The image above is Zamir giving me a "kiss" after almost three years.
My sweet, sweet boy remembered me! It has been three years since I was his trainer, but the last several times I have visited the Miniature Zebu steer named Zamir that I used to work with, he has showed major signs of remembering me.
I have recently returned to The Houston Zoo after working in a law firm for three years. During those three years, the only time I had to visit the Zoo were Saturdays which are the most crowded day of the week. When I would go visit Zamir on Saturdays, I would call his name and sometimes he would look at me. He would swing his head up, his eyes would get big and he would look straight at me. But then he would go back to eating his hay without coming over. I thought this was because I wasn't wearing a zoo uniform and so he no longer recognized me. I should mention that Zamir generally does not let the public reach over the fence and touch him.
Since returning to the Zoo, I am able to go visit Zamir on Friday evenings after work which are considerably less crowded. A few weeks ago, my husband met me at the Zoo after work on a Friday and we went to visit Zamir. I now work in an office at the Zoo and don't wear a Zoo uniform. Because Zamir had started ignoring me, I wasn't even going to attempt to call out to him until my husband encouraged me to try. I called out his name in the tone that I always used to say it years ago and Zamir swung his head around and looked straight at me as if to say "hey, what's up?" He came straight over and stuck his nose over the fence as if not a day had passed since our last meeting. He let me scratch and pet him for at least twenty minutes. I had to see if he remembered a couple of his old behaviors (shhh don't tell my zookeeper friends!) so I tried "kiss" and "target". He did both right away and kept looking at me as if to say "Where's the bread?" Zamir's rewards are bread or scratches.
I thought that maybe this was a one time occurance so I waited two weeks and then went back. I walked up to the fence and called out "Zamiiir" and he immediately swung his head around and stuck his nose over the fence to get to me. He let me scratch under his chin (his favorite spot) and stayed there for at least twenty minutes again. It made my week! I really think it had a lot to do with the fact that it is less crowded. When crowds are around Zamir is unwilling to come towards the fence because he knows that several people will try to touch him. When there are less crowds, he is willing to come over and let me scratch him for a long time because he knows me. It's not the Zoo uniform that he recognizes, it is me. I can't tell you how important those relationships are between an animal and trainer!
We'll leave off with one of my favorite pictures of Zamir and I from several years ago when I was still his trainer.
Zamir giving me a "kiss"