Probably my best animal encounter, when I was visiting the zoo yesterday, was with the above pictured sea lion. One of the smaller sea lions there, so probably a female, she played with me for all of the 10-15 minutes that I visited with her. Our game involved her chasing my hand, when it was pressed against the glass. If she was six or more feet away, she would charge the glass, usually with her mouth open and her black teeth bared. This demonstration would inevitably result in my last-minute flinching, which I think was the reaction that she was looking for. If she was up-close to the glass, like in the above photo, she would twirl and somersault about, as she chased my palm, which I would slide up-and-down or left-and-right. I had her undivided attention, because I was the only visitor at the time. The only other human in the exhibit was a dozing docent.
A few years ago, during a freezing February, Anne and I visited the sea lion exhibit and were entertained by this very same sea lion. This was another visit to the zoo on a day when hardly anybody else was there. Then I had to share the sea lion’s attention with two little girls. We were in the underwater Plexiglas tunnel. The girls would toss their mittens to the transparent ceiling of the tunnel and the sea lion would swoop down, in a mock attempt to snatch them out of the air-water. Several of the other sea lions took a shine to Anne. I don’t know what it was that attracted them. Was it her colorful knitting, her bright red down coat or her animal magnetism that drew them to her? It was on this outing that I had my first flinch inducing encounter with the above sea lion.