by Cortney Scott
“Hurry, grab that box I think he went underneath the pallets!” I yelled as we tried to catch the escaped rat. My brother and I had now been chasing this pesky rodent for about an hour. When being a pet store owner you deal with many sneaky animals. Not to mention sometimes it’s under some not so fun circumstances. One may think it’s an everyday, ordinary job, but many people don’t realize what can happen behind the scenes.
The rodents were probably the animals we dealt with most frequently. From mice and rats to guinea pigs and ferrets. When dealing with rodents there are many things that can happen. One time I was bit by a rat that latched on to my finger and bit down as hard as he could, while I’m whaling my arm around trying to set my poor finger free. After this incident occurred I was extremely cautious when dealing with any of the rodents.
Another thing to remember when dealing with rodents is that they are escape artists. No matter how many latches you have on the cage or how many bricks you pile on top of the lid there will always be some rodents that find a way out. One day I came into work on what I thought was a completely normal day and started in with my morning routine. I was going around feeding and watering everyone when I noticed there was a lid propped up on one of the hamster cages and it was empty. I took about two hours trying to find any trace that this chubby little creature could have left. After giving up on the hunt I decide to take a little bathroom break. As I open the bathroom door something catches my eye in the toilet. I turn to look inside the toilet and there’s my chubby little hamster floating belly up. Poor little guy must have wanted a midnight drink and leaned over the side too far, fell in and then couldn’t get back out. This is just one of the MANY escaped rodent stories.
Another category of animals we dealt with daily were the reptiles, which normally included some green anoles, geckos, chameleons, snakes, tadpoles, and some tree frogs. First off I’ll start by letting you know that those little green anoles are the fastest little boogers you will ever chase, especially if they escape when trying to catch one. One time a green anole snuck out of the lid and jumped between and behind all of the lizard merchandise, causing me to have to remove everything to find the sneaky little bastard. This little incident was very embarrassing because a customer had asked to purchase the Green Anole that I was now searching frantically for and was standing behind me the whole time watching what must have been a great show (And yes I finally ended up catching the lizard).
There have also been a few times when we have special ordered some different types of lizards not really knowing much about them. Once we ordered this stunning bright tokey gecko because of its astonishing colors. Totally unaware that they are one of the meanest kinds of geckos. Well when we received this “beautiful creature” it was in a mesh bag and my job was to transfer the little fella from the mesh bag into his new home. Couldn’t be too hard right? WRONG!
So I open up this bag to find this lizard giving me a death stare with his mouth wide open while hissing at me. Well this should be interesting I’m thinking to myself. Not to mention I was the only one working that day so even if I needed help there was no one there to assist me with this aggravated lizard. Well you’re still probably thinking that it couldn’t have been that hard just to turn the bag upside down and dump him into the glass aquarium. Well I attempted this but when I turned the bag upside down the gecko then dug his nails into the mesh bag so I couldn’t set him free. He did this the whole time I tried to get him out. Me, now completely fed up with this ugly, nasty little creature decided he could just stay in the bag inside of the aquarium until he decided to crawl out, which was about 3 hours later.
The hardest animals to deal with would have probably been the birds. I mean, I love birds, and they’re very intelligent and pretty, but man are they messy! Every day at the beginning and end of our shift we would have to vacuum up the floor by the birds and the shelving unit that the bird cages were sitting one. They also liked to poop on the merchandise we were trying to sell which was not cool.
The silliest thing about the birds is that when we received them from the breeding company they were shipped in brown cardboard boxes. Which if you think about it, it’s hard to transfer four birds (all in the same box) to a bird cage without one (or a couple) escaping the box. These birds mainly consisted of parakeets, pinches, and cockatiels. I would have to carefully cut a small square in the box just a little bit bigger then my hand so I could reach inside and grab bird by bird. Also the birds are pretty scared when they first arrive so I make sure to find an extra thick glove to put in in case one decides to latch down on my finger.
For instance there was this one time we received a shipment of four Zebra Finches and if you are at all familiar with finches you’ll know that they’re small and fast little suckers. Well I started out by cutting a square in the box very carefully and grad grab onto on of the birds. As I’m slowly pulling one of the Finches out of the box two of the other finches manage to escape through the small gab between my hand and the box. I hollered at my brother to go grab the 6-foot net out of the backroom. After about an hour we finally capture the feisty finch and paced her safely in her temporary home.
We also special ordered animals that we didn’t carry on hand for people that wanted them. One animal that stuck in my mind the most was this disgusting tarantula. To start off I can deal with just about any animal from snakes to scorpions, but I am terrified of spiders. Well one day a gentleman came in and wanted some information on ordering a tarantula so my brother helped him find the one he wanted and the order sent out. After the man leaves I go over to my brother and ask him what they were talking about and he gets a smirk on his face and says “Well I just ordered that guy a freakin' tarantula!” I just stare at him for a second and I glance over at the calendar to make sure I don’t open that day, and sure as shit I did! So I beg my brother to open for me that day because there is no way I can handle that nasty spider. Thankfully he agreed so I didn’t have to try and fight the spider out of the box and then him attack me!
There are many different jobs out there but I guarantee no other job would have you hunting after escaped animals more than this one did. You deal with so many sneaky animals—it’s crazy. At least I have a bunch of entertaining stories to tell my kids when they get a little older about how mommy ran a pet store.