I enjoyed a nice thanksgiving with my family in Wichita this year. After an enjoyable Thanksgiving lunch, complete with turkey, potatoes, green been casserole, and all the holiday staples, we decided to walk off our turkey coma by visiting the park. My parents live close to Sedgwick County Park in Wichita, KS; we use the park a lot mainly to walk the dog, but they have great running trails and nice playgrounds for when my two younger cousins come over.
I got a free bag of cat food from school and had planned on feeding the ducks and geese that live on the ponds located within the park. We loaded my two cousins up in the car and headed to the park for some bird-feeding on turkey day. The birds at the park are quite tame and will get very close if you offer them food. Naturally, they enjoyed the cat food thoroughly. I wasn’t content to just feed them; that became boring after awhile. I decided a fun challenge would be to try to pick up one of the birds. (I’ll admit I’ve done this before at parks). I’ve worked with poultry in undergrad, so I felt that if I could pick up a turkey and carry it, surely I could pick up a goose or duck. First I coaxed the birds to eat out of my hand, and then after slowly sneaking closer to them just grabbed them up like little footballs.
The kids thought it was hilarious, but I don’t think my parents/uncle and aunt were all that excited. Mom looked at me and said, “Those birds are filthy, I thought you knew better not to touch them!” Yes, indeed the birds are probably very dirty. They could’ve been (and probably were) infected with all sorts of bacteria and protozoa. Doug probably wouldn’t like that. The smartest thing to do would to keep the birds’ feet out of your mouth; luckily this was not a hard task. I was also very careful not to put my hands near my mouth or on my face to contaminate myself. Ideally I would’ve used hand sanitizer after holding the birds, but unfortunately I was not thinking far enough ahead. My idea of vacation is having a good time, and most of the time that takes place in a germ-free environment. But if animals are involved (except in the case of reptiles), I tend to be a little more lax in my “germaphobe-ness.”
Just because animals carry germs doesn’t mean that we need to completely steer clear of them. However, the age of the person handling the animal must be taken into consideration. Kids under the age of 7 (or maybe even12) don’t seem to get the idea to keep your hands out of your mouth around the dogs. The bottom line (for all your petting zoo-lovers) is to be smart and wash your hands before and after handling animals.