What is it about polar bears? When the Pittsburgh Zoo closed the polar bear exhibit, there was a minor outcry..Well, Wednesdsay, November 22nd they are officially back, and THEY ARE AMAZING! Monday, I joined some other board members for a behind the scenes tour of the new exhibit, that will eventually include sea otters and walruses. We were all clapping our hands and acting like a bunch of kids..and the big furry kids were endlessly amusing. This picture was taken by one of the guys from inside the tunnel. The tunnel won’t be open until April, and when it is, the question will be, “How do we get people to leave it?” The bear brothers are having a ball. They are just two years old, and weigh in at about five to six hundred pounds, and will eventually mature at over 1000 pounds. The largest land predator!

When we walked into the tunnel, the bear in the water swam down toward us. put his mammoth paws on the acrylic window, and touched his big, black nose to it. Children will just love this experience.

For those of you who are ambivalent about the role of zoos in society, ( and I admit, most of us are, at times), the exhibit is getting raves from researchers and behaviorists. It is highly educational, there is a lot to simulate situations that would occur in the wild, and the bears have loads of outlets for stimulation.
They look so adorable, and yet, they are one of the most efficient, dominant predators in the world. What they do best is hunt.

And switching gears, or gettting on another horse, so to speak—-talk about amazing. I still can not get over what a gifted athlete, and great guy Mel Blount is. Doing the interview with him at the Mel Blount Youth Home in Washington County was delightful, if not exhausting. I am used to riding English-style, but Western riding, especially workng cutting horses, takes a whole different skill set, and a whole lot of leg. And balance. I could hardly breathe when we were finished. Mel had sweat pouring off his head. What is so impressive is that his upper body never moved as the horse whipped back and forth, laterally. And I didn’t have time to explain this in the story, but he is operating the mechanical cow with a remote on his finger, while he is riding. I can’t even look in the mirror and put the brush in the right place when I blow dry my hair!

A big “thank you” to his wife Tianda, who set this all up, and is an integral part of making the Youth Home work. They truly love what they do, and it is so firmly rooted in their faith. It is not an easy life, and you have to give them credit for choosing this path. I know it sounds corny and cliched, but it is a calling.

Also a special thanks to Max Starks and his mother, Eleanor. She is a hoot, the kind of woman you’d love to go out to a movie with, and a champion in the fight against breast cancer. Max is out there working the charity circuit constantly..but in the interview, he and she said he never lets it interfere with the job of football. She says he has the time, because he doesn’t have a wife and children yet. And she’s okay with that..He is still young..and very hansome, I might add.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And remembering all those who spend their lives helping those who are less fortunate. Thank God for them.


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