Get your pets ready, because Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital is hosting an open house Sunday. READ
Get your pets ready, because Mattituck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital is hosting an open house Sunday. READ
Thanks to a bill signed last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, your beloved pet can now be legally buried with you.
The legislation allows New Yorkers to be interred with their pet’s cremated remains at nearly 1,900 nonprofit cemeteries around the state — provided they receive written consent from cemetery officials. READ
Jason Luhrs was enjoying a sandwich at Triangle Park in Southold one summer afternoon when he witnessed someone in an all-too-familiar stinky situation.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport held its annual Blessing of the Animals Saturday afternoon just as the rain began to fall.
It’s not every day you go to church with three horses, two donkeys, a guinea pig, several cats and a few dozen dogs. And that’s what people love about the Blessing of the Animal ceremonies held at area churches each October.
“It’s the most fun we have all year,” said Deacon Jeff Sykes of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Mattituck. “It’s particularly great out here. Other places, you’ll see some house pets. Here we have horses and donkeys, too.”
The Mattituck ceremony was one of several blessings held on the North Fork this weekend, along with events at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport.
Their names are Nitro and Methane, but they aren’t drag racers.
They’re a pair of unique pets: two black-tailed prairie dogs that have called Donna and Rob Jester’s Southold home their own for 2 1/2 years now.
And the Jesters say they couldn’t be happier to have the two female prairie dogs in their lives.
“When we come home, they bark to greet us,” said Ms. Jester, who works at Tyler’s Automotive in Mattituck, describing the homecoming ritual. “They stand up on their hind legs and throw their heads back when they do it.”
Mr. Jester, an airplane engine mechanic by trade, likened the daily exchange of squeaks to a parked car’s alarm setting off another car alarm nearby.
“They set one another off,” he said. “They can go back and forth like that five and six times.”
When the Jesters approach the rodents’ cages to pet them, the prairie dogs bare their teeth, but it’s not a malicious gesture — it’s friendly.
“She opens her mouth like that when I pet her because that’s how they greet each other in the wild,” Ms. Jester explained. “It’s like a kiss.”
She added that because prairie dogs are extremely social, the couple keeps them in cages in the living room where the two will be sure to spend the maximum amount of time with their human caregivers.
“They’re so social that if we had them upstairs in our bedroom, where they could hear us not giving them attention, they could actually get sick and literally die from lack of affection,” she said.
This is also the reason the couple is careful to keep their prairie dogs in pairs.
So far, the Jesters have had three sets.
“Nitro bothers Methane, so this is the first pair we’ve kept in separate cages,” Ms. Jester said. “All the other ones have been in the same cage. They’ve bonded to us more closely as a result, so Methane is my prairie dog and Nitro is Rob’s prairie dog.”
Pet prairie dogs were banned in the United States by the FDA for five years between 2003 and 2008, when Ms. Jester said a spider shipped in from another country bit a prairie dog and infected it with monkey pox. After that prairie dog was shipped to another pet store, it infected others and during that time, the couple said, keeping a prairie dog as a pet was taboo.
The couple said they were lucky enough to have a pair that predated the monkey pox period and thus they quietly sailed through the ordeal without having to forgo a pet.
The Jesters have housed an assortment of other unusual pets over the years such as sugar gliders and chinchillas. They were introduced to the world of the prairie dog more than 15 years ago.
“We were watching Marc Marrone [from the TV show, ‘Animal Island’] and he had two prairie dogs named Bubbles and Squeak on there,” Mr. Jester recalled. “He was just talking about how great, social, well-behaved and clean they were, so we decided to go see them at his pet store, Parrots of the World in Rockville Centre, and then we got two of them one spring.”
Before making the eight-year commitment, which is the average life span for a prairie dog in captivity, the Jesters researched the animals to make sure they were making the right decision.
Ms. Jester explained how research helped them get the acquisition process down to a science.
“All of my prairie dogs have come from Texas and they’re only available in pet stores during April and May after the pups have been born,” she said. “They’re wild, so with padded septic trucks, the pups are vacuumed out of the prairie dog colony in the ground. Any adults that are sucked up along with the pups are just put back into the colony.”
