Monday, December 30, 2013

Dylan made a difference in 2013!

As 2013 comes to an end, I can't help but think about everything Dylan did this year. Reading for Wildlife, adopting animals, volunteering his time at the Safari Park Half Marathon, hosting his own summer camp, raising almost $1,000 for the Snow leopards and Amur leopards, and most importantly ... creating awareness for all endangered species.

The year was filled with philanthropy, conservation, and making a difference. Thank you for letting us share our journey with you. We hope you come along for the ride again in 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A glimpse of our Christmas 2013

A quick glimpse of our Christmas holiday ...
                  in other words, a glimpse through my iPhone camera lens.

We hung ornaments and sent out Christmas cards ...

We spent time at the San Diego Zoo celebrating Jungle Bells and getting in the holiday spirit

We patiently awaited Santa's arrival ... 

and were excited to see what he left under our tree on Christmas morning ... 

Santa was good to us this year and we thanked him.

Then Mom went shopping with her Christmas money ... 

Considering that I am almost a year behind on edited my pictures, I thought it only right to use Instagram pictures for this post. However, now that I have a new camera I may be posting a lot more pictures in 2014!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday and were able to spend time with the ones you love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Wish message from Dylan

Just 3 short weeks ago Dylan shared his Christmas Wish for the Leopards at the San Diego Zoo. His goal was to raise $500 by Christmas and as of today he has raised $475! 

Thank you to everyone who has donated, shared his wish, and supported his dreams to save endangered animals.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

We're Sending Out Recycled Christmas Cards This Year!

I decided not to do a Christmas card this year. To be perfectly honest, the main reason is I just don't have the time.  I should have started planning months ago and I didn't. Why? Because I have been so busy over the past few months cleaning out closets and cupboards and purging like crazy every weekend, that Christmas cards just were not a priority!

While doing this I came across a ton of Christmas cards from the past. Some full boxes and some only a few of each design. Either way, they are perfectly good cards!

So I got an idea to recycle my cards this year. Rather than worry about creating the perfect card to send out, I decided to use the cards I already have.

One year I ordered a few too many, another year I bought one box too many, and one year I just bought a box because it was 80% off at an after Christmas sale.

Either way, these miscellaneous cards have just been sitting on a shelf. Serving no purpose except to take up room that I could use for something else. I now have an empty shelf and plenty of Christmas cards to send out.

I may add a Christmas letter (which I haven't done in years) to some of the cards, or a school picture of Dylan for family far away ... who knows, either way I feel good about recycling old things to make them new again.

No, I did not buy cards that were made from recycled paper ... Nor did I make cards from recycled items. I recycled things that I already had in my home. You see friends, there are many ways to recycle. You just have to give it a little thought.

What can you recycle this holiday season?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dylan's Christmas Wish for the Leopards

This was the first year that Dylan participated in Giving Tuesday and as you can imagine he dove right in. He proudly wore his San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy Giving Tuesday sticker all day and told many of his friends at school what giving back was all about.

Dylan and I had discussed ahead of time who we would be supporting on Giving Tuesday and even watched a National Geographic Google+ hangout about Causing an UpROAR for Big Cats together that evening. I watched the hangout live, but knew it was something Dylan would really enjoy too.

After watching the Google+ hangout and listening to Steve Winter talk about saving the tigers and other big cats, Dylan was inspired to continue his journey of helping big cats.

What started out as a dream to teach other kids about endangered animals and conservation became a reality with Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp last July. Dylan raised $300 from camp registration, which was a great start, but no where near his $1,000 goal. We have a few things in the works to continue the message of Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp and of course we will host another camp next summer, but why wait to reach his goal?

Why not start now?

After we gave $5 and $10 donations to various non-profits that we support on Giving Tuesday, Dylan had an idea.

"If everyone who follows Life with Dylan on Facebook and everyone who reads this post gave just $5 to my fundraiser, then I could reach my goal of $1,000 this year instead of waiting for the next Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp in 2014."

He wants to help build this new home for the leopards!

Building a new home for the endangered Snow Leopard and critically endangered Amur Leopards at the San Diego Zoo is very important to Dylan. (Just as important as helping to build a new home for the tigers at the Safari Park.) Knowing how rare it is for anyone to see these animals in the wild, Dylan believes a new and improved habitat at the San Diego Zoo will help create more awareness and educate more people about these beautiful big cats.

