A mutual love for animals — and the desire to date on a budget — started Jennifer and Josh White on a journey that brought them 1,500 miles to Rolling Hills Zoo.

A mutual love for animals — and the desire to date on a budget — started Jennifer and Josh White on a journey that brought them 1,500 miles to Rolling Hills Zoo.

The San Diego couple regularly visited the San Diego Zoo, where they fell in love with Clyde, a 36-year-old male Sumatran orangutan. In early summer 2011, after the couple had spent almost three years regularly visiting Clyde, they learned he had been transferred to Rolling Hills, The Salina Journal reports (http://bit.ly/14KMWPR).

"I promised right there — we sat down at the little table with our Coca-Cola — and I promised him that we would come out to see Clyde," Jennifer said.

And she kept her promise.

Jennifer, Josh and Clyde were reunited this month, approximately two years after their last interaction. The couple watched as zookeeper Debbie Zerbe fed grapes to Clyde and his companion Rusa through the enclosure fence.

"He does seem really happy," Jennifer said. "Look at that face."

Clyde was transferred to Rolling Hills after the zoo's previous male orangutan, Robbie, was moved to St. Louis. Clyde seems happy and enjoys living with Rusa, Zerbe said.

"They are very, very compatible," Zerbe said. "They spend a lot of time together, which isn't common. Orangutans are usually solitary animals."

Josh said he was happy that Clyde appeared to be doing well, and that he had made a new friend.

"It's so nice to see him," Josh said. "He's so happy and he's got a girlfriend. That makes me really happy."

Clyde had been a part of Jennifer and Josh's lives since they started dating approximately four and a half years ago.

"Our first date was to the zoo," Jennifer said. "We would just go and watch him. There was a bench across from him, and we'd have picnics there and he'd entertain us. He'd put boxes on his head and stuff like that."

After their first date, the couple, who had season passes, continued to spend time at the zoo.

"Probably 90 percent of our dates were at the zoo," Jennifer said. "We didn't have a lot of money, so it was something we could do."

Clyde was always a top priority on their visits.

"He was our first stop," Josh said. "We'd go see him, and he'd make our day better."

Clyde's transfer to Rolling Hills came as a surprise, Jennifer said. He was not always outside when they visited the zoo, so it took them a while to realize he was no longer living at the zoo.

"We went to the zoo four to five times before we heard that he'd moved," Jennifer said. "When we heard, I cried. I was so sad."

Jennifer was initially concerned about Clyde's well-being after he was transferred, but she feels confident that he is being well taken care of at Rolling Hills.

"I was a little worried when I heard he was moving, because you just never know. But I got online and looked, and saw that it's a really nice place," Jennifer said. "We've been to a lot of zoos, and this one is really nice."

The couple felt like they never got to say goodbye to Clyde in San Diego. This trip is an opportunity to say goodbye, although they hope it is not forever, they said.

"It's goodbye for now, but we would love to come back as well," Jennifer said. "Especially if they have kids."

Offspring are not out of the question for Clyde and Rusa, although Rusa, who is 33 years old, is nearing the end of her reproductive period, Zerbe said.

Jennifer and Josh continue to visit the San Diego Zoo about once a month, and they have more favorite animals, including a jaguar named Orson and a young gorilla nicknamed "Frank the Tank."

The couple exchanged wedding vows at the San Diego Zoo last New Year's Eve, and their Russian honeymoon included stops at zoos in Moscow and Helsinki.

At Rolling Hills, the couple appreciated how employees and patrons have welcomed and cared for their beloved orangutan.

"It's nice to see other people get attached to animals the way that we do," Jennifer said. "Orangutans have a way of connecting with people because they are so similar. Especially with Clyde. He's so big, and yet so sweet."