In the heat, a few creature comforts

Monday, August 13, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Construction workers, ballplayers and postal carriers: Don’t complain to Bud about the heat. He lives and works in this weather 24 hours a day.

Of course, as an African elephant, Bud is genetically built to handle 100-degree temperatures.

Bud resides at Grant’s Farm, where four times a day he demonstrates elephant behaviors to cheering kids. His reward: Kool-Aid and fruit frozen in a bucket.

“We stick an edible bamboo stick right in the middle,” said animal curator Jenny Joyce. “It’s just like the Popsicles you make for your kids, only this one would take them the better part of a week to eat.”

While our pets lounge on the cool kitchen tile, other animals are hard at work, panting through the heat and humidity.

“They’re like people: Some can take the heat, some can’t,” said Jerry Grebe, manager of St. Louis Carriage Co. “And they’re smart like us, too. When it’s this hot, they work slower.”

Grebe expected that only five or six of his 18 draft horses would offer downtown carriage rides Wednesday evening.

“They don’t work nearly as hard because there are not as many customers,” said Grebe. “They’re pretty pampered this time of year.”

The St. Louis Police Department gave its horses Wednesday off after a morning workout. Typically, the horses work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. patrolling Forest Park. But Sgt. Paul Lauer, supervisor of the department’s mounted patrol unit, doubts they will return to work before Friday.

“You can tell they’re irritated,” said Lauer. “The bugs get to them more. They’ll get agitated and nip at each other.”

Trainers at Fairmount Park also have reined in their horses, said director of racing Bob Pace. Several horses did not enter Tuesday’s races because of the weather, and a few were scratched just before post time.

But at the St. Louis Zoo, the sea lion show must go on. The zoo’s five dancing sea lions perform three shows a day, leaping through hoops and balancing balls on their noses. Between tricks, they typically rest on rocks. Not this week.

“They’ll stay in the pool, which can be warm as a swimming pool,” said Ulmer. “Sometimes we’ll drain it a little and add fresh, cooler water.”

The zoo, like Grant’s Farm, rewards its stars with ice pops. Only these feature raw squid.

“Yummy squid pops,” said Ulmer. “Doesn’t that sound refreshing?”

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