So Dylan is asking for your help to make his Christmas wish for the Leopards come true by donating $5 or $10 to his fundraiser. 

If you would like to help Dylan reach his fundraising goal by Christmas Day, please make a donation here

Thank you for supporting a child's dream to save endangered animals all around the globe.

Update as of December 25, 2013 ... 
Dylan has raised $500 for the leopards. Thank you so much for helping to make his Christmas Wish come true! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Celebrating the Beauty of the Cheetah

Did you know that today is International Cheetah Day? 
A day to celebrate these amazing big cats and create awareness for cheetah conservation.

This cheetah was keeping a watchful eye on the animals across the hill. The habitats at the San Diego Zoo Safari park are designed to encourage this type of natural behavior. Cheetahs are amazing sprinters ... Just look at those hind legs, they are built for speed!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What happened to the Season of Giving?

Over the past few days my email account has been taken over by companies begging me to buy Christmas gifts from them. Some I have ordered from once (two years ago) and others I didn't even know I subscribed to their emails. The Black Friday emails started early last week and today the Cyber Monday emails are coming just as fast. As I sat with my laptop scrolling through the emails I began to get depressed. Feeling bad that I didn't have the extra money to buy some of these wonderful things that were on sale - Feeling that I was missing out on part of the Christmas season.

Then it hit me, why was I the one feeling bad? I don't need any of these things that companies are trying to sell me. I began unsubscribing from emails and deleting all the junk that was filling up my email account. This is not what Christmas is about.

Then a certain email caught my attention. The subject was Celebrate Gifts that Give Back and I was quickly reminded of a letter I received last week from my friend Marla at the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Giving Tuesday was just around the corner and this was something that I could get excited about. Giving is what Christmas is all about. Giving from the heart - Giving to something that you believe in.

This Tuesday, December 3rd, marks the second year of Giving Tuesday. A day for giving to non-profit organizations. A day for giving of yourself to those that help so many others around the world.

I am a Wildlife Conservancy Hero and give monthly to help bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction around the world. Giving Tuesday is the perfect day for you to start giving back by joining the Wildlife Conservancy.

Whatever your passion is, whatever organization you believe in, give back to them on Giving Tuesday. I don't know about you, but I would much rather give to a non-profit than spend money on things that will end up on the closet floor or worse yet, in a landfill.

Let's bring the Season of Giving back to Christmas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD is Back with a Roar!

Strength, speed, agility and beauty are words that I would use to describe many, if not all, of the big cat species. As one of the world's most majestic predators, big cats are facing more danger than they are causing. These animals are incredible and one of the most beautiful species in the animal kingdom. Sadly, their numbers are rapidly declining as a result of habitat destruction, poaching, loss of prey, and trophy hunting. Creating awareness about these big cats and Causing an Uproar is something near and dear to my heart.

Dylan and I were thrilled when Nat Geo WILD asked is we would like to preview the new episodes for this year. I can't even begin to tell you how encouraging it is that National Geographic is continuing to shine a spotlight on these felines by bringing their stories into our homes with the Fourth Annual Big Cat Week. Talking about the Big Cat Initiative and Causing an Uproar is something that we try to do on a regular basis, so we are especially excited to share our thoughts on Nat Geo WILD's most-watched week for the past three years!

Big Cat Week kicks off on Friday, November 29, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with Man v Cheetah followed by Super Cat at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Both are great and really get you thinking about these magnificent cats.

What do you think will happen when Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson - the NFL's fastest running back - and Chicago Bears' Devin Hester - the super agile wide receiver and kick returner - participate in the first ever race with a cheetah? Cheetahs are built for speed, but could these athletes have an advantage over the cheetah or will Chris and Devin be left in the dust?
Who will win? Anything is possible on Man v Cheetah.

What if you could take the best feature of all the big cats and combine them to create the ultimate Super Cat? What would your Super Cat look like? Think about it ... the speed of a cheetah, the strength of a lion, the skill of a tiger, and the climbing ability of a leopard. That would be one amazing cat!

Saturday, November 30, 2013 features two more new episodes that will challenge your skills as the hunted and the hunter. Killer Queen is a captivating documentary that follows lioness Manyari's pride as they face the challenges of ensuring her cubs survival. Cougar v Wolf takes us on a journey with big cat wrangler Boone Smith as he tracks the cougar-wolf showdown through snow-covered mountains to pinpoint where the cougar-wolf conflicts occur the most often. Not something I would do ... a little too close for my comfort.

