Saturday, January 14, 2017

Your Pet-Children at your Wedding

Getting married with your pet kids can be a really tricky business. Many places don't allow pets or have restrictions. Pets in weddings have become a bit more common these days, but it's still a head scratch for many. There are plenty of couples who have pets together and that's how they start out as a family.

If you want to have your pets in your wedding, consider some of these things:

1. Venue (Is it pet friendly? Is a fee involved? Restrictions? Are the people you are hiring okay with your pets?) Weighing in between your favorite venue and your pet kids can be difficult.

2. Logistics (Who will take care of the animal(s) on your wedding day? Who do you trust with your pet kid while saying "I do's" or dancing your first dance together? How will they get food/water/shade/enclosed/etc and all their needs met?)

3. Temperament of Pet (Does your pet do well with strangers? Commotion? Sitting still? Being handled by others? Loud sounds? Crowds? Will it be too stressful for them and if so, how can you reduce their stress? Can they tolerate wearing clothing items?)

4. Wedding Date/Time (Will it be warm enough for your reptiles or amphibians? If not, how can you ensure they are warm? How can you ensure they are cool enough for other pets? Is your pet nocturnal or diurnal?)

5. Your Guests (Is your best man afraid of snakes? If so, what can be done about having both of them there? Does your mother have an allergy to cats? What can be done to help her with her allergies? Did you put in the invitation that your pet kids will be in attendance? Does your dog love to jump on people? If so, how can you make sure your dog won't ruin someone's nice attire?)


1. Don't show up with a pet without the venue even knowing about it. This could lead to the pet being kicked out, everyone to be be kicked out, fights, or with a lot of fees added to the final bill.

2. Don't drop the pet responsibilities on a person that day and just "wing it." You wouldn't wing it for a human baby! That person wasn't planning on baby-sitting duties. They came to have fun.

3. Don't push your pet into doing something that will endanger them, scare them, anger them, or extremely stress them out.

4. Don't come unprepared. Bring our "pet-diaper bag" so to speak. The more comfortable your pets are, the less stressed you and your partner will be.

5. Don't bring your pets unannounced. Don't ignore your guests allergies, fears, muddied expensive outfits, etc.


1. Make sure your venue is okay with pets, especially the species you will be bringing (and the breed for dogs). Look into places where your pet can be stored/kept in if needed. Make sure that people you hire, like a wedding coordinator or photographer, are also okay with your pets.

2. Consult with someone you feel comfortable with about taking on responsibilities for your pets. Make sure they don't already have a huge role in your wedding, like your maid of honor. Give detailed instructions and any items for your pets' need. Also, for animals that can wear a collar, they should definitely wear them with their information on it. For animals in tanks, label the tanks with their names on it.

3. You know your pets better than anyone else so only you can decide on what is best for them. If your pet is fearful and possibly aggressive to strangers than maybe a private wedding with your pup would be best. If your pet is afraid of loud sounds or commotions, have them only attend the ceremony but not the reception. Talkative bird that may steal the show during the ceremony? Maybe only have them for pictures. Your snake is testy around feeding times? Make sure to feed them long before/after the event. If your dog or cat is absolutely miserable or vicious with clothing, forego it for a cute collar instead or keep the clothes-wearing time for only photos.

4. Obviously, if you have cold-blooded animals then getting married in the spring and summer are best. If you have a warm blooded animal, then any time of the year is most likely okay unless they can't sweat or generate heat that well. If you have a chinchilla, and it's July, make sure to have a chin-chiller or two ready (and in a cooler if no freezer available). (By the way, chinchillas are really sensitive so I recommend not having your chinchilla at all or proceed with caution.) If you have a greyhound at a Vermont wedding in January, make sure to pack a warm and fancy dog suit! If you want your nocturnal pet active, then consider a late afternoon/night wedding.

