HAYWARD -- As caretaker Laurie Teixeira walked through Kennedy Park's petting zoo pens, she talked almost nonstop as she waded among the goats and chickens closing in around her, nudging and nipping at each other as she tossed down hay and feed.

"Oh, you want me to change your water, don't you?" she said, stopping to dump water out of a wading pool and refill it.

"Bully? Where's Bully? Bully, get over here," she called out, turning to the goat pen. A tan pygmy goat lifted his head and trotted over to Teixeira, the petting zoo caretaker.

"You can guess how he got his name," she said to a visitor before turning back to the goats. "Bully, stop that! Leave that other goat alone," she demanded.

Laurie Teixeira says yellow to Pepper, one of the larger goats at Kennedy Park in Hayward on April 23, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)
Laurie Teixeira says yellow to Pepper, one of the larger goats at Kennedy Park in Hayward on April 23, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Teixeira has cared for the animals at the Hayward area park district petting zoo for 20 years, the past 10 as head caretaker.

She knows them by name. "That one over there? His name is Houdini. He knows how to lift gate latches," she said, as Houdini jogged over upon hearing his name.

"Leo, you stay here, honey. I know, I know. But you need to stay here," she said to another goat as he tried to follow her through a gate. He is being kept from the other animals while healing after his dehorning.

"Leo's my puppy dog. I bottle-fed him as a baby; I stayed late and came in on my day off to take care of him," she said.

She has to stay alert around her charges. "I'm the sheriff here," she announced to the chickens as she cleaned their pen. But that didn't stop a rooster from sneaking up to nip her calf.


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"Ow!" she said. "You got me, didn't you? Oh, look at you, strutting around, so proud of yourself."

She laughed. "They have sharp beaks," she said.

Teixeira's enthusiasm and devotion to the animals are contagious, said her supervisor, Byron Posey.

"She's fun to be around. We know our animals at the petting zoo are well taken care of. Laurie orders the food for the animals; she knows exactly what kind of hay and feed they need. It takes years of experience to know that. She's taught us a lot," he said.

If an animal is sick, Teixeira volunteers to come in on her days off to help care for it, Posey said.

"She's an important part of Kennedy Park," he said.

Teixeira "has a big heart for the animals," said Karl Zabel, park district operations and development supervisor.

The petting zoo -- officially Triple Pines Ranch -- has about 60 animals, including chickens, geese, turkeys, pheasants, goats, rabbits, sheep and a potbellied pig. Some are viewed in their pens, but the pygmy goats are popular with children, Zabel said.

Kennedy Park is one of the district's most popular destinations, offering a train ride and carousel in addition to the zoo. The picnic areas are booked every weekend from now into late fall, Posey said.

The Hayward Area Recreation and Park District plans to upgrade the park, which dates back to the 1940s, but the zoo, train and carousel will remain important fixtures. The zoo will be moved to where the former pony rides were, and the animals will get upgraded pens.

One thing that will not change: Teixeira's devotion to the animals.

"I love it here. These are my kids," she said.

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.

Kennedy Park
petting zoo
19501 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends, holidays and school breaks
Admission: $2. Food to feed animals, 50 cents

Roberto the muscovy duck makes his presence known at the petting zoo at Kennedy Park in Hayward on April 23, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)
Roberto the muscovy duck makes his presence known at the petting zoo at Kennedy Park in Hayward on April 23, 2014. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)