Small Roar - Photograph by Beverly Joubert 
Now it just wouldn't be Big Cat Week without a feature film from my favorite award-winning couple, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Made exclusively for Nat Geo WILD, Game of Lions is nothing short of extraordinary. Young male lions must earn the right to be king and this film follows that fateful journey. The Jouberts have a style of storytelling unlike any other - their films are always moving and often heartbreaking - and at the same time unforgettable works of art. Game of Lions premieres on Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

I can't think of a better way to end Big Cat Week then with one of the most famous cougars of them all ... Betty White! Her love of animals, quick-witted humor, and pure passion to create awareness made Betty White Goes Wild! an absolute joy to watch. Not to mention that she was visiting my two favorite places - the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It was wonderful to see Betty interacting with the big cats that we know and love, especially Izu and Oshana.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn more about the world's most extraordinary big cat species.

Stay connected and join the conversation by following Nat Geo WILD on twitter and Facebook. You can also follow the hashtags #BigCatWeek and #CauseanUproar

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thoughts on being thankful and counting our blessings

Every year when November rolls around I try to think of new things to be thankful for. New blessings that have come into my life ... or in the case of this year, an old blessing that keeps giving me more and more to be thankful for.

When I asked Dylan what he was thankful for this year, his answers reminded me of how truly blessed I am to have him as my son.

Dylan is thankful for ...

  • All the conservation work I have been able to do, like raising money for the tigers and watching Tiger Trail being built at the Safari Park.
  • For all the people and sponsors that made Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp possible so that I could raise money for the Amur leopards and Snow leopards.
  • For getting Tiga as my birthday present and knowing she was a rescue. She is the best pet ever.
  • Having the privilege to be in the Presidents Association at the San Diego Zoo.
  • My home and my health.
  • That my mom took me on a Deluxe Caravan Safari so that I could see Nola.
  • For the support and encouragement I get from my friends who work at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

This year I am especially thankful for my son ... Life with Dylan really is inspiring. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tiga has a new friend

Rather than spend our time rescuing Dylan's stuffed animals from Tiga's mouth, we decided to get her the next best thing. 

Tiga loves Mr. Monkey and hasn't bothered Dylan's special animals in weeks. I think we solved that problem! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jobs that Bite! on Nat Geo WILD - Are you up for the adventure?

If you love animals and Nat Geo WILD as much as we do, then you are going to love the new series Jobs That Bite! Believe it or not, there is small percentage of people that absolutely love their jobs and lucky for us, Nat Geo WILD found a few of them. The result was Jobs that Bite! Host Jeremy Brandt will travel across the country visiting these American workers who truly love what they do for a living … even if the job bites … literally! 

Recently Dylan and I were given the opportunity to preview the first two episodes of this new series and we think Jobs That Bite! is fantastic. Filled with just the right mixture of adventure, suspense, and quick-witted comments from Jeremy, this new series gives us a real behind the scenes look at some jobs that most of us would never think about. 

I mean really, who thinks about giving a lion a dental exam or about how a zookeeper weighs a newborn giraffe? Think chimps are cute? Well, they are … but did you ever wonder about the safety precautions needed when working with chimpanzees? They can be quite mean and have been known to attack humans. Got a beehive in your walls? No problem, just call someone to remove it … but that is a Job that Bites! and a job that requires skill, patience, and a keen eye when looking for the queen bee. 

Jeremy is willing to try just about anything, but I’m not so sure I would have helped perform a dental exam on a 400-pound lion!

These Jobs That Bite! can be messy and dangerous, but as Jeremy Brandt discovers, they can also be very rewarding. Many of these jobs are not what you think of when asked What do you want to be when you grow up? … but the people who perform them are working hard every day to make life better for animals. 

During the premiere episode, Jobs That Bite!: The Lion Dentist, Jeremy Brandt will get wild with some of the animals at the Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach, Florida and then travel to a goat farm ranch before heading to the Gulf of Mexico to board a shrimping boat. I promise it will be an adventure you won't want to miss!

Be sure to watch NatGeo WILD’s new series Jobs That Bite! Premiering Saturday, November 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

You can find the Jobs That Bite! episode guide on the Nat Geo website. Future episodes include The Camel Milkman, Wild Jobs, and The Ostrich Cowboy. Make sure to set your DVR's so you don't miss a single episode.

