Great State: Alva Family’s Growing Petting Zoo is also Therapy for the Owners

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ALVA, OKLAHOMA -- Introductions take a little time on the Bradt Farm west of Alva.

Jerad, JoDe and one year old Braker, sons Braylon and Brickman, they're easy.

But over the past five years the family has also come to include Speed and Blue, Shorty, Igor, Brick, Falcona, and many more animals that aren't too familiar with winter pasture.

Jerad says, "It's kind of a labor of love."

For sixty years the Bradt place was a quiet wheat farm, but there is a story behind the cute faces peering through the fences.

Five years back Jerad was still grieving over the sudden death of his father.

He'd already bought some chickens give them something to do besides play video games.

He gathered all these other animals as a unique kind of therapy.

"I love them," says Jerad.

"It was kind of a coping mechanism," says JoDe of their growing family ark.

There was a time when JoDe was concerned about the mounting, monthly feed bill.

"It grew and grew and grew," she recalls.

Jerad chimes in, "And she said, 'this is ridiculous. We have a petting zoo.'"

When the zoo comment came up something clicked.

"Sometimes you have to make your own fun," laughs JoDe

Two years ago they finally opened their menagerie to the public.

"I call it animal therapy," says Jerad.

More than five thousand people have come through the gate since they opened.

You can ride a registered Longhorn or a camel here, and you can pet all the animals you want.

"It's always growing," he says. "A constant work in progress."

The Bradt's still have a lot of wheat to cultivate, but Jerad and family like knowing they can help others feel better too.

Jerad says, "I always tell people, if you can't come out and hug a miniature donkey to cheer you up for the day you must really be having a bad day."

For more information on the Bradt's menagerie go to http://www.bradtsmenagerie.com