Leonardo was no ordinary leopard. His parents told him that he was named after a great artist. The name suited him perfectly. What didn’t suit him were his spots.
“I’m bored with spots,” Leonardo complained. “I don’t want to look like every other leopard. I want to stand out in the leap.” By the way, that’s what you call a group of leopards: a leap.
“A leopard can’t change its spots,” Grandpa Growl replied. Leonardo just rolled his eyes. Old cats could be so tiresome.
Leonardo tracked down Savannah, the warthog. She ran a small tailor and furrier business on the edge of the jungle. Savannah outfitted all the animals with customized coats and offered a money back guarantee if they weren’t completely satisfied.
“I want to express my individuality,” Leonardo told her.
“I see,” Savannah replied. “You want to make a bold, dramatic statement, right?”
“Yes, I do!” Leonardo yelped, thrilled to find someone who really understood.
“Nothing is more striking than black and white,” Savannah told the cub, as she zipped up his new striped suit and sent him on his way.
Leonardo was so excited as he raced home he felt like he was going to jump out of his skin. When he got there, the other leopards surrounded him. They eyed him hungrily and licked their chops.
“We’re going to gobble you up, zebra,” said Grandpa Growl, trying not to laugh. The old leopard winked at the others, signaling them to play along.
“It’s me, Leonardo,” the cub told them, thrilled that he had fooled them so thoroughly.
“My grandson, Leonardo, is a leopard,” Grandpa Growl replied. “Leopards have spots. You have black and white stripes, so you must be a zebra. Sorry, but we have to gobble you up.”
“Why?” Leonardo asked.
“It’s our nature,” the old cat told him.
“Fine,” Leonardo yelled angrily. “I’ll go and be with the zebras. They will accept me.” Grandpa Growl shook his head as Leonardo stormed away.
Leonardo joined the zebra herd, intending to mix and mingle. Zebras are pretty snooty, though, and they ignored him. When he tried to wrestle with one of the young colts, like he did with his leopard pals, the mother zebra galloped over and broke it up. Then the herd turned en masse and raced away. Leonardo hung his head and slunk back to see the furrier.
“This one is very popular with the pachyderm crowd,” Savannah told him as she buttoned him into the baggy, wrinkled grey number he tried next.
The leathery hide was thick and hot. Leonardo guessed that was why the elephants sprayed themselves with water at the mud hole. He tried to suck up some water through his fake trunk, but it didn’t work. Leonardo fainted in the heat of the blazing sun and the elephants had to sprinkle him with muddy water to revive him.
Dripping wet and dejected, he trudged back to Savannah’s cave. She told him that the third time is usually the charm as she squeezed him into a tight tube covered with shiny golden scales.
Leonardo found it nearly impossible to wriggle on his belly like the snakes. However, he didn’t have any trouble rolling and tumbled right off the edge of a cliff. Just in the nick of time, the pythons linked themselves together, caught him, and hauled him back up onto solid ground. He shed his snakeskin before he plodded back to see Savannah.
“Let’s try something colorful,” the furrier said to Leonardo as she snapped him into a fur covering with bright red and blue markings on the face.
The baboons seemed very excited to see the newcomer. The chattered and screeched as they surrounded him and began picking at his fur with their fingers, grooming him. Leonardo wriggled and writhed on the ground, howling with laughter as tears streamed from his eyes. Afraid of being tickled to death, he jumped up and ran off.
“Nothing is working,” Leonardo groused.
“Don’t worry,” Savannah told him as she zipped up the shocking pink feathered number he picked out next. “We’ll find your inner animal yet.”
When he waded into the lake, attempting to blend in, the flamingos scattered. Leonardo tried to follow and sank like a stone. Pushing off from the bottom, he came up gasping and flailing his fake pink wings. The flamingos zoomed over and pushed him to shore.
“I’m sorry,” Savannah told the little leopard. “You’ve tried on everything. I don’t have any other styles to show you.”
“Wait,” Leonardo cried, his eyes lighting up. “I know what will work.” After he told her his plan, she eagerly helped him into his final selection.
When Leonardo strutted back into the leap, Grandpa Growl strolled over and looked down at him.
“You were wrong and right, Grandpa,” Leonardo said. “A leopard can change its spots, but it’s a lot easier to just be yourself.”
Grandpa Growl gave Leonardo’s ear a quick lick. Then the two spotted cats headed for their favorite bit of shade and plopped down for a well deserved nap.