About.com states that humans help to control the prairie dog population in this manner. The population was controlled naturally through predation by the black-footed ferret before humans drove the ferret species to near-extinction.
An important part of the acquisition process, Ms. Jester said, has been setting aside at least three days to handle the new pups enough to tame them.
“We’ve always taken days off work,” she said. “We’d take Friday off, go get them and usually after three days of really, really handling them, you’re done.”
Another important taming tactic is to ensure that the prairie dogs know who’s boss, she said.
“You don’t want to let them leap out of their cages,” she said. “After about a day they’ll want to leap out of the cage to come out, but you don’t want to let them do that because then they’ll think of the house as their territory.”
To ensure that they remain top dogs, as it were, the Jesters have kept a strict pick-up policy with their prairie dogs.
“It’s like, ‘You don’t leap you when you want,’ ” Mr. Jester said of the policy. “ ‘You get picked up when you’re ready to come out.’ ”
The couple also spay their prairie dogs to avoid the nastiness associated with the animals’ rut.
“They’ve all been females because I think males try to be more dominant. I’ve also read that if you don’t spay them, they can get nasty in the wintertime and want to hibernate,” Ms. Jester said. “So we’ve always gotten ours in April or May and spayed them the following fall before their first heat.”
When spayed, the animals aren’t as temperamental and the Jesters said Nitro and Methane are a joy to have around the house. Ms. Jester said she won’t allow the cage-trained prairie dogs to roam free without supervision, but they are often allowed out of their cages for exercise and recreation when someone is watching.
Like hamsters, prairie dogs can also get exercise on a wheel, but Mr. Jester said Nitro is an individual in that regard.
“Nitro won’t run on a wheel,” he said. “She doesn’t like it, never touched it, won’t do it, so we got her a bunch of other toys to occupy her.”
In addition to pellets and seeds, prairie dogs, which weigh between one and three pounds, will eat grass and the Jesters grow their own stock of wheat grass to feed to their pets after their first prairie dog pair met with a tragic end.
“They passed away suddenly,” Ms. Jester said. “The landlords of the apartment we lived in were meticulous so we would cut wild grass instead of theirs. Then one spring, something was on the grass and within 48 hours both of them had passed away.”
She added that because of the species uniqueness, the couple was lucky to find Dr. Robert Pisciotta at North Fork Animal Hospital to be Nitro and Methane’s vet.
“Dr. Pisciotta went to school in Arizona so he’s handled hundreds of these guys,” she said. “He and his entire staff are awesome with them.”
In honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, animals and their owners attended ceremonies across the North Fork to receive the traditional blessing.
Greenport’s Holy Trinity Episcopal Church held a ceremony at noon Sunday, presided over by Rev. Paul Wancura.
Deacon Jeff Sykes at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mattituck performed a ceremony in the early afternoon as a steady downpour drenched both animals and their owners.
[nggallery id=386 template=galleryview]
There may be no need to howl about leaving a fluffy friend behind when renting a North Fork property, either for the summer or year-round.
Some area real estate agents say they’ve seen an increase in pet-friendly rentals. Pets have traditionally topped rental restriction lists, but according to Mary Lentini at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Cutchogue, smoking is now a far more prevalent no-no.
“Smoking is still a big deal,” she said. “But I think homeowners are becoming a little more lax about renting to people with pets because they want to get the place rented. Usually they’ll just take an extra security deposit for the animal.”
Ms. Lentini said another possible reason for the increase is the same as many housing market changes — the recession.
“We’re finding a lot of people who have lost their homes to short sells or foreclosures have to rent and many have pets, so landlords are becoming more amicable to the idea,” she said. Still, homeowners will often want to meet the animal in addition to taking an extra deposit or fee to cover possible damage.
“Some landlords are even requesting a certain size pet, maybe capping it at 35 pounds,” Ms. Lentini said.
But not all agents agree that the market is getting warm and fuzzy for furry residents.
Carl Austin with Colony Realty said pet-friendly rentals are rather difficult to find, especially for certain ”uninsurable” breeds.
