Bye Bye, Bao Bao Panda

Heading off to my new life!

The National Zoo’s Bao Bao panda finally left for China last month as part of the agreement between their country and ours in the “loaning” of pandas. Any cubs born from donated pandas would have to be returned to China, so despite much affection from the nation and the D.C. citizens, Bao Bao departed for her native country a couple weeks ago.

I don’t know what it is about pandas that appeal to people so much. Part of it is the black fur around their eyes. Or their distinct black versus white pattern of color. Or perhaps because they are round and fuzzy and generally complacent, not like scary grizzlies or removed koalas nodding off on high perches in trees. They are just so cute, with their playing of toys and chewing of iced treats and waving of paws in the air while they lie on their backs.

Hello!!! My name is Bao Bao!

While Bao Bao was growing up, I sometimes checked out the Panda Cam ( For some reason, watching those pandas gave me a sense of the warm and fuzzies, as if the world was a better place because there were such things as adorable animals, including pandas sitting around and munching on bamboo leaves or napping. I would look at the screens of the Panda Cam for awhile and a smile would gradually appear on my face; things were so simple for those pandas, and restful, and innocent.

That is one of the reasons we have pets, isn’t it? There is the companionship side to it, which is significant, but there is the other part that relates to their innocence and purity of spirit. When a dog steals a treat from the dining room table and laughs at you, when a cat ignores you on purpose because it knows it can, when a bunny chews on electrical wires and looks up at you with confusion when you rant and rave; those are all based on their ability to look at the world and live it in a very naive or straightforward fashion. They don’t care about taxes or pool maintenance or work politics or whether or not they are really welcomed at a party that they just received an invitation to. They just live, and enjoy, and do what they will while giving you the sad- or evil-eye when you scold them.

And we envy them, our pets. How many times have we looked at our dogs stretched out on the floor against the back door and snoring in the sunlight and thought, Wow, it must be nice to be a dog? Many times, I am sure. Or when you pour out their food into their bowls and they scamper around your feet in anticipation and then dive in, snouts and noses and all and they look so damn happy, so satisfied that you think to yourself, I wish life was that simple for me.

We are just going to sleep and wait for you to come home.

So as I bid goodbye to Bao Bao, I was saddened that life would be, for awhile at least, a little gloomier around the Smithsonian. We lost a bit of gleam and glamour from our world here in D.C. and Maryland, but more importantly, we also let go a part of those youthful wishes we all hold in our hearts, when we are all grown up, of a world full of childhood wonder where life is simple and easy and free.

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