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  • She gently pushed at me with her horn. I knew enough about her, by now, and took a small step away from her calf. That's all she was worried about.

    Well, almost all... She was also looking for a piece of fruit (a banana, if I recall correctly) that I had hidden on my person. It was our little morning ritual: I would take her and her calf out, despite the freezing cold of that winter day of 1989, because they needed whatever exercise they could get. Even if only for a couple of hours, before spring came. And she would follow me, because she knew there was a little treat in it for her. But in order to make things more interesting, she had to find it herself, usually by sniffing me and pocking in my pockets or boots with her flexible upper lip.

    That morning, I was not nervous because of the presence of two tons of Indian rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis horns, muscle, bones and thick skin in front of me (not to mention the calf), but rather because their usual zookeeper (an old and respected man in his trade) had honoured me by asking to take care of Basel Zoo's four rhinoceroses with him. And that very morning, he took a picture of me with one of the two female rhinoceroses and her calf. I never was very much at ease in front of a camera...

    But now I'm glad I accepted: this is the only photograph of two I have from that period of my life. I just finished my high school and was waiting for my mandatory recruit school to begin. And in that key year between my childhood world and my academic years, I had managed to travel, fall in love twice (although not with whom would later become my Better Half, but I did not know that yet), find a University I liked, go improve a foreign language abroad and land what was to be a dream job during my studies: zookeeper!

    That cold winter morning of 1989, that gentle giant was sweetly pushing me with her horn into my adult life.


    ☞ See also: Two tons of sweetness over at Pinwheel.
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