Animals give us amazing memories. When I was about 9 years old, for example, my family visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. All over the park were machines that dispensed (for 35 cents) two or three pieces of rye crisp, which you could feed to the animals.

The giraffe display had two levels--like arrival and departure decks at an airport. You could interact with those tall animals at eye level or below their bellies.

Not only is that a clever strategy, but it's also a thoughtful one.

On the lower deck, I watched a baby follow its mother around and play with her tail. On the upper deck, I learned, while feeding Rye Crisp to mama, that giraffes are gentle and have beautiful lavender tongues. Mama gave my fingers a lick after she gracefully accepted the Rye Crisp from my fingers. I wanted a giraffe almost as much as I wanted a horse, but I knew better than to pose the matter to my parents, who would have given me the usual response: "A giraffe is a lot of work, you know, and you have to take care of it every day without fail. Even if you get a baby giraffe, it will eventually grow too tall to live in the garage."

I remained content with the dozens of cats, a couple of dogs, eventually a horse, eventually another horse, and a third horse and a fourth, and the birds and beasts in the care of my friends at the animal shelter in Northumberland County VA and in the garden all around us that is our planet. Their stories are worth telling.