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Read more from the 2017 Young Horse Issue by CLICKING HERE!

By TPH Digital Media Director Stephanie Roloff

It’s good to have idols to look up to, to inspire us, and motivate us to dream bigger. Many people look up to athletes, world leaders, or artists to encourage us to stay focused on our goals. Here at The Plaid Horse, our biggest celebrity crush right now is Fiona the hippopotamus.

What’s so special about this hippo, you may ask, other than being adorable enough to brighten any dreary day. Like a true heroine, Fiona’s story is one of perseverance and tenacity.

Fiona captured America’s heart when we needed her most. After news of the unsettling death of Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla Harambe went viral, animal lovers worldwide were distraught. Cincinnati Zoo’s once well-kept social media went silent for months following Harambe’s death after waves of negative comments from the internet flooded their accounts. Cincinnati Zoo was not feeling the love from much of the community, and many people were hesitant about supporting them again.

Enter Fiona. On January 24th, 17-year-old hippo Bibi gave birth to Fiona. The world couldn’t be more excited, but also held their breath as Fiona was born six weeks early. Born prematurely, Fiona’s health was in critical condition. Weighing 29 lbs, Fiona was half the previous lowest recorded birth weight for her species. After refusing milk, Fiona required an urgent intravenous drip. Helping Fiona became a community effort as the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center stepped in whenever the hippo needed extra hydration.

On social media channels the hashtag #teamfiona formed as people rooted for the baby hippo’s health and survival. The Cincinnati Zoo workers toiled tirelessly in hopes that Fiona’s story would be one of triumph – not tragedy.

As Fiona’s health grew stronger, so did the love of her fans. The Cincinnati Zoo posted Fiona’s victories regularly with videos of her taking a bottle, playing in the pool and learning to run. Millions tuned in to watch. There are even Team Fiona t-shirts, Fiona-themed treats from a Cincinnati bakery, and too much fan mail to keep up with in her very own mail bin at the Zoo.

Fiona’s most heart-warming story of inspiration might be the children’s book “Fiona! The Baby Hippo.” Missy Jones and Karen Jacobs Costello, visually impaired para-educators at the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services, created this book with large text and braille writing for students with visual impairments.

As we continue to watch Fiona learn and grow, The Plaid Horse team is most definitely #teamfiona… we are encouraged to see that this story of great animal husbandry and perseverance capture the hearts of many.

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By Stephanie Roloff – Director of Digital Media, The Plaid Horse

Stephanie Roloff graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and PR Management. Aside from her social media prowess, she has a strong background in journalism, working as both a writer and editor in her time at WWU.  She has a passion for volunteering and non profits, and has spent extensive time volunteering with the YWCA of Washington, her most recent focus being PR and organization for the 23rd annual Women of Achievement Gala.