I recently had an interesting and insightful conversation with a client who was looking for dental hygiene products for his dog who had just undergone a cleaning. After I showed him a few options, he asked if I had personal experience with any one in particular. I shared that I used all the options which include brushing, chewing products and a solution that can be added to the pet's water that helps remove plaque- all with much success, and that my 13 year old pit bull's teeth were all intact and in great condition. He asked how I ever managed to get my dog to agree to a tooth brushing. I told him that I'd been doing this since she was a pup and she loved anything I did to fuss over her. Armed with this information, he chose a combination of the solution and the treats, since his dog would never sit still for a brushing. He thanked me for being so helpful.
As we walked to the counter we began to talk about other things and he commented that he's been a client for 25 years and that each time he comes to the store with questions about his dog's care he leaves having learned something new. For example, when he decided that his dog was "bored" with his food he went to the grocery store looking for something "more enticing" (and yes, he did use air quotations to emphasize this). He had seen in the commercials that the food was irresistible. His dog, on the other hand, had another opinion altogether. When he finally found a food his dog actually liked, another problem surfaced. He came to us looking for a remedy for excessive scratching and paw licking. He used a good flea control product and never found fleas on the dog. Many questions later all the symptoms indicated that the dog was possibly allergic to the only food he loved. He said he would have never known that dogs can have food allergies just like people. The grocery store was no help. It's not their job to be. The chain pet store was too far away and he wasn't internet savvy. He thanked me again and left.
I began to think about what he and so many others have said over the years-that coming to our store is a learning experience, among other things. Although I will argue that it goes both ways. The responsibilities we have as a neighborhood pet store and an integral part of the community are far reaching. Often we are a person's first encounter with animals. Our birds are hand-fed and they are free-roaming. We encourage our visitors to pick them up and it is here where it all begins, starting with the proper way to pick up a bird. Turning our visitors into new bird parents is just icing on the cake.
As a retired teacher I find these teachable moments quite refreshing, especially with children. I am reminded of the most amazing 5-and-a-half year old nature lover who catches her own lizards and grasshoppers. She comes in on a regular basis with grandpa in tow. She walks up to Mr. Spock, a Palm Cockatoo, and puts her whole arm out and encourages him to take a step onto her "new perch". She sits on the bench and offers a tiny leg, the other forearm and then a shoulder-anything but the usual finger that most people tend to offer when first encountering a bird. She knows "he's just too big to be a finger bird." Mr. Spock obliges.
I am caught up in this child's inquisitive mind, and how at ease she is with Mr. Spock, who by the way, is a pretty big bird. She eyeballs the other big bird, Archie, a Green-winged Macaw, and whispers, "I wish I could pick him up." Archie is a handful, though quite gentle. However, grandpa is not so courageous. Her questions are well thought out and you can hear the wheels turning as she touches and observes the bird with scientist-like curiosity. Her grandpa watches her and finally approaches me. He wants to get a bird for her to keep at his house for when she comes to visit. So I ask her if she could have any bird which one would it be. Without hesitation she walks over to the playpen of cockatiels and picks up a 1 month old baby with professional precision and confidence. "I want a cockatiel." Why? Because they're finger-sized cockatoos, of course.
We are a very pet-friendly community and multiple pet families are not unusual. For most, pets are an important member of the family as well as a big investment. Visitors to our island community will suddenly find themselves the owner of an iguana or a gecko or a hermit crab and come to us in search of answers and supplies. Some come back year after year to repeat or share their experience. Many people come in looking to buy a bird or adopt a kitten because it's cute, it's cool or because someone else has one then wind up in the reality that they are a lot of work, or they're not compatible with other pets or family members. Sometimes the living situation changes, the owner is unable to care for their pets or, in the worst case, passes away. So just what is our role in these situations?
As with all small businesses we are in the business of making money. But as a vital part of our community, and deeply rooted in its history, we have taken an unspoken oath to educate, to inform and to aid in the best care of your pets. When we sell a bird, for example, you, the owner leave armed with a folder that includes the do's and don't of keeping a happy, healthy bird. Although the choice of whether or not to take home a pet is ultimately yours, we want you to feel like you've made the right choice. As your neighborhood pet shop we share our experiences. We celebrate and grieve with you. We share the thrill of taking home that new bird, even though we're a little sad to say goodbye.
So thank you for allowing us to be your neighborhood pet shop and for letting us into your homes and into your families. Thank you for putting your trust in us. And thank you for visiting our website.