Saturday, 16 January 2016


Today LittleBear declared he was a "Why-ologist". You or I might think that this is a surprisingly perceptive, and self-aware, view of life as a four-year old. In fact, it turns out to be the technical term for someone who studies live dinosaurs. Because the idea that the dinosaurs really are all gone is basically not acceptable. So, there we were with two toy dinosaurs, a tool kit and a doctor's kit, and LittleBear decided to teach me how to be a Why-ologist.

First, it was important to understand the potential hazards of handling dinosaurs. These particular specimens "have venomous spines on their backs, but they can retract them into their skin like a cat's claws, and they have venomous teeth and venemous claws. If you have the right kind of tough clothes then the venom can't get you, but if it touches your skin it will kill you. So you have to wear special gloves."

Then, I had to be introduced to all the tools:

"This (a chisel) is for stroking along their skin so you can feel what the skin feels like because the feeling bounces up from the skin into your hand so you can feel it without getting venomed."

"This (random metal widget) is for them to stroke along you to find out what your skin feels like."

"This (a set square) is for putting oxygen into them if they can't open their mouths or noses to breathe."

"This (a saw) is for opening them up so that you can see inside them to make sure everything is OK and then these (nails) are for closing them up again." (When asked if perhaps they might need anaesthetic for this, frankly terrifying, procedure, I was informed it didn't hurt them and they were fine...)

"This (a strange bent piece of metal) is for looking into their bottoms to see if they're going to poo so you can run a long way away because their poo is venomous from the venom they swallow from their teeth."

"This (a spanner) is for checking if their teeth are OK without touching their teeth and getting venomed."

"This (a small hammer) is for hammering their eyes back in if they come unscrewed. Once you've hammered them back in they never come out again." (Oh dear lord, this is getting nasty...)

"This (a screwdriver) is for stroking them with" (a slightly less stomach-churning proposition than some).

"This (a large hammer) is for getting them into the zoo once we have checked that there's nothing wrong with them." (Pleased to know we have a thorough quarantining system at the dinosaur zoo, but slightly concerned by the use of a hammer)

"This (a workbench) is the table for putting their food on at the zoo, and you hide their food all over it so they can't find it all straight away." (Good to know the zoo keeper's explanation of enriching the tigers' environment sank in. Foolish mother that I am, I asked if any of the food was hidden under the workbench: "Sometimes, but they see it straight away because they're low to the ground.")

Once I had been educated in the basics of Why-ology I was allowed to assist in a health assessment of one of our specimens. Having sawn open the belly, there was a certain amount of tooth-sucking and head-shaking, so we then needed to take the dinosaur's temperature. Unsurprisingly my digital thermometer recorded a dangerously low temperature for the patient, so he then needed to be dosed up using (empty) calpol and calprofen syringes, plus a spoonful of mysterious medicine that I was informed contained rats. "And we mustn't have any dinosaur medicine Mummy, because it's poisonous for people, and they mustn't have our medicine because that's poisonous for them." So it seems as though LittleBear took on board everything I said about the cat's medicine definitely not ever, ever being for people.

Having performed amateur surgery and pharmacology on the poor creature, he was then packed off to the zoo, by means of a hammer. I really don't know where the hammer came into it. I'm not entirely sure I want to know either, not after discovering what the small hammer was for anyway.

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