The Amazing Pets of Aloha


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Photo Credit: Rachel Omnes

Brooke Wachter

Most people have pets, the more common ones being dogs, cats, mice, fish, and hamsters. However, there are more choices than most people realize. Many of my friends know me as the exotic pet owner. My father has a great love for strange pets and I am fortunate enough to have had those traits passed on to me. Thinking about this got me curious. What kinds of unusual pets do other AHS students have? We asked students the following questions:

  1. What kind of pet do you have?
  2. Are there exotic pets that you don’t have in your care anymore?
  3. What’s different from having an “exotic” pet and a “normal “one?
  4.  How do people react to your pet(s)?
  5. Would you recommend to people considering owning the same type of pet as yours/any exotic pets to anyone else? Why is that?

Tina Erhardt, Grade 11

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Erhardt’s pet lovebird. (Photo: Tina Erhardt)

  1. “I have a peach face lovebird, a pied lutino lovebird, and a black lab mix.”
  2. “We owned a bearded dragon for about 5 years.”
  3. “”Weird” pets usually need a lot more work than non-weird pets. Not many people have them, and they’re usually way outside of their natural ecosystem (e.g., owning a lizard, which is accustomed to deserts, in rainy, cold Oregon.) A good rule of thumb is if you need to go to a specialized veterinarian for a normal check up, you have a ‘weird’ pet.”
  4.  “Most people are scared of our dog since she has a habit of barking at anything that moves. A lot of people are scared of our birds as well, which is kind of weird considering they’re like, five inches tall. I think the beak and talons and screaming scare people off. After people stop being afraid of them, or when they don’t have to hold them or see them in person, people get very curious. A lot of people see them as cute, and like to see videos or pictures of them.”
  5.  “Birds, especially lovebirds, can be absolutely wonderful companions. They’re very affectionate and smart. But no one should get a bird without knowing how hard they are to take care of. Birds need at least six hours of socialization time a day. Of course, an easy way to get around this is to buy two birds, but with this, the birds may become more attached to each other and start to become aggressive to anyone else.“Then we get to the nutrition part of this rant. Parrots cannot live off of a seed diet alone. They need fruit and vegetables to stay healthy. Not only do birds need a varied diet, they also need to be mentally stimulated. This means birds need a lot of toys to play with and time to forage. And, during feeding time, it’s good to make the birds work for their food. Remember, birds metabolisms are stupidly fast, so always keep a source of food and water in the cage at all times.Cage requirements are also very important. Never buy a cage without corners! Rounded cages can disorient the birds and lead to them flying into the walls. It’s also very hard for them to get a grip on the rounded sides, which can lead to sprained ankles which almost never heal correctly. Also, make sure that the cage is big enough for the bird to fully extend its wings. And get a few cuttlebones as well. Birds’ beaks are always growing throughout their lives, so providing them with a place to keep their beaks at the right size is a must. If you don’t do this, the beak will keep on growing to the point where it can’t eat anymore.“Birds, because of their small size, cannot sustain injuries. If the bird starts bleeding it can bleed out within an hour. This makes trimming a bird’s wings and talons extremely stressful. Always keep a container of styptic powder handy, even if you decide to take the bird to a vet in order to get their wings and talons trimmed.“This also brings me to the controversial subject of wing-trimming. A lot of people argue that getting the wings clipped is cruel. A lot of these people are not bird owners. Having an unclipped bird in a house full of windows and hard floors is disastrous. It’s way too easy for a bird to fly into walls or windows and get hurt.“Birds are also deviously smart. One of our birds has not only learned how to break out of its own cage, but how to break into its neighbor’s cage as well. As a bird owner, you need to be ready for this and have the patience to properly deal with the behavior.

    Finally, you need to know where the nearest vet is that can deal with birds. Not all veterinarians can treat birds. Because of this, trips to a specialized avian vet are extremely expensive.

    Now I know that this makes birds out to be more trouble than they’re worth, but owning a bird is actually wonderful. Birds are much more caring than any other pet, and taking care of them is extremely gratifying.

    “NEVER GET A BIRD UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO.”

Melissa Shanks, Grade 11

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Shanks’s pet koi. (Photo: Melissa Shanks)

  1. “Koi.”
  2. “No.”
  3. “Koi are similar to goldfish but they tend to live longer and grow larger. Some of the koi I have were originally put in a 20-gallon aquarium, but they eventually outgrew their aquarium they had to be put in the fountain I have in my backyard. Some of the other koi we got we just put straight into the fountain because they would’ve quickly outgrown the aquarium.”
  4. “People are more attracted to them than the normal goldfish that we have living with them. Most people just gaze at koi and say how pretty they are.”
  5. “Yes, because koi aren’t that much more difficult to take care of as goldfish are. They just may need to be put in a large aquarium instead of an average fish bowl because of how big they grow.”

Katie Marquez, Grade 11

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Marquez’s bearded dragon. (Photo: Katie Marquez)

  1. “I have two bearded dragons, a boy and a girl. I also have a dog.”
  2. “No.”
  3. “It’s hard to take care of one and they have special food that sometimes you can’t find at stores.”
  4. “It’s very funny how they get scared when I put my bearded dragons on them.”
  5. “I only recommend it if they have lots of extra time on their hands so that they can take care of it very easily and give him/her lots of love.”

Miranda Montes, Grade 10

  1. “Dogs, aquatic turtles, leopard gecko, cat, cockatiels, and guinea pigs.”
  2. “I’d had to put down a dog six years ago, and then I had a puppy that was one week old, and he passed away five years ago. And my dog that I’d gotten for my 5th birthday, she passed away in front of me in my kitchen six months ago.”
  3. “It’s hard to take care of all these pets by myself because I have to clean them, feed them and give bath them.”
  4. “Adorable types.”
  5. “Yes, because if you like “weird” pets, then I would recommend you to get one.”

Laura Arroyo Garcia, Grade 9

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Grace’s Emydidae turtle (Photo: Laura Arroyo Garcia)

  1. “An Emydidae turtle.”
  2. “I had another turtle, but it died.”
  3. “The difference between having normal pets is that this is an amphibious animal. It’s a very interesting animal that, once it’s in the water, it holds on the front of its nose a small bubble where they keep oxygen. And they are not slow at all.”
  4. “Other people are pretty amazed. Because it’s a turtle it’s not as often seen as much as a tortoise. Since its a small animal it causes like an awe to everyone.”
  5. “Well for the recommending only if you care an awful lot for animals and you’re willing to take care of them in every which way because turtles are pretty sensible animals and can get hurt easily.”

Brooke Wachter, Grade 11

  1. “I own a pet duck named Howard.”
  2. “My family has had three rats, an Egyptian spiny mouse, a bearded dragon, a desert lizard, two millipedes, and two wild-caught mice.”
  3. “The main difference in having an exotic pet would probably be being able to feel different from other people and having tons more interesting stories to talk about.”
     
  4. “People who understand that Howard is named after one of the worst Marvel heroes usually laugh, and other people question why we gave a girl a boy’s name. Other than that, most people freak out and want to meet her.”
  5. “I would recommend a duck if you have a lot of patience and aren’t afraid to get dirty. They need a warm bed indoors for the winter and a big enough backyard to roam around in during the day. Also, be warned, they poop everywhere.“As for my other pets, I would recommend trying to have at least one exotic pet in your lifetime. For starters, rats are very friendly and, contrary to popular belief, they don’t bite. They’re also very smart which makes them very trainable.”

Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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