About Nat Geo Wild:
For more than 30 years, National Geographic has been the leader in wildlife programming. The networks Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo WILD HD, launched in 2010, offer intimate encounters with nature’s ferocious fighters and gentle creatures of land, sea and air that draw upon the cutting-edge work of the many explorers, filmmakers and scientists of the National Geographic Society.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My son isn't an athlete and that's ok with me

Everyone has something that they are really good at, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. For some people this may be a sport; many kids in our neighborhood play soccer and football. Others belong to various running clubs. I think this is wonderful - the world needs athletes. However, if sports are not a child's passion, then I don’t believe they should be put down or made to feel inferior. 

Having different interests, hobbies, and skills is what makes us all unique individuals. I believe in fostering whatever passion a child may have rather than forcing them to conform to what others are doing. What might be the norm for some isn't necessarily the norm for others.

My son loves playing basketball - for fun. He doesn't want to be on a team. He doesn't want to commit to practicing three days a week and playing games every weekend. This is completely OK with me. His passion, his niche in life, is not sports. I know, gasp right? Wrong. 
My son is not and probably never will be an athlete. Rather, he will change the world around him by educating others and being the best person he can possibly be. 

Dylan has been in Scouts since 1st grade. Tiger Cub, Wolf Cub, Bear Cub, Webelo, and now he is starting his first year as a Boy Scout. He thrives in this environment and looks forward to his weekly troop meetings. He has a goal of becoming and Eagle Scout like his Grandpa and his hero Rick Schwartz, Ambassador for the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I have no doubt that with hard work and determination he will accomplish this task. 

The other passion in Dylan's life is animals. This is something that has interested him since he was a toddler. Dylan has always loved learning about animals, their habitats, and as he got older, creating awareness for animal conservation. Those of you who follow Life with Dylan here and on Facebook know the depth of his passion. His fundraising efforts for San Diego Zoo Global have made him somewhat of a household name around the zoo - When we attend events at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, people stop mid-sentence and say "Oh, wait, you're the Dylan! We've heard all about you." Others see him and congratulate him or thank him for what he has done. 

Sometimes this makes him uncomfortable - he doesn't understand why they make such a big deal about something that seems so natural for him - and I explain that what he does is not "the norm", but that doesn't make it wrong or any less important. Dylan's passion is growing stronger every day and I have no intention of holding him back. We have both seen the rewards of his hard work. Doors are continuing to open for him and amazing opportunities to learn more are within his reach. 

Ask him what he likes to do and he will answer with philanthropy or conservation work. Dylan would rather spend his spare time reading or watching wildlife documentaries than playing sports and he would spend every weekend at the zoo if he could. Sure, he plays his fair share of video games, but Dylan is far from the average 10 year old. 

My son is a philanthropist.

My son is an entrepreneur.

My son is a conservationist.

My son is not an athlete - He is an individual who is making a difference and inspiring others. I am not saying that playing sports is a bad thing or a waste of time. If sports is your passion, then by all means excel in the game. 

Dylan's playing field may be different, but my son is still an all-star in my book. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just another Fall day at the pumpkin patch

Dylan and I spent some time at the Irvine Regional Park this past weekend.  We wandered the grounds of the Irvine Park Railroad's Annual Pumpkin Patch and said hello to some animal friends at the OC Zoo's Zootacular. It was the perfect reminder of how wonderful the simple things in life really are. 

A beautiful Fall day, walking through a pumpkin patch, listening to children's laughter and watching the tranquility of an old watermill was just what I needed to help me refocus my priorities in life. 

How often do you take time away from your busy life and enjoy the simple pleasures the world has to offer?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Have you walked with the lemurs?

In case you missed the opening of Lemur Walk at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park over the summer, now is the perfect time to go walking, or um, leaping with the lemurs. Every day in October, children 11 years old and younger receive FREE admission to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park as part of Kids Free presented by Mission Fed.

Lemur Walk is an immersive experience, where you get to walk on a pathway through the animals' habitat. Yes, you are inside the exhibit with the lemurs and can watch the endearing primates socializing, grooming, jumping, climbing and even sunbathing, one of the lemur's favorite pastimes.