“Some breeds aren’t covered by insurance companies, like pit bulls and dobermans,” he said, adding that he’s seen a trend for rentals that allow only an “insurable pet.”
John Nickles of Lewis & Nickles Ltd. Real Estate in Southold said he hasn’t seen a spike in pet-friendly rentals, but in rentals in general. He also said some homeowners will rent to people with pets, even if they’ve advertised otherwise.
“People take pets, but they don’t like to say they take pets,” he said. Small dogs are preferable, as are breeds with lower energy levels that are less likely to cause damage.
Paul Loeb of Lloyd’s Realty in Greenport said he was surprised that 46 of the 195 available year-round and summer rentals from Jamesport east allow pets. He said there’s a new category on the multiple-listing service software that specifies pet type.
“You can say yes to pets and then specify whether you allow cats or dogs,” he said. Requests for summer rentals with cats appears to be uncommon.
Of the eight summer rental properties currently listed with Lloyd’s, two specified dogs only.
“Cats are not as welcome as dogs,” Janet Markarian at Century 21 Albertson Realty said of the animals infamous for marking their territory and putting those with allergies over the edge. “But I’ve never had a person say ‘I want to rent a place with my cat.’ ”
Ms. Markarian said she’s already placed three or four dogs into summer homes in East Marion, including a pair of French bulldogs and a coonhound that works as a model.
“I think landlords are more open-minded, especially those who have dogs themselves. Some prefer dogs over children, but they can’t say no children,” she joked.
Ms. Markarian’s real estate beat is Orient, a place she said could have more pet-friendly rentals than other parts of the North Fork because of its rural nature.
But regardless of location, some agents say allowing pets can be a boon for homeowners itching for rental income.
“Anyone who has a rental that’s open to pets will rent their house right away,” said Marie Beninati of Beninati Associates. Worried property owners can protect their properties best with an extra security deposit and a pre- and post-rental property inspection, she added.
Under pressure from the IRS to prove their nonprofit status, a group of animal advocates in Southold needs to spend nearly $180,000 raised over the past eight years to help the town care for stray animals.
The town had initially proposed that the money, collected by the Southold Raynor Animal Shelter Foundation, be used to pay off the town’s debt on its animal shelter, which opened in 2006 and cost more than $2.6 million. But the current chairman of the fund says no, the money should be spent on things to benefit the animals more directly.
The fund was created with a bequest from Southold resident Elliot Raynor, who died in 2002. When Ken Morrelly, chairman of the fund, died in 2009, his wife, Catherine, took over. She balked at using the money to pay the town’s debt, saying that after years of conflict among different groups associated with the shelter over how best to house the town’s stray and abandoned animals, she wanted the money used to help them directly.
“I don’t want it paying for bricks. I want it paying for animals,” Ms. Morrelly said. “I want to get things moving. If I can get a handshake before Christmas, that would be good, but I really don’t want to wait until January or February.”
In the face of her refusal, the town is now proposing that the money be spent on a new police car outfitted for use by a K9 officer and dog, and to create covers for several outdoor pens at the town’s animal shelter, which are too hot in the middle of the summer without shading.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell estimated this week that the K9 car would cost approximately $25,000 plus $3,000 to install caging and equipment for the dog. The town is getting estimates on the cost of covering the outdoor pens at the animal shelter.
“We are developing a list of other items,” said Mr. Russell. “Some are simple, such as steel hanging buckets for the dog runs. Others are more expensive, like a new commercial-size dryer for the utility room. We will be sure to utilize this generosity to the greatest extent possible.”
“I need to spend the money or answer to the IRS,” said Ms. Morrelly, who said she believes that both the K9 car and the roofs over the pens would be in keeping with the goals of those who donated to the foundation. She added that she would need the approval of the foundation’s board before agreeing to let the town spend the money.
Ms. Morrelly said she also would be happy if some of the money went to buy veterinary medicine or purchase oxygen masks for animals for fire departments within the town.
While Ms. Morrelly and her husband were both animal lovers, the foundation was his pet project, she said. “I don’t need the burden. He knew how to get things done. I’m not in his class,” she said.