Outdoors

Find yoga with kangaroos at this Colorado bed & breakfast

The view at Zoo Chateau is like no other.

Specifically, the view from your upside down perch in downward facing 'roo, er, dog, where two red kangaroos hop around behind you. Or recline right next to you if you're lucky, or happen to be holding some of their favorite snacks: small rectangles of granola.

It's pleasant listening to a kangaroo crunch a granola bar. And they even keep their mouths shut while they chew. Miss Manners would be proud.

Around midday on Tuesdays and Sundays, you'll find Rooney and Bindi quietly hopping through the wood shavings that cover the floor of their barn at the Chateau north of Golden, Colo. They're the stars of what is probably the state's only kangaroo yoga class. It started in November and will run you $100 for a 60-minute Sunday class and $75 to $80 for a Tuesday class.

Rooney, a male, is bigger than his female counterpart, Bindi, but the slightly elder Bindi is definitely in charge, said Zoo Chateau manager Keaton Crawford, as the 4-year-olds playfully hugged each other around the neck on a recent Tuesday. They stand tall amid a sprinkling of pastel-colored yoga mats and yoga teacher Tara Clack.

"They remind me of little, fluffy Tyrannosaurus rexes," Crawford said.

It's an apt description for the gray-colored marsupials, with their regular-sized front paws and oversized back paws and a tendency to pop up on their hind legs and stare at you, one ear swiveling to the front and the other to the back. It's the constant scratching of their side flanks or under their arms or even at the base of their long, python-like tail that turns them from an intimidating T-rex into resembling a little, old man scratching his backside first thing in the morning.

Crawford breaks down the laws of the land: Don't move fast, don't hug the kangaroos like a dog, touch only their backs, chest, arms and tail. And don't force them to do anything, like arranging them into the perfect selfie. Let them do their own thing.

Solid advice when it comes to what Crawford calls a "tame animal" – not domesticated, but not wild.

As the three-person class begins with a gentle warmup, the animals seem unimpressed. They mostly keep to the perimeters of the room. Rooney's busy eating hay out of a small trough. Bindi hops back and forth near the door that leads outside to their large outdoor enclosure. They spend their days basking in the sun before being corralled into their barn at night, tucked safely away from coyotes and other potential threats in the surrounding landscape.

They do happen to have roommates, though: two rescued guinea pigs and two rescued rats. Each pair lives in its own big cage or space.

"It's so much fun," said Clack, who also volunteers at the Denver Animal Shelter.

"It's for any age or ability. We modify for people. It's about coming here and having the experience with the kangaroos."

Crawford, who runs the Zoo Chateau with her older sister, Kili Crawford, and their mom, Rachel Crawford, took notice as goat yoga entered the zeitgeist several years ago and thought it might be worth trying with their kangaroos. They had to be mindful, though, as Rooney and Bindi are prey animals and will run from any quick movements.

"It's cool to see when people get down on the mat and spend time on calm breathing. It really sets the tone of the room," said Keaton, "and the kangaroos will sometimes lay down next to someone."

Rooney gets more interactive as the vinyasa flow class continues. He hops among the yogis, including Keaton, who reaches out to scratch his upper chest. He pauses to lean into it.

A class is usually limited to around four to five students to ensure the kangaroos don't get stressed out and to allow visitors better intimacy with the animals.

"It's not about the money, as much as it's about the experience and rescue side of things," Keaton said.

The family calls their business a vacation rental zoo. In addition to yoga, visitors can do a kangaroo interaction with granola feeding or enjoy a full zoo interaction. The four-bedroom Chateau, on 14 acres, can accommodate up to nine guests and is available as a rental through Airbnb or VRBO. One night costs $450 and includes one interaction per day with the animals.

More than two dozen animals call the Chateau home, including nine horses, a donkey, a zonkey (zebra and donkey mix), four cats, six rabbits, three Aldabra giant tortoises and the dog that belongs to animal caretaker Kili, the only member of the family who lives on the premises full time.

Some of the animals are rescues, including a thoroughbred horse, the donkey and rabbits. The American quarter horses are Keaton and Kili's former show horses. The two started riding horses when they were 5 and 6.

The other animals, such as the kangaroos, tortoises and zonkey, were purchased as babies from breeders across the country to be ambassador animals.

"Those bring people to us more because kangaroos and tortoises are more exotic," Keaton said. "We joke that we do a little bit of the bait and switch. People love to see exotic animals, but we want to educate them on rescue and responsibility."

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