Lemurs are native to Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa. There are numerous species of lemurs, with ring-tailed lemurs among the most populous and easily recognized with their long nose, big eyes, woolly fur and long, black-and-white-ringed tail. Ring-tailed lemurs are mostly active during the day; unlike other lemurs, they spend more time on the ground than in trees. They are omnivores, eating primarily fruits, leaves, flowers, herbs, bark and sap. All lemurs are endangered, mostly due to habitat destruction, so this truly is an amazing experience to be up-close with the lemurs.

Because you are inside the exhibit and the animals can walk right up to you, Lemur Walk is limited to guests five years of age and older. For the comfort of the animals, Lemur Walk attendants remind guests not to touch or feed the animals, as tempting as it may be. I even left my purse outside with the attendant because the lemurs will try to get inside if they smell food. (I had strawberries and the lemurs would have loved those!)

So even if you did walk with the lemurs already, why not go back and walk some more? Who knows, you may even come home with a little lemur leap in your step.

While at the Safari Park, you can enjoy Kids Free events every Saturday and Sunday that include animal shows, keeper talks, animal ambassador presentations, and crafts. Robert the Zebra talks to guests in a digital, animated form on a large screen where he can see the people who have come to visit. He asks questions, cracks jokes, talks about zebra life, and is very curious about humans. Robert also is celebrating his birthday the entire month of October so his interactions will include sing-a-longs and birthday fun! At Tiger Tales storytelling, families can enjoy a storybook reading followed by an animal presentation.

There are also special activity booths located throughout the Park, children can unleash their creative sides while learning about the wonders of the wild. These booths are one of our favorite activities during Kids Free days at the Safari Park.

For more pictures from our walk with the lemurs, visit our Flickr album Lemur Walk.

Tasmanian devils have arrived at the San Diego Zoo!

For years Dylan has been fascinated with Tasmanian devils; spending hours looking up information about them and the facial tumor disease that is killing them. Tasmanian devils may not be the cutest animal you have seen, but in my opinion, that is all in the eye of the beholder. 

The fact that Dylan wants to learn more about the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), which is a rare, contagious cancer found only in devils, is just one more confirmation that he has found his path in life. DFTD is transmitted from one animal to another through biting, a common behavior among devils when mating and feeding. The disease kills all infected devils within 6 to 12 months and there is no known cure or vaccine. As a conservationist, this is very concerning to him and bringing awareness to the Tasmanian devil is very important to Dylan.

In fact, seeing a Tasmanian devil in real life is an item on our Family Bucket List. So you can imagine our excitement when the new Australian Outback opened at the San Diego Zoo - a Tasmanian devil was listed as one of the new animals that would be on exhibit. Although it was only a bronze statue, the excitement to take a picture next to a Tasmanian devil was almost more than he could handle. 

We have known that the devils were coming. We have known that they were in quarantine. On a recent visit we saw the new sign The devils made us do it! and we knew the time was getting closer. 

Sometime this Fall - however, the exact date when they would make their debut at the San Diego Zoo was still a mystery. Well, that all changed yesterday when I received a press release. We now have a date ... October 24, 2013.

Yesterday the San Diego Zoo announced that four Tasmanian devils arrived from the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia this week and are settling into their new home at the San Diego Zoo. Named Bradley, Bixby, De-Vos (males), and Usmar (a female), they have been brought to the Zoo to increase awareness of the species and to inspire support for Tasmanian devil conservation. One of the main reasons we choose to support San Diego Zoo Global is because of their strong belief in educating the public about all species.

Tasmanian devils are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are native to the island state of Tasmania, which is part of Australia, where they live in forest, woodland and agricultural areas. Tasmanian devils are nocturnal hunters and use their keen senses of smell and hearing to find prey or carrion. They can give off a fierce snarl and high-pitched scream, which can be heard at feeding time, to establish dominance. 

These animals were given a reputation as mean, unruly animals when Looney Tunes created the character “Taz”, but if you take the time to educate yourself about the Tasmanian devil you will find that they are quite the opposite.

According to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program website, the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said “ The zoos were selected by the program on the basis of their high standard of facilities and husbandry, and their proven track record in the conservation of endangered species around the world.” The San Diego Zoo and the Albuquerque Biopark were the two prominent zoos in North America chosen to be the first in this collaborative research program to save the endangered Tasmanian devil. 

At this time, the San Diego Zoo is the only zoo in the United States with Tasmanian devils -  once again, showing them as leaders in conservation. 

