Our pets can be playmates, they can provide companionship. In fact, pets play such an important role in our lives that there is a slew of special dates and holidays to honor them. Everything from National Black Cat Appreciation Day (pretty self-explanatory) to more serious dates like National Assistance Dog Day (August 4th) and Feeding Pets of the Homeless Week (August 9-15th). Not to mention the pet industry (pets, pet food, pet supplies, even those adorably obnoxious little pet tutus) generates about 50-60 billion dollars annually. Yes, that’s billions.
We definitely love our pets. And today we’re talking to someone who is most definitely no exception to that rule.
Did you ever bring home anything besides a dog or a cat?
I brought home a bird with a broken wing. I brought home a baby squirrel. I can’t even remember how many animals but I know at one point, probably around 5th or 6th grade, I was bringing home an animal every single week.
How many pets do you have at the moment?
We foster pets, mostly dogs and cats, so that answer can vary depending on the day that you ask. But we also have a core group of pets that are our own and always with us. There’s quite a few. Most people are a little freaked out when I tell them. Right now with the dog we’re fostering, there’s about 26 animals.
26. Wow! Yes that is quite a few. What types of animals do you have?
I have 6 dogs and 4 cats. They are always there. And we have a 7th that we’re fostering. Plus we have 2 guinea pigs, 2 dwarf hamsters, 4 birds, 2 snakes, an iguana, and 5 turtles.
How did you wind up with so many pets?
I’m that girl who can’t say no. It’s like, oh my neighbors giving away her turtle do you know anyone who wants it? And I say, sure I’ll take it. Or someone’s dog has a litter of pups, or someone is moving and the have to get rid of their cat. Next thing you know, I’ve got Pet Smart in my family room.
Speaking of which, having all those animals must cost a lot in food and other things that pets need?
It started out where I’d be spending about $50 a month on dog food and $30 on cat food. The birds who were here first (before the other smaller animals) don’t eat a whole lot. But then the pups were getting bigger, and we got another cat. And then the rodents… I feed them what regular food I can, like the guinea pigs eat carrots and lettuce (not iceberg though- you shouldn’t feed guinea pigs and hamsters iceberg lettuce). But bottom line is, even with all the saving I can do, pet food runs me a lot. Plus the dogs need their heart worm medicine, and the guinea pig needs this and that and vet visits and everything, it really adds up. I’m an excellent saver and use coupons, and it still runs me about $200 a month to care for them all. And that is good for that number of animals.
So, why have so many? Why have 6 dogs instead of 1? or 5 turtles instead of 1 or 2?
You know like I said, I’m not really one to say no when it comes to animals. Even if I say okay this is just temporary, or sure I can hold on to your cat for a week until you find him a home, it never winds up that way. You get attached. Then how do you let them go. Who stays and who goes? It’s like picking which kid to get rid of.
Okay, I get that. I get the bonding with the cats and the dogs and such, but what about the hamsters, or better yet, the turtles. Is there a bonding that takes place between you and the turtles?
As far as that goes, it’s more because my kids like them. And we keep the tank going and it’s like its own little ecosystem. I use it to teach them stuff. They learn about their habitat and what they eat, how they live, etc. Animals are great teachers!
So, your kids like having so many pets?
Oh yeah. They don’t always like having to feed them or clean up after them but they love them all. Plus we have 3 horses that don’t live with us, they are stabled about 3 miles from our house. So, they have to take turns feeding and taking them out. I forgot to count the stable fees too. Luckily we do a work exchange and pay half of what it normally costs to stable 3 horses. My daughter is just like I was at her age (10). She talks to them, and really spends time with them, studying them, learning about them. She actually wants to be a vet now.
That seems like it would have been a career for you. Had you ever considered it?
It crossed my mind. I volunteered at a vets office when I was younger. I still volunteer at the animal shelter. Life happens though. I didn’t have a chance to go to school until I was in my 30’s. I went for nursing. I just didn’t have 8 years to invest. I do my part with the animals and I let the vet handle the things that are beyond my expertise.