LAKE STEVENS — In January, Monica Doppel posted her New Year’s resolution on Facebook: “Get a zebra.”
She meant it as a joke, part of her mid-life crisis.
“A gal messaged me and said, ‘Hey if you’re serious, I can put you in touch with somebody,’” said Doppel, 33.
About two months later, Norris entered her life. He came from a petting zoo in Washington. The owner wanted to rehome the two-year-old.
Her sister suggested the name because the black stripes reminded her of martial artist and actor Chuck Norris’ many black belts.
Norris arrived March 17 at Flying M Ranch and Horses, where Doppel raises barrel horses for rodeos. Since then, drivers on Machias Cutoff Road have pulled over to see the striking black-and-white animal. He’s a vibrant pop against the green farmland of rural Snohomish County.
“He’s quite the attraction,” Doppel said.
Norris even has his own Instagram account, @norristhezebra. He’s the latest addition to Doppel’s menagerie of pets that includes Vroom Vroom the mini cow, Churro the mini donkey and Billy Bob the cat.
The horses were wary at first, but warmed up to Norris, Doppel said.
“They didn’t know what he was, they were not a big fan of him,” she said. “For the most part he is integrated really well. I have one mare with a baby who thinks he is out to get them.”
The mini cow “loves him,” she said.
Doppel grew up in Snohomish and has been working with horses since she was seven years old. She is applying her knowledge of horses to working with the zebra. But there are differences.
“They’re naturally wild,” she said. “You have to make sure they’re really well handled.”
Doppel did plenty of research before Norris arrived. A ranch in Texas gave her advice: Give the zebra ample space, and make sure he has company. At Flying M Ranch and Horses, Norris will have about an acre to roam, along with plenty of friends.
Zebras live in herds in the wild and should be kept with other animals, said Louie Genis, a veterinarian who specializes in large animal medicine at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It’s never a good idea to have them on their own,” she said.
If you’re considering adopting your own zebra, it’s important to remember they’ll stay wild, Genis said.
“They never will be domesticated to the same level as a horse,” she said. “They will naturally revert to their wild nature.”
Zebras, native to southern and eastern Africa, can live up to 40 years in captivity.
Some people train and ride zebras. There are zebra races at the Emerald Downs track in Auburn. Norris has no plans to enter.
“I just want him to be a happy zebra and live his life,” Doppel said.
Zebras are aggressive in the wild because they have to defend against predators, but Doppel described Norris’ personality as “friendly and really sweet.”
“He has been raised and been around people his entire life,” she said. “He’s super inquisitive and really wants to be around people.”
Snohomish County Animal Services manager Debby Zins said neither she nor staff could recall another zebra in the county. And the county only licenses domesticated animals, like dogs and cats.
There are no state laws that prohibit keeping zebras as pets, according to the state Department of Agriculture. As an equine species, zebras need a certificate of veterinary inspection, a spokesperson said.
A Monroe veterinarian has agreed to take on Norris as a client.
After almost two months, Doppel said Norris has adapted well.
“He’s honestly kind of one of the boys now,” she said.