Watson, a wire-haired terrier mix, who has been a favorite of the Interactive Animal Program (IAP) at Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium, will retire on Dec. 30, 2022. Watson retires after almost 10 years of service as an Animal Ambassador and leaving countless pawprints on the hearts of the community, Zoo volunteers and staff.
Watson was adopted by Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in 2013 from R.u.F.F Rescue Inc. in Lincoln, Nebraska. His personable demeanor, strong work drive, athletic agility, and distinct appearance made him the perfect fit for IAP programming. He served as an Animal Ambassador in every capacity from participating in formal programs to greeting employees and students on-grounds during his morning walks.
“Watson’s start at the Zoo was in the Wild Kingdom Pavilion Wildlife Show. When the Meadowlark Theater opened, he became an instant fan-favorite and hit the career milestone of headlining his own show,” said Alysia Hess, Supervisor IAP Adventure Trails & Meadowlark Theater and Watson’s primary caretaker. “Audience members loved his lively program and reveled at his ability to recycle, but his wave and bow were the real showstoppers!”
“To many parents’ surprise, their kids would say a domestic dog named Watson was their favorite animal at the Zoo,” said Sarah Starr, current Sales and Events Coordinator at the Zoo and one of Watson’s former trainers. “His intelligence and goofy personality lit up the room and captivated guests, which created a lot of friendships with both visitors and staff.” Starr continued, “He also played a key role in educating people about how training sessions are beneficial for all animals’ health and well-being. His impact reached beyond the Zoo by teaching guests interested in positive reinforcement training and environmental enrichment with their own pets.”
Animal well-being is always a priority for the Zoo, which for a dog meant that after-Zoo operating hours socialization was a must. Guests and employees always enjoyed learning that Watson “goes home” with qualified Zoo staff and had several after-hours happy homes through the years. Watson’s well-being, in combination with his nearly 10 years of service and his primary, life-long caregiver leaving to pursue paths outside of the Zoo, made this the right time for Watson to retire. His retirement will be spent living with Hess on a farm in Iowa.
This is also a great time to visit the Zoo during the final 12 Days of Giving gift of free admission for children under the age of 12 is occurring through Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. Up to six children can be admitted free to the Zoo with each paid adult. There is also time to make reservations for one of two seatings each day of Penguins and Pancakes through Dec. 30. Enjoy pancakes from The Pancake Man, a penguin keeper talk and video from our Antarctic exhibit residents, as well as a special penguin plush to take home.
Ring in the New Year at Noon Year’s Eve on Saturday, Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Have a wild time with entertainment from Joe Cole’s Magic Show, music and an early countdown to 2022 complete with a mini beach ball drop at noon outside on the Desert Dome Plaza. There is also a Sleeping Bag Safari camp available the night prior, Friday, Dec. 30, where guests spend the night in the Scott Aquarium and then wake the next day to participate in the Noon Year’s Eve event at the Zoo!
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit OmahaZoo.com/Special-Events. Proceeds from ticket sales at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium special events will be allocated toward animal health, wellness and enrichment programs as well as furthering conservation efforts worldwide. Thank you for supporting Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium!
Please check the Zoo’s website at OmahaZoo.com and social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest details and the most current schedule.