5. Remember that some people sadly don't like pets or are allergic to them. Be accommodating. Tell guests that your pets will be in attendance. Your friends and family took the time, spent money, and possibly traveled to be there. Talk to people on your guest list who may have concerns and help them out to make them feel comfortable. Better yet, make sure to have things on hand like allergy medicine, lint rollers, bleach pens, or hand sanitizer. Limit exposure if needed. If your dog jumps on people, it might be time for training classes to prevent that from happening.

Our Wedding Story

Now for the boring personal experience story. I knew my pet children had to be involved in the wedding somehow, especially Franklin, my eastern painted turtle that I've had for over 21 years. My first thoughts were to do an outdoor wedding so that the pets can be there, and then they could go home during the reception. When my husband and I decided to lower our budget, we agreed to have a very small, private destination wedding. However, this meant not having the pets and extended family attending. We decided to get married in Florida, honeymoon in Florida/Georgia, drive up to Virginia to have a small ceremony with my husband's family who couldn't travel due to age/illness, and then an outdoor reception for my family near where we live. (Most of my immediate family were able to attend the ceremony in Florida.) I had to really figure out what mattered most to me regarding the pets since I couldn't do it all with them. I have 5 reptiles, a cat, and a fish, all with various needs. I figured out that what mattered most to me was having Franklin be our ring bearer and to have photos of our kids with us in our wedding attire. We hired a professional photographer for the outdoor reception near our home to come before the event started to take photos of us with our kids. We also made sure this photographer was okay with reptiles, cats, etc. This way, they didn't have to travel, be in contact with our guests, and get stressed. And this way, my stress was also at a minimum since I didn't have to worry about them. I planned with my mother ahead of time to be our "handler." She ensured the safety and care of our pets and was the one who brought and took away the pets during the shoot. We got married in July so our reptiles were fine outdoors for photographs. Our cat was photographed indoors. I set up an area specifically as a backdrop for his photos. He hates wearing clothing so I only bought him a tie collar to wear. He hates being restrained and held against his will which was our biggest obstacle so we had to be very fast with his photos. You can tell he was unhappy in the photos. He also scratched me up and nearly tore my dress.

So, lesson learned on that one. Make sure to trim cat and dog nails. We know our tortoise poops when stressed, and we know the turtles can pee when holding them so we made sure to have paper towels on hand and held our reptiles away from our clothing.

What is most precious to me is Franklin's photos. We made him a ring bearer pillow that had a belly band around his shell to keep it in place and took his photograph with it on.

My one sacrifice was having Franklin go down an aisle with the rings and our tortoise, Salinger, be the flower girl walking down the aisle with flowers on her shell (also with belly band). It was such a lovely thought, but it didn't work out. I also knew the logistics would have been a nightmare. Salinger would have needed strawberries at the end of the aisle to entice her to walk down (and also take awhile to get there), and Franklin would have probably turned around and marched in the opposite direction. He would have had to been held by someone walking down the aisle instead. So, I settled for photos. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to make Salinger's flower girl belt, but I had two beautiful nieces be my flower girls anyway.

I am very happy with what we decided on for the wedding. It was perfect for us, and I am happy I was able to have my kids involved with minimum trouble.

Best of luck to you with your pet kids at your wedding too! I hope this was helpful. I would love to hear about your wedding story with your pets! Please comment below or let me know if you have any questions!

And they lived happily every after...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pet Parenting Returned

It's been years since I've been on this blog. I've moved on from animal care professions, but I'm still very much involved in animal care. Since my last post, we have two new additions to our family. Yes, now we have seven pet children. Not for the faint heart, ladies and gentlemen. We've found out that 7 is definitely our max capacity. The first is named Atlas, a Mississippi Map Turtle, who we adopted a couple of years ago. (Get it? Atlas/Map Turtle?) He was injured from another turtle which required a hand amputation and also developed shell rot and infections. He also had gut flora issues so he had trouble sinking. These medical problems have all been resolved, and he's been doing really well. Despite being one-handed, he does pretty well with swimming. So now our dining room looks like this:

I call him "The Goober" because he is just about the weirdest turtle I have ever come across in my life. Here's some pictures to show you what I mean:

