One of our guests

Dudley is back at the Hotel Animalia. He’s a blue-fronted Amazon, and a regular boarder at the store. He gets along well with Jack, and really loves Jack’s outdoor cage.

Dudley’s a gorgeous bird, friendly with Jack, but not so friendly with people. He’s bitten David once or twice; if customers are interested in petting him, he warns them off in no uncertain terms.

So why have a bird like this? Well, because most of the time a bird like Dudley is with his family, the people he’s bonded to. In his home he’s probably quite different, in part because he’s much more relaxed. When he’s boarding with us, he’s in a new place, surrounded by unfamiliar people. Some of those people have no experience with birds and don’t know how to approach them. He’s on his guard.

Dudley is a very good boarder; he doesn’t kick up a fuss about everything, he doesn’t attack strangers or pine for his people. He eats and takes an interest in his surroundings, and while he’s not the easiest bird for a stranger to deal with, he lets David put him away at night in his cage.

A few years ago we boarded an African Grey named Cato. We liked Cato, and he seemed all right with us. One day, however, he did something that made me think he was probably smarter than I gave him credit for. We had a customer in the store who was afraid of birds. She was at the cash register paying for her purchase when she noticed Cato sitting on Jack’s perch in the middle of the store.

“Oh, I’m afraid of birds,” she said. “Will he fly at me?”
“No, he’s never flown at anyone,” I said. In fact, I’d never seen Cato take wing at all.

You can guess what happened, of course. Cato immediately did a perfect flight right over her head, just brushing her hair, and slid to a stop on the counter. I thought I was going to have to call 911 for the poor woman.

I bet people hotels don’t have to put up with stuff like that!

Lights! Camera! Action!…

…is exactly what they don’t shout on a movie set. Yes, we heard “action!”, but mostly the warning was “Picture’s up!”, then “Rolling!”

Tuesday the crew of Foxfire, the movie being shot in Sault Ste Marie, came around with a cube van to pick up the hamsters, rats, fish and birds to be installed in the 1950s pet store set. Tuesday evening after work David and I went down to make sure everyone was set up, fed and watered for the night. Wednesday David took the iguana down. (Jack, unfortunately, was going to be way too noisy. No stardom for him!) Here, however, is David next to Tim Hewitt, a Sault Ste Marie actor playing the pet store owner. (Originally Hewitt’s character was going to wear suspenders!)

David was slated to spend the whole day on set, on call to do anything that needed to be done with the animals. I went along because – well, partly because if I hadn’t, this blog post would consist of “It was interesting”.

And it was interesting. As well as our animals, there were dogs, brought in by T.A.A.G.. Whatever the animal was – hamster, puppy, bird, iguana, there was oooohing and aaaahing over it. I was greatly amused to see Katrina Saville taking pictures of the hamsters with her cell phone. Here’s a script supervisor working with an award-winning director, and she’s getting all mushy over some admittedly quite cute little rodents! It just goes to show you – most people love animals.

The animals were well looked after. The crew might be sweltering, the actors might be sweltering, but the animals had air conditioning all day. The dogs were moved into the set for a shoot and moved right back out when the scene was done. If the way the critters were treated on this set is any indication of the industry standard, then the standard is good.

It was a long day for everyone, and by the time we were able to take the animals back to the store it was almost seven o’clock. They were none the worse for wear except that one or two fish died. Even with the air conditioning on in the “store” set, I’m astonished we lost no more than that.

So there’s show business for you. “Foxfire” will be coming out in 2012. We have two budgies and a bunch of finches, hamsters and rats who are now experienced in looking cute for the camera. Wait a minute – they knew how to do that before!

Jack will be impossible to live with….

As though his ego weren’t big enough already, Jack is going to be one of the animals, birds and fish featured in Foxfire, the new movie being filmed in Sault Ste Marie. You can find the story here.

The film company called David last week to ask if he’d be willing to supply animals for a shot of a 1950s pet store for the movie. He’ll be taking birds, fish and some furry critters down to the set and staying around for the shoot to make sure the animals are all well cared-for and properly set up.

The movies is based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. When it comes to the Sault, we’ll definitely see it. Jack won’t be able to see it on the big screen; we’ll just have to rent the DVD for him to watch.

I guess I’ll have to make him popcorn, too.

The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated

The other day David was putting gas into his truck when he met a former customer. She told him that she’d heard from someone that Animalia has closed.


It’s not true – we’re still in business. We just moved from the Zellers Plaza to 601 Second Line East. We’re between Tim Horton’s and the fitness centre, across from Arrow Home Hardware.

We’re still in the phone book; all they’d have to do is call to find out that we’re here. Yes, we moved, but for the month prior to our move we handed out our new address and coupons for a discount at the new store. We have huge signs on the building. Second Line and Great Northern Avenue is the busiest intersection in the city. Apparently 40,000 vehicles go through that intersection every day, and about half of them go past us.

It beats me why anyone would say we’ve closed, but apparently someone has got it into their head that we have, and is passing the information around. I hope it’s just a mistake, and not malice.

For the record, we’re still here.

601 Second Line East



Baby hamsters

These baby Roborovsky (robo) hamsters were born this afternoon. Robo hamsters are the smallest hamsters in the world.

They’ll be ready for new homes in the first week of July.