Receiving a symbolic adoption last year was one thing, but finally getting the chance to see a Tasmanian devil up-close and personal is something that Dylan has been waiting a long time for. We are so excited to meet the new residents of the San Diego Zoo!

For more information on the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, go to

Sunday, September 15, 2013

More of the wonderful Fresno Chaffee Zoo

I promised more from our trip to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, so here you go. As I mentioned in the previous post, the grounds of the zoo are beautiful. From the tall trees to the log fences ... you feel like you are smack in the middle of nature ... Which by the way is how I think all zoos should make you feel.

Even though our main reason for visiting was to see Mek and Paca, we really enjoyed meeting some of the other animals too. Next to the tigers, I think the orangutans were Dylan's favorite.

There is a little hut like area between the tigers and orangutans that has some great information about the Species Survival Plan and the animals the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is helping to save.

We spent almost an hour here, reading all the signs and learning everything we could. This was actually my favorite part - I loved seeing how another zoo uses charts to educate the public.

Along with a sign that described a day in the life of an orangutan, there was this one that teaches about different facial expressions and what they mean in adult and infant orangutans. The wooden cards lift up to reveal the word associated with the expression. Happy, angry, etc.  I thought this was a wonderful way to educate people of all ages about the orangutan.

Since it was 106 degrees, I thought we should head over to Stingray Bay and get our hands in some cool water. Not to mention our bodies in the shade!

For under $10 Dylan and I both got to feed the stingrays and learn a little about these beautiful sea creatures.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, some sort of headless/tailless fish and shrimp was on the lunch menu for the stingrays.

The heat was starting to get to us and we were both thankful that we had arrived when the zoo first opened. In fact, we were the first ones through the gate. Just a few more animals to see.

Look, kangaroos! Wait, something isn't right with this kangaroo - I see too many feet.

Oh, never mind ... that's just a joey sticking his legs out of momma's pouch!

We had an amazing time at the Fresno Chaffe Zoo and are excited to go back for the opening of the new African Adventures exhibit in 2014. We even gave some change to help out ... 'cuz that's just what Dylan does.

The mission of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is to inspire wonder of our natural world, provide an engaging learning environment, and create a passion for conservation.

We were inspired, we were engaged in learning, and our passion for conservation grew bigger.

If you are ever in the Fresno area I encourage you to visit the Fresno Zoo. If you thought you would never go to Fresno, now you have a reason to go. You can follow the Fresno Zoo on twitter, Instagram and of course like them on Facebook!

Oh, and one more thing ... the urban wildlife at the zoo was pretty cute too!

Even the squirrels were trying to beat the heat.

Be sure to view our Flickr album for more pictures from our visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

Coming up next on our Zoo Road Trip 2013 recap - The Sacramento Zoo

Monday, September 9, 2013

Our visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with Mek & Paca

Over the summer Dylan and I set out on an adventure - a Zoo Road Trip to be exact - and our first stop was the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. This is actually what started the whole idea of taking a road trip because we just had to see Mek after learning that she had left the San Diego Zoo. Mek is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and was transferred up to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo so she could be reunited with Paca in hopes of breeding and producing some more adorable tiger cubs.

We spent months planning and even had several communications with the Fresno Zoo through email and social media. We were on a mission to see Mek and nothing was going to stand in our way, not even the major heat wave that hit California the day we left. Yes, major heat wave, as in 106 degrees when we arrived in Fresno on July 1st.

Not knowing exactly what to expect, we were anxious to see this new zoo. Compared to the San Diego Zoo (100 acres), the Fresno Zoo was small (18 acres), but something we wanted to experience. Nestled away in a park, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo is a place we plan on going back to again. The landscaping was beautiful and the staff was wonderful. Everyone we met was so friendly and went out of their way to help us see Mek. Some couldn't believe that we drove all the way from Orange County just to see a tiger. Obviously they don't know Dylan and his love for tigers.  

We entered the zoo and headed right for the tiger exhibit. The anticipation and excitement was almost too much to contain. We were finally going to see Mek ...

... but wait, the tiger in the exhibit wasn't Mek, it was Paca. Where was Mek? We had come all this way to see her. After hearing our story, a friendly maintenance worker radioed one of the keepers and she was there within minutes.