He's the only turtle I know that loves to do planks in his tank. Our other addition to the family is Photon, a male beta fish. I'm not usually someone who would buy a beta fish, but he was extra special with his yellow/golden scales. He reminded my scientific husband of light, hence the name Photon. We got him the same day as Atlas, so about 2 years ago. Here's the handsome finned boy:

So in the future, I plan on continuing topics regarding animal care for your pets. I specialize in reptile care but will also try to sprinkle in cat, dog, fish, amphibians, and birds. Let me know if there is something in particular you'd like to know about! Thanks for reading! The next post will be about getting married with your pet children!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Stray Beardie Named Roscoe

It was a cold and rainy Thursday night. I was working late at the adoption center when the phone rang. The woman asked for me. It was a young lady who found a stray bearded dragon on the streets of Dorchester. Right now it's in a cat carrier, and she's afraid to touch it. I wondered how she knew to ask for me. I am gaining a reputation quicker than I thought? I scheduled this woman to come in the next day with the bearded dragon.


When it came in, I realized it was a male and an adult. It looked under the weather, literally and figuratively. I was well prepared for his arrival. I had already chopped out an epic salad and made a warm habitat for him. By the end of Friday night while working late again, I realized he couldn't move his right leg. I knew then that he needed to see a vet. I'm sure my fiance is getting used to my calls by now, pleading that we spend at least half of our only day off together to go to the vets with a reptile we don't even know. He knows enough by now to say okay. The founder had called him Roscoe, and I kept the name. So, I packed up Roscoe for the train ride home, abandoning my own personal items at work. He saw my favorite vet, Dr. Mertz from New England Wildlife Center. I sometimes wonder if he is sick of seeing my face with a banged up or severely ill reptile in tow.

Roscoe and myself at the vet

He found out that Roscoe has metabolic bone scoliosis, hence the right leg. This is something that he has to live with unless an owner would prefer amputation. For the most part, it is something you just have them live with as a handicap. He also told me he is certainly underweight and sick. I took him home with his medication. We bought various beardie supplements on the way home. He won't eat on his own. He won't drink on his own. And naturally, won't medicate himself. Every day, my fiance and I forced fed food, water, and medication. Any time we approached him, his beard went black. I know, you hate us, Roscoe. Being that he is contagious, we had to be very careful not to get the rest of our clan sick. We fostered him for a week.

Roscoe in foster care

We luckily found him a wonderful home with a father-daughter duo who is well versed in sick and injured bearded dragons. They own quite a few. The daughter, Lauren, volunteers at the New England Wildlife Center. She does amazing work with her beardies. It is satisfying to know we saved another life. I am so thankful to Lauren and her father for taking on such a wonderfully charming bearded dragon who deserved a second chance at a better future.

Roscoe with his new family

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why Leopard Geckos are Awesome

There are many reasons why leopard geckos are awesome. They are a gecko with moveable eyelids yet still sometimes lick their eyeballs anyway. They are a hardy species. They stay small (average around 8" in length). They are also easy to take care of. I would definitely list this reptile as a good beginner pet. A single gecko can live in a 20 gallon tank with a lid. They mostly just need some places to hide. Like all reptiles, they require a temperature gradient in the tank. This means that one side of the tank has to be warm, another cooler. I achieve this by using a small heat pad underneath the tank. If it is really cold, I have a heat bulb that emits a blue light.

This is a good setup example:

Notice that this person uses paper towels as the "substrate." I highly recommend this to avoid impaction. I know it doesn't look as pretty, but it makes it safer. If you feel like you have to use a sand, I recommend teaching your leo to be tong fed directly and never let food hit the ground or hang out in a tank.

This is my current tank set up. I use advertisement flyers that are non-glossy.

