I'm sad to hear today of the passing of two animals who gave a lot of pleasure to Anna when she was tiny. First of all, we went to the Almond Valley Heritage Centre for the first time in a couple of months and discovered that Jenny, the donkey, who was nearly 30 years old, had died in March.
Then, some news that I'd half expected after seeing some fairly gloomy news updates over the last few months, that Mercedes, the polar bear who used to be at Edinburgh Zoo, had been put down this morning.
We moved back up here when Anna was 9 months old and very quickly took out memberships of both Mill Farm, as it's referred to locally, and Edinburgh Zoo, because she loved going to see the animals so much. That hasn't changed and she's become very interested in conservation and is very aware how we human beings are ruining the habitats of many animals. We spent many a happy hour in the byre or by the field watching Jenny and her then companions Jolly and Shilo, or at Mercedes' enclosure. Sadly, we never made it to the Highland Wildlife Park to see her after she moved there in 2009.
Both these animals had a good innings and very good care during their lives, and they'll always be remembered as a special part of Anna's childhood.
It was good to see that Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, paid tribute to Mercedes as her new home lies in his constituency, also taking the chance to raise some of the wider challenges facting the species. He said:
One thing, though. I don't like to see, as in the Scotsman's report on Mercedes, the phrase "put to sleep" to signify death. Bearing in mind that children love these animals, using that terminology can make them fearful or confused. They might think that if an animal is "asleep" it might wake up, or they may get scared of going to bed and falling asleep themselves in case they die. I always think it's important to keep the two words separate.