Her name was Katrina. She told us that Mek was in the bedrooms because they thought that she might be pregnant and had to monitor her. Our smiles quickly turned to frowns. That is until Katrina asked for my cell phone number. About 10 minutes later my phone rang and Katrina quickly became our new best friend. She had arranged to take us behind the exhibit and see Mek in the tiger bedrooms.

I wasn't allowed to take pictures where Mek was, but the important thing is that we saw her. We were just a few feet from her and she was so beautiful. Just like we remembered her to be. While Katina fed Mek meatballs and told us how she was doing, Dylan and I got to sit there and just take in her beauty - the beauty that is Mek the tigress.

It was such an amazing experience. I have never been so close to a tiger. I just held my breath and felt tears welling up in my eyes. Her paws, her chuff, her eyes, everything about her is majestic. I like to think that Mek remembered us from her home in San Diego.

After seeing Mek, we thanked Katrina and went to explore more of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Of course we spent time visiting with the handsome Paca too.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this zoo was the hands on tools and interactive areas where guests could learn more about the animals. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo may be small compared to some other zoos, but one thing is for sure - they care about conservation, education and creating awareness.

Thank you for letting us be a part of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Family for the day. Together, we can help save species with a hope and a dream.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Fresno Chaffee Zoo visit! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

This 5 pound kitten stole my heart

There is no question that kittens are cute. Some may even say adorable - and our Tiga may be one of the cutest kittens I've seen in a long time. Well, I may be a little bias.
No, it's true. Tiga is adorable.

However, Tiga is Dylan's cat and we each have very different roles when it comes to raising her. Dylan is the playful have fun with me parent and I am the one who sets the rules and says no all the time. Needless to say, I am not the first one Tiga will run to when she wants something. Well, at least until last week I wasn't.

This picture was taken last Saturday morning right before we left to have Tiga spayed. I don't think either one of us knew what to expect, nor did we know how our relationship would quickly change.

Suddenly I was a mother of two and my baby was having surgery. I quickly forgot about the shoelaces she chewed on while teething and the mess she made while playing in her water bowl instead of drinking. My motherly instincts kicked in and nothing else mattered except for her. Taking care of Tiga became priority number one for me. Everything else could wait.

Dylan was great too. He cuddled with her and made sure she felt safe. Everything seemed to be going well and then suddenly it wasn't. Something wasn't right. Tiga's incision was red, swollen, and seeping.

Panic started to set in.

Had I made a mistake by taking her to a low cost clinic to get spayed? Should I have paid more and let my trusted vet do the surgery?

I was giving her the antibiotics and she wasn't being very active. It was time to see Dr. Kelly and make everything better. My baby was sick and I was going to do whatever I could to make her feel better.

This little six month old, five pound kitten had me wrapped around her little paws. She stole my heart and I wasn't getting it back.

Tiga can't eat very well with the cone and she can't see her water dish, so I feed her. She needs antibiotics twice a day and those need to be hidden inside treats so she will eat them. I came home every day this week on my lunch break to check on her.

I took care of her and she knows it.

We created our own bond - different than the sibling bond she has with Dylan - the bond of a mother and child. Tiga now follows me around the house and patiently waits outside the bedroom door for me.

She may have a funny looking collar for a few more days, but her infection is gone and she's still adorable!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Where did my summer go and how can I get it back?

It seems like just yesterday I went back to work after having the month of July off and now it is Labor Day weekend. School is starting on Tuesday ... how is that possible? How did I manage to miss the entire month of August?

July was filled with adventures like our Zoo Road Trip (yes, I know I still have to tell you about that - soon, I promise) and then it was Dylan's birthday, and we got Tiga, and then we hosted Dylan's Animal Adventure Camp ... oh, and someplace in there I guess the month of July whizzed by too.

So yesterday I decided that I was not going to let another day of summer go by without me. It was time to watch the sunset with my own two eyes instead of through everyone's pictures on twitter and Instagram.

So Dylan and I set out to find a cliff overlooking the ocean where we could enjoy a little picnic dinner and watch the sunset. This was our beautiful view of Newport Harbor with Catalina Island in the background.

After a long day of hot and humid weather, the gentle yet warm breeze felt nice.
What I thought was a large storm cloud earlier in the day decided to spread out over the ocean, which gave way to another spectacular SoCal sunset.

And so another day is done.
At least this one didn't slip by without me noticing the beauty in it.

Good-bye summer. Hopefully we can spend more time together next year.