From Melody Dunn, we have this delightful entry to which the judges awarded second place.
Once Upon a Time
There Was a Store
When I first discovered Bao Bao and her parents, I followed posts on the Smithsonian National Zoo’s old Facebook page. A regular contributor was Merry Ambos, who posted pictures of the zoo animals taken by her husband Allen. After they set up the DC Zoo Walks Facebook page, I often thought that more people should be enjoying Allen’s photographs. Then the DC Zoo Walks store happened.
When someone commented on a T-shirt from the store, I would enlighten them as to its provenance. “This is Bao Bao. She was born in Washington DC and lives in China now. A couple who live in DC take their walks through the zoo, and he takes photographs of the animals. All the profits from articles they sell on line go to buy enrichment items for the animals at the zoo.”
When a cashier commented on a key chain dangling from my handbag, I had to say, “this is Bei Bei. He lives in Washington DC.” And as one month changed to the next, I had photographs of the siblings to enjoy from their calendars. We will always remember their charms through their photo books. The “Boyz in Da Zoo” calendar has become a limited edition one of a kind keepsake.
When we traveled to China, as we were checking the luggage at the San Francisco airport, the Chinese agent smiled and exclaimed as she pointed to the luggage tags. She had never heard of Bao Bao and Bei Bei. I only had a couple of minutes to enlighten her and when a look of misapprehension would cross her face my husband would add a Mandarin word here and there in his Taiwan accent. We are going to China to see Bao Bao, we said.
I took a large envelope of paper items from the store to Bao Bao’s keeper, stickers, bookmarks, etc. and included the Internet address for the store.
Of course the pandas were not the only ones to share staring rolls at the store. Other animals were featured, and a baby orangutan and baby gorilla have achieved lasting fame. And then there are the photos and videos of the animals enjoying all their new toys. What fun!
Recently I saw social media posts about toys that panda keeper Tang Cheng had purchased using money from “merchandise he sold online of the pandas.” I know it’s unlikely that he might have been influenced by our store, and yet I’m left to wonder if the legacy of the DC Zoo Walks store might live on through a dedicated panda keeper in China.
Once upon a time there was a store that celebrated animals and made the people happy.