John Ball Zoo volunteers Betty Sobel, 75, and Sunny Sjaarda, 78, were at it again this month, but this time with a new trio of animals.

A ferret named Alvin, a female tarantula, and a screech owl made a visit to Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to visit with kids Wednesday afternoon.

“The owl is actually my favorite animal to bring here,” Sobel said.

“Obviously,” Sjaarda said. “I never get to do it.”

The tarantula is commonly the least viewed animal.

“Many children believe they have a fear of spiders or snakes because their parents do, or their parents think their children have a fear of them because they do,” explained Sjaarda. “Tarantulas are beautiful creatures and more than just a spider.”

Sjaarda owned a tarantula for 18 years.

The animals visited many patients that afternoon. Among them was Comstock Park, Michigan, resident Julian Baker, who is being treated for a seizure that occurred the night before.

“You’re just about the right age to have a ferret,” Sjaarda said.

“I’m 10,” Julian replied.

“Perfect!” she said. “They are so much fun.”

Before Sjaarda and Sobel can visit the hospital, they have to go to the red barn at John Ball Zoo and put the animals in their carriers to transport them to the hospital.

“This is Alvin,” Sjaarda said as she pulled him out of his crate. “He’s been with us quite a while and he’s had surgeries and he’s going to hang on with us as long as we’ll let him. And he stinks terribly.”

The two then carry the animals out to their car, place them in their truck and are on their merry way.