and white. So I’m thinking maybe another (fabulous) spaniel. Odd name for a dog, though, I thought, when my assistant said “Zebra.” But humans are notorious for naming their pets the most absurd, goofy names so …

Anyway, I get there and the human is on the porch, but no sign of a dog. I was politely nosing around under the table looking for my interview when, behind me, I heard this soft voice with an odd sort of accent. “Jambo, Bwana Bonzo. I am Baby Girl Laporte. So good to meet you.”

I stopped looking under the table and turned around … and there she was, all big dark eyes, soft black muzzle and legs up to there – definitely not a dog.

Oh … I … umm,” I said.

She laughed and tossed her striped mane. “Please make yourself comfortable. Carrot?”

“Oh, no thanks,” I said, realizing she was a vegetarian. “You’ll have to excuse me, I wasn’t expecting you to be so – exotic. Please, tell me about yourself.”

“Well, Bwana Bonzo, I was born in Florida, but my family came from Kenya, Africa. My ancestors ran in great herds across the Serengeti Plain, wild and free. My mother told me stories her grandmother told her. I sometimes dream I am there, galloping with them. Even though I am a Florida girl, I try to keep my heritage alive.

“My forever mom, Laura, got me at an exotic sale in Okeechobee six years ago when I was only a baby, 10 days old. You wouldn’t believe the paperwork she had to go through just to adopt me. She had to feed me with a bottle and a special sort of mushy sweet grain in a little bucket. I learned to recognize her voice right away. I practiced walking without wobbling by trotting along behind her golf cart. I always wanted to be wherever she was. Still do.“

“Do you miss your herd?” I asked.

“Not really,” she said, ”because I have a lifelong friend, Chester. We’ve been together most all our lives. He’s a Zebu. He’s a miniature bull and he’s African, like me. “

“What about other animals,” I asked nervously. I had begun to realize that, while my ancestors were wolves, and I was (hilarious as it seemed to me) considered a predator, Baby Girl and her family were the dinner of choice for lions … making her – prey. And here we were, having a friendly conversation.

She must have been reading my mind because she laughed again. “To be perfectly honest, Bwana Bonzo, no disrespect. I don’t like dogs, as a rule. I chase Sasha, the ranch mutt, every chance I get. But she’s a Rat Terrier and fancies herself a herder. She herds the goats and the ponies. But she only tried to herd me once. I’d never actually harm her but,” she winked, “don’t tell her that. Anyway, don’t worry. I like you. You’re kind of cute and we do have something in common – beautiful black-and-white coats. Classy never goes out of style.”

I sat up as straight as I could, tilting my head and hoping I looked like a Dog of the World. “Well, thank you. And I would never even THINK of trying to herd you.”

“Actually, Bwana Bonzo, Zebras are very social animals. And I really do get along with most all the animals here … Well, the goose can be a pain. But I am very lucky to live in such an unusual blended family. The humans here are very kind. Besides, I believe it is important to learn about species different from one’s own. It’s broadening, don’t you agree?”

“I absolutely do, Baby Girl,” I said sincerely. And I absolutely did!

Till next time,

The Bonz

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