Sunset on the Savannah
That night, Taki dreamed all the way home . . . home? It seemed strange to think of the zoo as home now. Her enclosure had once seemed so spacious, but now she had a new definition of spaciousness, a new definition of freedom. So she dreamed of the Savannah as the Land Rover bounced along and as the handler led her to her enclosure with its imitation landscaping and its cloying atmosphere of thick, diverse smells. Tonight the moon shone full with wispy clouds racing across its bright face. The lights of the zoo compound obscured the light show overhead, but they did not eclipse it entirely. Taki felt a strange longing as she drifted off to sleep, watching it.
The next day, the handler appeared early. Taki followed him with gladness, impatient to return to the wide new land he had introduced her to. Today another man joined them in the vehicle and they chatted as they drove. Taki’s crate was stacked all around with lumber and wire, and it made a horrible racket as they drove. The whole thing gave her a strange, irritable feeling, but at least she would soon be out in the wind and the sun. The day didn’t play out as she had expected. The handler took her for a walk as always, and when they returned, his companion greeted them. The wooden posts and rolls of wire that had rattled Taki’s crate during the drive had all been unloaded. Now, some of the posts were sticking out of the ground in a row.
Taki’s handler tied her close to the vehicle so she could lay down in its shade. As she watched, he began digging holes. The two men worked together all day, and when they had finished, a pen, like a zoo cage, stood all by itself, looking out of place in the wide expanse of the Savannah. The handler led Taki into it and allowed her to nose around for a while. There was a plywood enclosure on one end, filled with straw. The rest of the pen stood open to the elements. Taki soon grew bored and the handler led her back out.
That evening they played the same “chase the dinner” game they’d played the day before. Taki was ready this time, but the vehicle was ready, too. It gave her quite a run before she caught her dinner. When she had finished the satisfying exercise of devouring it, the handler led her to the pen and let her inside. He removed the leash and shut the door. Taki felt a slight rush of fear. Would he leave her here all alone?
He did. She watched the Land Rover bounce away over the rough terrain, feeling dismayed, lonely and a little excited. The sky grew bright with wild colors she had seldom seen in such glory from her zoo enclosure. Its walls had been too high. Tonight, though, the colors all around her continued all the way to the ground. So did the darkness, when the colors faded. And then the moon rose, deep yellow at first, but growing more silvery as it ascended the sky. Taki lay there watching it, its brightness more dazzling than it had ever been from the zoo. A cool breeze tickled the soft hairs in her ears, and she heard the noises begin.
(Credit to Milt Rodriguez, from whom I heard this parable.)