Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Oh give me a home...

My pen pal in Scotland sent me an e-mail the other day, telling me that she’d thought of the perfect birthday gift for my husband. She said she wanted to adopt a bison for him.

You see, my husband is an avid (rabid?) collector of anything and everything that has to do with buffalo or bison. In fact, our formerly all-colonial house now has so many statues, pictures, sculptures, wall hangings, artifacts, paintings, etc. of bison stuffed into it, you’d think we were living at the Ponderosa.

As visions of a big buffalo bull grazing on our front lawn filled my mind, I asked my Scottish pen pal how and where she planned to adopt the animal. She explained that the adoption was more like a sponsorship, and that the buffalo would stay where it was (that was a relief!). She added that she’d done a Web search and had come up with a zoo not too far from New Hampshire that has nothing but buffalo in it. She said she thought it might be a good place to start.

I was certain that if such an all-buffalo zoo did indeed exist somewhere near here, my husband would have set up camp at the place by now. “What zoo is it?” I asked her.

“It’s called the Buffalo Zoo!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. I really hated to burst her bubble, but I had to tell her that Buffalo was the city in which the zoo was located, not a zoo filled with buffalo. She then asked me if maybe I could help her find a place in America that offered buffalo adoptions. She said it would be easier if I handled everything at my end and then she’d just send me the money for it. “I’m willing to go as high as $80,” she said.

Well, there was no way I was going to let her spend that kind of money on a birthday gift, so I set out to search the Internet for a place that not only offered buffalo adoptions, but cheap buffalo adoptions.

I immediately found the Adopt-A-Bison Program in Oklahoma, listed through an organization called the Nature Conservancy. I contacted them, only to be informed that they weren’t conducting the program any more. They did, however, ask me if I’d like to adopt a coral reef to help save the environment.

After what seemed like hours more of online searching, I came across a place called the Dickerson Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. It offered adoptions for only $30. The package included a personalized, official certificate of adoption, an actual photo of the adopted animal, an information sheet, periodic newsletters, a free pass to the zoo and more. Excited, I printed out the adoption form, filled in the information, wrote out a check and mailed everything to the zoo.

Three days later, I received a phone call. “Hello,” a woman’s voice, sounding just a bit uneasy, said. “I’m calling from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri. You filled out an adoption form for a bison?”

“That’s right,” I said brightly.

“Well, um, we don’t have any bison here,” she said. “I mean, I’ve worked here for years and we’ve never had a bison!”

“Are you sure?” I asked, as if the poor woman somehow had overlooked a 2,000-pound bison all these years.

“Positive. Can I interest you in another animal? Perhaps a nice black bear?”

“No thanks,” I said, my tone doing little to conceal my disappointment. “It has to be a buffalo. My husband loves buffalo…and it’s his birthday.”

“Oh. I’m really sorry we can’t help you,” she said. “I’ll be sure to return your check.”

About a half-hour after I hung up, I turned on my computer and there was an e-mail message from the woman I’d just spoken with on the phone. She felt so bad for my poor bison-less birthday boy, she sent me a list of places where she thought I might be able to adopt a bison. I eagerly checked out each one.

The prices ranged from $100 all the way up to $500 for an adoption. I was just about to give up on the whole idea and tell my pen pal to just buy my husband a toy bison and he’d be thrilled. But then I checked out the last place on the list; the Adopt a Species program at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The Web site said that for a donation, I could adopt any animal from the zoo’s list and get a personalized certificate of adoption, a photo, fact sheet and six issues of the zoo’s newsletter.

And best of all, there, listed among the many creatures available for adoption, from a giant hissing cockroach to a white-cheeked gibbon, was the American buffalo! I think I actually had a tear in my eye when I saw it.

Quickly, I filled out the adoption form, wrote a check and sent everything to the zoo. And then, because the list had said, “subject to change,” I held my breath. I figured that with my luck, the zoo probably had only one arthritic, toothless old buffalo and it would drop dead the day after I mailed the application.

Today, the packet arrived from the zoo. The certificate of adoption has my husband’s name professionally printed in calligraphy on it, and there’s a beautiful 35mm photo of “his” buffalo along with a fact sheet and a copy of “Zoogoer” magazine.

I can’t wait to see his face when he opens his gift. And after he does, he’ll probably hop the next flight to Washington, DC just so he can make sure that his new “son” is being treated well.