The Zebras Out Back
In the area where I live, city streets, houses and apartment buildings intermingle freely with countryside lands and properties. Having grown up the latter part of my youth in the country, I often feel it's a little strange because I don't know whether I am observing country lands that shouldn't be there, or that the city is slowly strangling what's left of the rich wild areas that still exist along the river. I have seen lots of animals in the area ranging from squirrels, deer, Canadian geese, snakes, lizards, coyotes and otters to name a few. But none so strange as the ones on the property behind my apartment complex, where the wall ends and the country begins.
Sometime late last year, I started to hear a mule or donkey, hee hawing its head off. I was completely certain that it was in great pain and being tortured or that it was badly injured. But as I listened, I realized that the strength of its calls belied that belief. It continued for hours at a time and often at night. Around the same time, I noticed a heavy stink of cow or horse patties that drifted over the wall to the back of the complex, but it honestly never bothered me because it reminds me that the countryside is close by, no matter how little of it remains here. Being in the woods or the country, often makes me feel that an adventure in some wild place like Africa is only steps away.
The bellowing has continued a few nights per week and continues even now. I have gotten quite used to it and decided that it must be an especially loud donkey and only felt a little sorry for the poor lonely fenced-in creature. Recently, I was in the managers office, filling my laundry card and listening to another resident telling Nancy, the apartment manager, about the smell from the camels and zebras. Being a typically slow-to-comprehend male, it finally dawned on me that they were talking about the land out back. I asked with wide eyes if they were and Nancy confirmed it. She told me to just walk up the stairs to the door of my overhead neighbor and I would be able to see both.
Turned out I was right. Africa is only a few steps away. I was able to see through the trees, five beautiful zebras clustered around a feeder at the far end of the enclosure. I realize now that our preconceptions could always use a bit of scrutiny, and we shouldn't assume anything. I assumed first that it was a donkey in pain. I listened carefully though and figured out it couldn't be. I also assumed that more overpowering animal smell had something to do with the horses I was used to hearing canter next to the other side of the wall. If I had put two and two together, I might have guessed that it was no ordinary event that had occurred, and perhaps taken a look and solved a minor mystery that had buzzed around inside my head for months.
Nancy is a great lady, wise and diplomatic, she also won't let tenants ruin the peace and is tireless about keeping the complex and the units maintained and clean looking. But she doesn't think it's right to have wild animals right in the middle of the city, and certainly not behind the complex. I suppose there is some cause for concern, zebras are wild, energetic creatures. They might break out and run down the street and eventually find their way to the busy intersections of metropolitan traffic not far from their peaceful countryside pen. It might also be plausible that they will jump on top of the wall, (about ten feet high), and end up in the complex causing injury and damage. Although that last is a bit far fetched. But it would seem that they are content to roam their little piece of country and call to each other at night. And perhaps it is wrong to cage such magnificent creatures, they need room to run and play and mate. I doubt they can do much of any of those three, held as they are, by their caretakers. But I just don't know.
If you ask me, they are far better off receiving personal attention by people and to roam a little plot of land, than if they were put to sleep or put in a zoo where they would live in even smaller enclosures. This is the main reason I don't like going to zoos. Even the San Diego Wild Animal Park houses many of its animals in cages or small spaces.
Shipping them off to Africa is probably not an option, and the land owner was probably the most available person to take care of these refugee animals. If that is the case, I welcome them in my backyard even though I don't see them very often, and I think we should be grateful too. Personally, I prefer zebras over free-roaming lions behind that wall.