I’m usually not a fan of pet stores. They are dangerously heart-breaking places for me. I have to purposefully avoid the pet stores in places like malls that usually sell puppies or kittens not from shelters. Unless the cages they are in take up most of the store, they’re too cramped, too small, to horrific for me to deal with. Standing there and watching little pups and kittens laying with dull eyes in a space just marginally wide enough for them to lay down and sit up? Not my idea of a good time, thank you. No.
There are a few pet stores that I will make an exception to the rule. They tend to deal more in pet supplies and grooming than the actual trade of animals themselves. They might have hamsters, rats, lizards or snakes. But kittens and puppies? They’ll only be in from the shelter’s on Sunday or Wednesdays, they’ll say–and I smile because at least they’re trying. Far better than the pet stores I’ve had nightmares about described above.
And then I met a store called Incredible pets.
We had a wary relationship at first.
I’d heard some pretty horrific stories about some places that sold exotic birds, lizards, snakes, rodents and other unusual pets outside of the standard. When I first approached the stores old location, its worn green plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex fully battered by the Florida heat; I narrowed my eyes at its doors in my best Clint Eastwood impression. (Which is AWESOME by the way because I am AWESOME and stop staring at me like that it’s true!) I approached it with Shawn and passed through darkened doors to the surprisingly barely air-conditioned store.
My opinion has softened, some what. But I think it had more to do with the fact there are birds, Degus, skunks, sugar gliders, flying squirrels, hedge hogs, hamsters, snakes, fish, rabbits and any other assortment of OH MY GOD CUTE everywhere.
While I might not be a fan of some of their business practices, I can see that they genuinely try to care. They’re educated–all you have to do is ask them a question about the animals they have in store and they answer with that genuine sort of note that speaks of having at least, owned an animal or two. There’s no five seconds of blank looks while they dig through their brains for the memorized script they were told to tell customers. The people that work there work hard. The store has birds there that aren’t for sale because they’ve been adopted. People brought in parrots they didn’t want, the store took them and gave them a forever-home.
Though I have to admit my opinion of them finally turned completely on the day I walked by a cage of cockatiels. They were all listed as $25 each. The price is what caught me at first. I’d never seen a cockatiel in a pet store priced for so little so in all honesty I did a double-take and then stopped to seek if there were deformities. Surely, for $25 there was a catch, right? They’d have part of their beak missing or maybe mangled feet or perhaps they were bald and or prone to plucking.
I saw a cage full of beautiful little babies, feathers in tact, eyes bright and beady, tail feathers clean and with crests half up in semi-excuse me big fat featherless bird wtf r u doin’ outside our cage? When I called Shawn over, even he was amazed and couldn’t figure out why they’d end up so cheap. When we asked about them, we were told they were so inexpensive because they were breeder birds.
Breeder birds, as you can imagine, are for…well…breeding. Trying to research what, exactly their lifestyles usually are and how they are treated comes back varied. Some birds used for breeding are spoiled feather heads. They have roomy cages and are well taken care of by people who understand the bird. Others…not-so-much. They get thrown in a cage in hopes they breed, lay eggs, and make more cockatiels for profit.
When I stopped by the cage one lone little bird seemed relatively curious when the rest leaned away. After a bit of sweet-talking, he hopped from his perch, climbed the wall and settled atop his water bottle. Once in position he lowered his neck and proceeded to mash the top of his head against the bars. He left it there until I, witless featherless bird I am finally clued in that I should scratch his majesty’s head because isn’t that what my purpose in life was?
Seems so. We brought him home that day and put him in his own cage, quarantining him for a few days away from our other cockatiel, Nugget, ensuring that if either of them had any nasty bugs that the other hadn’t yet encountered–they’d be out of their system before the two met. Then, the two cages were slid together. Nugget? Nugget adored Commander Tweeps (whom we just call Tweeps because he’s off duty currently) and sang so much and so long at Tweeps, we thought he might explode.
And because Tweeps spoke and sang with us, exhibiting the same behaviors as a little boy, we moved the two of them together. They fight occasionally but with beaks open, lots of hissing and wings open–they don’t bite each other–they do the warning-dive-I-might-bite. They did it more when they first met and now they might do it once every two or three days. Nugget just wants to sing to Tweeps, impress him and maybe lure him into his boudoir filled with rose scented candles and Barry White music. Tweeps doesn’t yet understand the meaning of all the slow-bass music. He eyes Nugget like he’s that special friend of yours that says the weirdest things at the most odd times but you still hang around with them ’cause you know…They’re still good people.
He’s still a little skittish about fingers. He knows the step-up command now, but tends to nip once and then step up. He’s not crazy about a lot of things and is still afraid of his own shadow. But he’s ours now. He’s home and officially part of the U.S.S. Phaterprise.
Our Away Team of HURRR DURRR is complete.