Pets are part of family

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2007

It’s common now days to see people who have taken their love for their pets to the extreme. Pet owners spend hundreds on food, vet care, grooming, toys and clothes every year.

I can honestly say that I have spoiled all of my pets in some way or another. And my current pet is no exception.

A few years ago I decided to get a non-traditional pet. I was still in college at the time and living in a dorm, so a cat or dog was out of the question.

I started to research small animals before I went to the pet shop with my mom and decided I was going to get a hamster.

But I reluctantly decided a guinea pig after my mom convinced me that the one she pointed out to me was just too cute to leave behind.

The guinea pig had black silky hair and a stripe of copper color that stretched the length of his nose up to his forehead. He was a runt compared to his brothers that were in the same cage as him. He looked like he weighed 50 ounces and barely fit in the palm of my hand.

I named him Piccolo (pronounced Peek-a-lo), which means small in Italian. The name didn’t stick well with friends and family so they made up their own names for him. Now he has more aliases than a Russian spy.

My mom calls him Boo-boo. His vet in Charlotte called him Pick-a-lo, but only because she couldn’t remember how to pronounce his name.

Zach, my little three year old cousin, calls him Peek-lo The Guinea Pig.

I often call him Peeky or Peek-a-boo when I feel like talking baby-talk to him. I know it’s revolting.

Two and a half pounds later, he’s the most spoiled guinea pig in the world.

He gets his breakfast in the morning, which is usually a couple pieces of lettuce or carrots. In the evening he gets his regular pellets and seed treats. Then later on in the night he gets his favorite of all, timothy hay.

He has his nails clipped professionally and occasionally he gets a bath where I use his special guinea shampoo.

When it’s time to go to the veterinarian he has a colorful pet carrier he rides in with windows and all.

I never thought twice about pets and spoiling until I saw other people take their affections to edge.

When I was interning in Charlotte I worked for a pet sitting company as a pet sitter. It will probably go down as one of the most unusual jobs I’ve held.

Pet sitting was fairly simple. I looked after clients’ pets when they were away on vacation or if they were working during the day.

If they had a dog I would take it for a walk, feed it, and water it. If the client had a cat I would spend time giving it attention.

Sometimes clients would request an over night where I would stay in the client’s home to look after their pets.

I’ve always loved animals. For me the job was fun because I got to spend time with them. It also put some money in my pocket and I got to see how the “other half” lived, since most of the clients the company served were wealthy.

I saw the good, the bad and ugly in animals and their owners.

I had to walk dogs, feed fish, take out trash, bring in mail and occasionally feed one cat baby food. Yes, I had to feed him baby food and he was particularly fond of the chicken liver.

Many of the pets were spoiled beyond belief. At times I wondered if they were taken care of better then the owners’ children.

They had their own toy and toy chests, costumes, bathrooms (the cats did anyways for their litter boxes) and at times they had their own menus for different time of the days.

One little dog named Mikey had to have the chicken and rice that his owner especially cooked him each day.

I would also have to deal with the “tantrums” that pets would throw when their owners were away.

The sulking, the whining and, of course, the destruction.

Soon after I met Bella the dog I gave her the nickname of “Dog from Hell.”

She never failed to surprise me with some sort of protest against her owner’s absence every time I took care of her. From shredding toilet paper to stealing and eating a whole bag of treats to messing on a white carpet and trying to dig her way out of the backyard, she always kept me on my toes.

Though some of the clients went to the limit, they always made sure their pets were safe and had what they needed.

Despite them being furry and at times stinky, we all often say that our pets are part of our family.

And that’s something every pet owner can identify with.