A Florida Friend I Didn’t Expect to Meet

Do you know what this little guy is? My friend Carole, who works at the Miami Zoo, didn’t. A specialist in exotic animals (“the expert lady”) who found him in a Miami street dragging a leash around, didn’t. And certainly I didn’t! But I did after Carole told me his story.

I went to Florida in April to visit Carole, a long-friend from college whom I hadn’t seen since last century, and after that to visit Jan and Terry, my sister and brother-in-law, who had recently moved there.

First stop was Carole’s in Miami. Almost as soon as I walked into her cool, comfy house (AC is a “must” in Miami, operating 24/7!) I felt as if I were visiting the zoo right in her living room. The walls were filled with delightful photos of Carole with dozens of different animals. But the photo on the dresser in the guest room was the one that most immediately riveted my eye. It was of her with a strange but sweet-looking, cuddly creature in her arms. Of course I had to ask. She told me that the expert lady saw this little creature in a busy street, running here and there, hysterical and scared to death, tripping over the leash trying to escape the roaring metal monsters coming at him from every direction. Somehow the lady was able to briefly stop traffic, carefully approach him, grab the leash, and get him to safety.

She then brought him to the zoo and did a little research among the zoo’s reference resources, and learned he was a Patagonian mara. A what?? I wrote it down on the spot so I could google him later. When I did, I found out he is a large rodent, native to Argentina—i.e., the Patagonia part—looks like a cross between a deer and a rabbit, and is about the size and weight of a three-month-old baby. The zoo folks named him Tango, found him great digs in the zoo, and if it hadn’t been so beastly hot the day Carole and I actually went to the zoo, we might have seen him. As it was we saw almost nobody—everyone was sheltering from the heat in their cool stone dens.  We humans were not so smart, but we did try to beat the heat with some yummy ice cream.  That helped!

I suppose I will have to fess up to exaggerating a bit in the title of this blog, because I didn’t actually meet Tango. But I loved his story, and I think if I had, he and I would be friends!

Later I made the painting of Tango you see above.  It’s entitled (what else?) “Homage to Tango”, and I gave it to Carole as a thank-you for the fun visit.

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