Spring is sprung

Most people open the cottage on the Victoria Day weekend. Jack, however, is getting a head start. David has put up a spacious outdoor cage, which Jack can get to through the side window above his sleeping cage. We don’t know if Lily will like this new “cottage”, but we know Jack’s happy with it.

This month you’ll notice some fencing going up at the back of the store. We’re putting the koi ponds and pond plants outside this year, where they’ll benefit from the sun. Koi develop brighter colours in outdoor ponds, even without specialized feed. We’ve noticed that the yellowish hi utsuri we took home last fall has become quite bright.

At the moment we have four large koi, but we’ll be bringing the smaller ones in from their winter quarters¬† as soon as the outdoor pond is set up at the store.¬† We’re pretty sure, by the way, that the large white doitsu with the mirror scales down the back, the one at the top of the picture, is a female.

On June third we’ll have brand new koi. We’re hoping to get them from Gord at Koi Koi Koi, but we’ll have to see what he has, as he’s moving and has had to cut back on stock for this year only.

For those of you who’d like to hear more humourous stories from the pet store, check out Elizabeth’s new blog, North by NorthEast, at Pet Product News.

Fish order today

We’ve found a second fish supplier, and there’s an order arriving today. No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke.

We have salt water fish on the order. We’re expecting domino, yellowtail blue and green lyretail damsels. You might know those last as green chromis. We also have a volitans lion coming, and several kinds of shrimp.

We haven’t had mudskippers for quite a while, but we’re getting them today. These odd little guys spend a lot of time out of the water, and are brackish-water creatures rather than marine ones. Pop by and have a look at them.

In freshwater, we have show guppies, catfish of several kinds, including the farlowella , and assorted African cichlids. We’re also expecting hermit crabs and spiny mice! I have to wait for David to get pictures to me before I post them, but they’re coming this weekend.

It’s also coming up to pond season, so we’re bringing in more goldfish, including Chinese black moors, calico telescope eyes, and the bubble-eyed goldfish.

A couple of years ago David told me that a woman had asked him, “Are those bubbles under the fish’s eyes their lungs? If you poked them with a pin and burst them, would the fish drown?”

No, and no. But they look pretty cool in your pond.

Jailbreak snake

There’s a reason “Houdini” is the most popular name for ball pythons; ball pythons are escape artists par excellence. We don’t have pythons in the store – they’re against the city bylaws – but we found out that other snakes can be just as dedicated at getting out and disappearing from view.

A banded California king snake, locked into a glass terrarium, simply vanished. The terrarium lid was clipped on, the doors closed, latched and locked. David and Victoria looked up along the top edge of the terrarium (where snakes like to lurk) and under the water bowl, and even sifted through the mulch bedding with their hands. Nothing. Nada. Zip, Zilch. The snake was gone – poof! – vanished. It had crawled into a hole and pulled the hole in after it.

Forty-eight hours later, there it was, back in the terrarium, which was still closed, latched, locked and clipped.

Where had it gone? Nobody knows. I would like to be able to report that when it returned, it brought ballpoint pens, car keys and odd socks with it. I mean, it obviously disappeared somewhere, and the black hole that swallows socks and keys and pens seems the obvious choice. Alas, no pens. No socks. But the snake came back, and that’s the main thing.

Its new owner picked it up the same day.

I don’t know if he’s named it Houdini.

You could call it eco-effort

Plastic is the Big Bad these days. If Columbus had brought his lunch in a plastic bag in 1492, it would only now be decomposing.

The other kind of plastic is, of course, the debit and credit cards we have all learned to rely on. Debit cards at least have the advantage of taking money straight out of your account, so you know you’ve spent it. You can overdo it, but there’ll be no nasty surprise at the end of the month – no, your nasty surprise will come much, much sooner!

At Animalia, we’re now offering a 10% discount for all purchases made in cash. Yes, we have ulterior motives; whether or not consumers realise it, retailers pay a price for taking debit and credit cards. We’d like to cut our costs, and help you cut yours a bit at the same time.

All right, it doesn’t take any actual plastic out of circulation. To do that, we’d like to suggest that those of you who feed crickets or mice to your critters invest in a reuseable container. A coffee can will work for mice – just punch a few holes in the lid. For crickets, bring a cricket keeper or a plastic bin. We’ll give you five cents of any hopper or adult mouse you buy if you bring your own container, and five cents off any cricket purchase.

And that does help keep plastic out of the landfills.

As the Bird Yearns…

As we return to our story, Jack’s ongoing courtship of Lily meets with a small success.

Today Jack called on Lily at her cage. He knocked at the door.
“Hello?” he said.
He entered; perhaps not the wisest move. Lily screamed at him. “AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!”
Jack screamed back. Lily screamed louder. There was much flapping of wings.

Except for the words, and the tune, and the orchestral accompaniment, it was just like a rendition of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, cockatoo-style.

Strong men blanched. Women fainted. Bats fell out of the rafters. Telephones rang unheard. Neighbours called the police. All right, I’m exaggerating about the neighbours.

Eventually Jack retreated to the top perch in the cage, while Lily sat on the floor of the cage and muttered to herself.

Is she relenting? Or just ignoring him and hoping he’ll go away?

Tune in to our next episode…

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