FILER, Idaho — When Hobie Peterson first learned that his father was a proud owner of a camel, he didn't even flinch.
And when Harold Peterson acquired a zedonk, a buffalo, a kangaroo along with a few more exotic pets, Hobie just rolled with it.
"Nothing would surprise me with him," he said. "So when he first started taking on these animals, it wasn't that unusual."
On July 1, Harold Peterson died after fighting a long battle with multiple sclerosis. The Filer resident grew up ranching and farming in the community with his wife, Jeanette, and two sons, Hal and Hobie. However, it was his soft spot for animals that sparked an interest in taking care of something a little more flamboyant than a cow.
"He grew up on a farm and that's where he raised and ran horses," Hobie said. "When he couldn't do that anymore, he switched his race horses and rodeo stock to exotic animals."
The interest in the exotic quickly turned into entertaining collection that was impossible to hide. Soon, Harold was showing off his odd menagerie in local parades and county fairs. While out at events, he would use his collection to raise money for Filer High School and local nonprofits.
He also opened up his home for the public to visit his animal collection. It wasn't unusual for schools to stop by for a fieldtrip or for a Boy Scout troop to swing by to snap a photo with Humphrey the camel.
"People loved his exhibits at the fair," said Bonnie Seaman, office manager of the Twin Falls County Fair. "He was well loved by everyone."
But as Harold's health slowly deteriorated, taking care of the animals started to become too much of an arduous chore. So starting close to three years ago, Hobie began helping his parents find new homes for the animals.
They ended up butchering the buffalo but gave the goats to a hired hand, Hobie said. The deer and many of the other animals went to friends or professional animal caregivers.
Finding a new home for the animals wasn't difficult though, he said. Over the years, Harold had made friends and connections across the state and even across the country. This made it easy to find potential new homes for the exotic collection.
For example, close Peterson friend, Shari Hart, briefly took in a young wallaby for several months. The miniature kangaroo was immediately named Wally-B-Roo.
"I knew Harold for years," she said. "So when they asked me if I could take care of this little guy, of course I said yes."
Once Shari adopted Wally, she purchased and designed pouches for it to snuggle in. He would travel with her to community events and draw a small crowd from interested onlookers wanting a peek of the adorable marsupial.
"I can certainly say he was one of the most interesting pets I've ever owned," Shari said. "I eventually had to give him up because he was getting too big for the house. I miss him but he's in a happy place right now."
For others who adopted from Harold's collection, taking on just one animal wasn't an option.
Jana Gould of Buhl is now the proud owner of a camel and a zedonk — a cross between a donkey and a zebra.
"They're a little mean, the zedonk has an attitude and the camel is getting old," she said. "But they grew up together and they can't be separated. They're buddies, so they were a packaged deal."
Janna said she was interested in purchasing the animals but it was her friendship with Harold that sealed the deal.
Harold's Filer house is now sold and Hobie moved his mom, Jeanette, to live closer with him in Nampa. However, the memory of Harold's fun but eccentric animal assortment still lives on.
"My family knew him for years but it seems like everyone knew him one way or the other," Janna said. "He was a great guy. I'm blessed to have known him."
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com