People own pets that come in many species, sizes and shapes. There is one thing pet owners often have in common. Their pets are more than just animals; they are part of the family.
That holds true for two Perry families.
Nine pet members of Jenny Pierce’s family include fish, cats, a rabbit and a dog.
Michael and Nancy Abbott’s immediate family includes four chocolate Labradors.
The biggest pet-lover in Jenny’s family, besides herself, is her oldest daughter Katie, 17, who will be a senior this fall. The pets are cats Romeo, Juliette and Bella; three Beta fish — Fletcher, Colton and pip/squeak; one bottom feeder fish named Lyuperd; one Labrador-blue heeler mix, Quincy; and one rabbit, Bun Buns.
“I set my foot down at birds and snakes. No birds or snakes in my house,” Jenny says with a shake of her head.
Some of the fish and one of the cats belong to other members of the family — Katie’s brother Dalton and her younger sisters Emma and Parker. And although ownership may be individualized, they all love and take care of the animals.
“Animals are a huge, important responsibility, and if one of the kids has a pet, it is her or his responsibility to take care of that animal — feed it, brush it, bath it, change the cat litter, see that it gets its medicine,” Jenny says.
Anyone visiting the Pierce household would not catch a scent of the animals that live there with the people.
“We give them baths, brush them, clean the cat litter, take the dog for walks, all of that,” she says. Doing that helps keep the house clean and pet-odor and pet-hair free.
Jenny grew up with pets.
“I had animals all the time I was growing up and always had a dog around. When I was a teenager, my father took up doing magic. My mother wouldn’t let him have birds, so he brought home rabbits,” she remembers.
When she was a teenager her father had eight rabbits in the house.
“Beatrice and Benny were his white magic rabbits,” she says.
Katie remembers her first “pet” from when she was just a toddler. It was a toad she discovered in her backyard. She never brought it into the house, but she would go outside, call it and find it, and the toad would come to her.
“I would hold it and pet it. Sometimes it would pee on me,” she says with a laugh.
Jenny says she went for about five years as an adult without any pets because of where she and the children lived. But then they moved into their house in Perry and it became a possibility again. Katie got Quincy a few years ago. He’ll be 4 years old in October.
“I take him everywhere I go that I can take him,” Katie says. “He’s my friend, and I think of him like a son.”
She walks him in the morning, when she gets home from school, and he is with her much of the evening. He also goes to Jenny’s folks’ place in the country during the day.
“We didn’t think it was fair to leave him kenneled all day,” says Jenny. “He stays with my parents, Peg and Dick Wilcox.”
Before her mother allowed her to get Quincy, Katie had to promise she would take care of the dog, pay attention to him and love him.
Katie also is the owner of the resident rabbit. Although officially named Timber, everyone calls him Bun Buns, Jenny explains as she cradles the rabbit in her arms.
Bun Buns has been in the family for just three months. He’s calm, cool and collected, a far cry from the first rabbit that graced the Pierce home.
The first rabbit was given to the family by someone who couldn’t keep it any more. It was a black rabbit with a very strong personality.
“It chewed on the wires and chased the kids. When it chased Parker into her room, we decided it was time for the rabbit to go,” Jenny says.
They put information on Facebook that they wanted to find a better home for the rabbit. They found out another person they know had a rabbit that they would trade them for the black rabbit.
“It’s worked out great,” Jenny says.
In addition to the rabbit, Katie lays claim to one of the Beta fish and two of the cats.
“The rabbits are the easiest to take care of. You just feed them some vegetables and rabbit food pellets and keep their cage clean,” she says.
Jenny gives the rabbit a bath and a blow dry once a week.
“Katie’s my animal whisperer. All the animals just love her,” Jenny says.
Working dogs are pets and family members too
Michael Abbott has had dogs around him nearly all his life.
“I went hunting with my grandfather and my father. My grandfather always had a kennel with four or five hunting dogs. He also had coon dogs for raccoon hunting,” Abbott says.
But Danger, a Labrador retriever, was his grandfather’s best dog.
So, after being without a dog for a while, and getting to a point in his life where he could afford a well-bred Labrador retriever, Abbott bought a puppy that is now his oldest of four chocolate Labs.
He named the pup Danger after his grandfather’s dog. Abbott and wife, Nancy, have since bought a female and kept two pups out of the litter. The female is Sweet Pea and the two males are Blue and Milo.
“Milo is named after another one of my grandfather’s dogs,” he says.
Of all the dogs, which all hunt, Danger is his closest buddy.
“Danger goes to work with him every day. He takes him everywhere,” says Nancy. “All the customers who come into work know Danger.”
He’s the resident dog at American Concrete, which Michael manages spring through late fall each year.
“When he first got Danger, he was just going to be a hunting dog so that he would be a great hunting dog,” Nancy says. “But the kids were all over him from the time Michael brought Danger home.”
Michael spent several hours a day training the dog for bird hunting.
“Michael would come home and if there was any daylight left he was out in the yard with the dog,” she remembers.
Danger, who is now 10 years old, has slowed down some, Michael says, but he is still a great hunter.
“I just can’t keep him out hunting as long,” he says.
Nancy notes that Danger is more than just a pet; he is a companion for Michael.
“My husband doesn’t look like a softy, but he is with his pets,” she says.
For Nancy, Danger and the other dogs are great company and good protection.
“The dogs let me know when there is someone here. They bark one way when it is someone they know and another way when it is someone they don’t know. I feel safer with them here,” she says.
Consider the cost, the space and the time
Both families say there is a lot to consider when deciding whether to get a pet.
A couple of the big questions to consider is how much a specific type of pet will cost and whether a person’s current living arrangements are adequate for the animal.
The cost is not only the amount of money to purchase the pet, but to care for the pet. Michael and Nancy paid $850 for Danger. Each month they purchase a combination wormer and flea protection medicine. In the summer they give the dog heart worm medicine.
And that doesn’t include any illness that might come up. Danger came down with heart worms and had to have special treatments with no guarantee that he would even make it through the treatment, which involved an arsenic-based medication.
Jenny talks about the “$1,000 cat” they took in as a stray. It was sick and needed medical attention, she says.
According to the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website www.aspca.org, the first-year cost of owning a pet is approximately the following:
- Large dog: $1,843
- Medium dog: $1,580
- Small dog: $1,314
- Cat: $1,035
- Rabbit: $1,055
- Guinea pig: $705
- Small mammal: $340
- Small bird: $270
- Fish: $235
These estimates include items such as neutering or spaying, food, vaccinations and equipment that pertain to each of the pets noted.
One of the most important questions both families say people should ask themselves is whether they have time for a pet.
“You don’t want to get a pet and then just have it sit in a cage with no attention,” Jenny says.