She meant it as a joke, part of her mid-life crisis.
“One of the girls texted me saying, ‘Hey, if you’re serious, I can put you in touch with someone,'” Dobell, 33, said.
About two months later, Norris entered her life. He came from a petting zoo in Washington. The owner wanted to return the two year old.
Her sister suggested the name because the black stripes reminded her of artist and actor Chuck Norris’s many black belts.
Norris arrives on March 17 at Flying M Ranch and Horses, where Doppel breeds barrel horses for rodeos. Since then, drivers have stopped on Machias Cutoff Road to see the amazing black and white animal. It’s vibrant pop against the green farmland of rural Snohomish County.
“It’s a big attraction,” Doppel said.
Norris even has his own Instagram account, @norristhezebra. It’s the latest addition to Doppel’s pet collection that includes Vroom Vroom, baby cow, Churro the mini donkey and Billy Bob the cat.
Dobble said the horses were wary at first, but warmed up to Norris.
“They didn’t know what it was, they weren’t a big fan of it,” she said. “For the most part it is really well integrated. I have a mare with a child who thinks he is out to get her.”
“She loves it,” said the little cow.
Doppel grew up in Snohomish and has been working with horses since she was seven years old. She applies her knowledge of horses to work with zebras. But there are differences.
“It’s wild by nature,” she said. “You have to make sure you handle it really well.”
Doppel did a lot of research before Norris arrived. A ranch in Texas gave her her advice: Give your zebra ample space, and make sure he has companionship. In Flying M Ranch and Horses, Norris will have about an acre to roam with lots of friends.
Zebras live in herds in the wild and should be kept with other animals, said Louie Gaines, a veterinarian who specializes in large animal medicine at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“It’s never good to have them on their own,” she said.
If you’re considering adopting your own zebra, Guinness said, it’s important to remember that they will still be feral.
“They will never be domesticated to the same level as a horse,” she said. “They will naturally return to their wild nature.”
Zebras, which live in southern and eastern Africa, can live up to 40 years in captivity.
Some people train and ride zebras. There are zebra races at Emerald Downs in Auburn. Norris has no plans to enter.
“I just want him to be a happy zebra and live his life,” Dobell said.
Zebras are aggressive in the wild because they have to defend against predators, but Dobble described Norris’ personality as “really friendly and gentle.”
“He grew up around people his whole life,” she said. “He’s very curious and really wants to be around people.”
Debbie Zenz, director of Snohomish County Animal Services, said that neither she nor the staff could recall another county zebra. The county only licenses pets, such as dogs and cats.
There are no state laws that prohibit keeping zebras as pets, according to the state Department of Agriculture. A spokesperson for zebras said as a type of horse, you need a veterinary examination certificate.
A Monroe vet agreed to take on Norris as a client.
About two months later, Dobell said Norris had coped well.
“He’s honestly kind of a boy now,” she said.