Another important piece to gecko welfare is a moisture box. This is often missed in novice gecko care. Typically every month, a gecko sheds its skin much like most reptiles. In order to have a proper shed, the gecko must be hydrated. To assist in their shedding in a non-invasive way, a moisture box should be created for them. The majority of gecko owners make their own since a really good one doesn't exist yet in the market. Basically, buy a plastic storage container that is big enough for your leo to lay in. Cut a hole on one side and make sure to soften the edges. Then, put moss in it. It is important to make sure it stays moist. I leave a small spray bottle by his tank and spray it down every day.

Another cool thing about geckos is what and how they eat. They are insectivores and should be given gut-loaded worms, crickets, etc. This is where we typically lose people in the pet department. Most people don't like the idea of having live worms or crickets in their homes. If you want a reptile, as I mentioned before, it is necessary. I don't even find it abnormal that I have multiple worm containers hanging out with my milk carton. (Many worms need to be refrigerated.)

The best part of owning a gecko is watching them eat. My boy Helix really gets into it. He reminds me of Jurassic Park when Alan says the T-rex's vision is based on movement. It seems that way for our gecko! Take a look at this video:

Regardless of what I say, always do your homework before taking home any reptile. Be sure to understand the reptile's needs for its entire life. Also, it is best to have everything set up ahead of time before getting a new pet. If you've ever had to move into an apartment without furniture so you had to sleep on a pile of clothes on a wooden floor, you'd understand why.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Live Food Care: Part 1: Crickets

If you own a reptile, it is almost inevitable that you will deal with live food. Not always: if you have an herbivore or you feed frozen mice, then you are certainly in the clear. However, many reptiles out there are insectivores. I own three reptiles that require insects for their diet. Helix is ALL insects while the turtles also have pellets and greens. I could give some to Salinger for her protein source, but I prefer to use dry cat food instead (maybe I should also write a blog on tortoise protein nutrition options since there is a misconception that ALL tortoises are strictly herbivores). But for now, this post is on crickets. How to care for them and how to set them up.

First, you would need a cricket keeper. You can either purchase one from a store, like so:

This is the smaller one. There is also a larger keeper available.

Or, if you're like me and want to go do it yourself, you can also make one fairly simply. Buy a large tupperware/food storage container. Use an awl to cut small holes on the top for air flow. Wah-la!

Next, purchase two small food dishes. There are some at the pet store for a dollar each. You will need these for food and "water."

For the food dish, use the cricket chow you can find at a pet store. For the water dish, I recommend soaking 2 (or more, depending on how many crickets you plan to keep) baby carrots for a couple of seconds under water. Then, chop them on into about 4-5 pieces. This is how I personally like to give them nutrients and water. There is a product called Cricket Quencher that many people use instead of the carrots. I find that more crickets drown in this than the carrots. It is a personal preference. You can certainly use the Quencher if that suits your needs better. So the two bowls should look like this:

The last thing you will need is egg carton. You can either ask the pet store to give you some (they often ask you) or you can save your own egg cartons and cut them into smaller pieces. I do both. I recommend buying crickets from the actually store, not the cricket to go containers. They often have a shorter shelf life. It is also cheaper to get crickets from the stock batch. We found out we have a better success rate of survival with Petsmart crickets over other pet stores. They take really good care of their crickets, and they already have them "gut-loaded" so you don't have to wait to feed your pet.

And then mix it all together!

1. Container 2. Dishes 3. Food 4. Water/Carrots 5. Egg carton 6. Crickets

Make sure to store them in a dry place. Temperatures should be around 75 to 85 degrees or so. I tend to tell people to buy only a week's worth supply at most. Crickets have a short life span. Feed them to your reptile using feeder tongs. Crickets make an excellent food source than other insects so it is worth it to take care of them so that they take care of your pet!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Salinger knocks her water bowl over

Salinger does this almost every day. She puts one foot in and knocks it over. Some things even I can't explain for reptile behavior.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Feeding Turtles

To minimize debris in turtle tanks, we have Franklin and Little Foot eat pellets in travel tanks. It helps us monitor their food intake and makes for a cleaner tank in the end. With this, rinsing out filters, and scooping out feces daily, your tank cleanings will only be every 2 or 3 weeks.