Oakland Giraffe's Jacket Makes For Creature Comfort

By: By MICHELLE LOCKE Associated Press Writer
By: By MICHELLE LOCKE Associated Press Writer

Like many a lady of a certain age, Tiki the giraffe feels the cold these days. So, workers at the Oakland Zoo are having a custom-fit coat made to keep her cozy this winter.

Jump back Seventh Avenue, this is really high fashion.

The custom cloak is the latest in a series of innovative ways of treating Tiki, who at a venerable 18 years old is subject to the vicissitudes of age. She already gets regular visits from a chiropractor, a masseuse and an acupuncturist.

Those are accepted treatments for horses, at least in the always edgy San Francisco Bay area, and provide a gentle way to treat animals without drugs, said zoo keeper Melissa McCartney.

Tiki gets massage to help her get used to interacting with keepers. Acupuncture helps with her shoulder and withers.

But how to cope with winter chills, when the temperature drops below balmy, had baffled keepers. Tiki is too big to be herded into a stall, and regular horse blankets are too ill-fitting to be left on without supervision lest she snags a buckle or otherwise gets in a tangle.

"Poor Tiki in her blanket looks like someone in her sister's hand-me-downs," said zoo spokeswoman Nancy Filippi.

So, staff got in touch with a horse-blanket designer who agreed to donate her services to tailor a coat for Tiki.

The jacket will be a tasteful forest green and feature a removable liner for those in-between days.

With Tiki measuring 13 feet tall, McCartney had to scramble up a ladder to get the precise measurements for the bespoke garment.

The result? A 40 extra, extra long.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-02-08 1343EST

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