Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/campfires/item_id/1853722-The-Hidden-World-of-Pet-Shops
Rated: ASR · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Comedy · #1853722
So, what do animals living in stores do while humans are away?
Fins & Claws Pet Supply is a local store, sandwiched between several small shops. Not as big as the chain stores, it is known for quality. It attracts loyal customers and is known as the place to go if you wish to buy a healthy, quality pet. They do not sell cats, dogs, or large reptiles or birds, but they often make some available from the local adoption center.

This is not about the staff or the customers. It is about the various animals that make their home here. Some are for sale, some waiting for adoption, and some are permanent store residents.
Mara, aka the Big Red Dinosaur (a Scarlet Macaw) was playing inside her enclosure. She had a large wire cage, and tucked inside was a large free standing play-gym. There were only about four or five toys, but Mara never minded because she preferred to keep an eye on the customers. She only knew two words "Hello", and "Yummy!", and one phrase "WHATCHA DOIN'?". She liked to lay in wait for customers, and then yell "WHATCHA DOIN'?" just to watch them jump. It would seem hard for a big, red macaw to hide, but her toys were large and colorful, and unsuspecting customers were often caught unawares. Mara enjoyed her little joke, but was a very friendly bird. She loved attention, and didn't mind children (even the ones who ignored the big sign - DO NOT PUT FINGERS IN CAGE).

Despite being the owner's pet and not for sale, Mara was kept out in the front of the store, so she could receive the constant attention she craved. Unfortunately, if ignored for too long, she tended to find novel ways of re-entering the spotlight. Just like a human toddler, Mara was often too smart for her own good. She had finished opening one of her puzzle toys, and had consumed the prize (a walnut) in record time. Bored again, Mara began to hunt for other ways to amuse herself.

It was early in the day and Hailey Marley, one of the staff, was busy chopping up fresh veggies for the animals. Carrots, greens, and oranges for the guinea pigs. She was almost finished and ready to halve some grapes for the birds, when she heard a strange sound. It sounded like nails clicking on plastic. Hailey had a nagging suspicion, and it was confirmed moments after she leaned over the side of the food-prep cart. The black tip of a large beak could be seen, gripping the lip of the cart. It was soon followed by a one foot, and then another, and finally a big red head came into view.

"WHATCHA DOIN'?" boomed the big red head. Mara's entire body soon appeared on top of the cart. Eyes blinked, and a head tilted to examine the offerings. A black foot with sharp talons reached out to snag a grape. Mara examined it with a critical eye, and then said in a clear voice: "YUMMY!"
The Red Dinosaur opens her cage when she is sure it is dark enough for no one to see what she is doing. She loves to let the hamsters, gerbils and other small rodents to run up and down the shelves to check out rodent treats and chew on cardboard boxes. The little ones like to run on the wheels, which are all set up for running.

The red trouble maker is the instigator and gives the others suggestions. Pretty soon, the parrot notices the sun is rising and gives a morning shriek for everyone to take their places.

The owner walks in and sees the mess. "Those darn cockroaches," he said. But with all of the small animals he keeps, it is not safe to spray. Some exterminators tell him it's okay. But he has lost some of his best stock after a spray. So he puts boric acid in the corners and the doors. He must not know the rodents and rabbits (lagamorphs) love to eat roaches.

The large red dinosaur was being too sweet for the employees. I would watch him closely. My African Grey will act sweet and asked be let out of his cage. He says, "Step up." When I stick my hand inside of the cage, he savages me, sometimes badly. I am always wearing band-aids. Also, when I give our 20+ rats treats, I have to be really extra careful. They don't mean to bite, but the cuts they make bleed for several days.

((I hope the Scarlet Macaw is one of those sweetie pies who loves attention. Try opening the cage and give him his favorite treat. Still don't trust him. A bird that size can do some serious bites. I may as well work at a pet shop. I live there, just about. I buy my rabbit litter, treats and I can't help but by little Tinkerbelle clothes to wear when the weather gets cold.

I also talk to people about the pet they want to buy. I've had experience with all of the pets in a pet store. I usually get my pets from rescue groups and animal shelters. They put to sleep about 97% of really nice pets.

Try teaching the Red Dinosaur some new words. My parrot picks things up too fast. We have to careful what we say.))
Mara, big red dinosaur, eats her grape with relish. The owner has tried just about every way of keeping Mara in her cage without resorting to several locks. He knows that the last plan (a single lock) must have been failed, because Mara is tossing greens and oranges left ad right with aplomb when she is supposed to be locked up securely. Sighing, he leaves the store to buy some combination locks and heavy duty metal ties. He hopes this keeps the big red dinosaur in her cage, where she belongs. He used to take her home with him at the end of the day, but now he only does this when the store will be closed. She seems to enjoy staying at the store overnight, although he isn't quite sure why.

He would have bought at least four more locks, if he had known the reason was because Mara liked to run (or fly) loose in the store at night. At it was, he suspected nothing, despite the fact that every morning the cleaning team had to remove an inordinate amount of rodent droppings, feathers, and shavings of wood.
The Red Dinasour thought she was running the pet store. The hamsters and guinea pigs were not happy and were trying to think of ways to keep her from harassing them. The largest hamster, Terry, tried to talk to the Scarlet Macaw, but she only said, "Too bad for you, huh,"

"We have got to find a way to keep that red fool in her cage!" Who doess he think she is? "We'll have to find a way out that no one will notice and sneak that food away."

One of the guinea pigs said he could work on her lock and also, the owner was sloppy about locking his cage well enough. So they decided to make a plan.
The old rabbit "Chopper", labeled NOT FOR SALE, was elected the store leader and spokes-mammal. Yogi, the guinea pig who had agreed to deal with the locks, felt that it would be best if they could simply keep the Big Red Menace inside her cage for good. However, he knew that if the Mara got out of her cage again, they would be forced to take a more drastic action.

In his kind heart, Chopper the wise rabbit, who had lived in the store his entire life, hoped that Mara would be able to live in peace with all the denizens of the store. If this did not happen, she would have to be kept in her cage permanently, or be forced to leave. She might miss the customers, and if she hadn't been such a bully he would have had regrets about that, but he was starting to worry for the safety of any mouse or parakeet that got in her way. Chopper was the store's ambassador, not available for sale, but instead used as a sort of education tool. He had lived in the store his entire life, and had more experience than most of the other small mammals.

In the end, they found several allies. It turned out that the cavies and hamsters were not the only ones tired of the iron-beaked rule of the big red bird. In the end they managed to gain the all-important 'business' (a group) of ferrets as allies. The ferrets were agile, could fit in small places, and enjoyed causing trouble. While the small rodents, especially the mice, were nervous about these new 'friends', they agreed that it was all for the best. The store's two rabbits (up for adoption) were large enough to be quite useful, had greater gnawing power, and were good escape artists in their own right. The agreed to join in temporarily, in return for the left-over alfalfa hay and three carrots each.

The Guinea Pigs had agreed in a pinch they would break into the freezer with the help of the rabbits, and find some of the frozen mice reserved for the snakes, and pull some tinned cat food from the shelves. This would be used as bribery for the ferrets, although this idea made the little mice cringe. In the end, all they required was a few new toys and some tinned beef to sweeten the deal. The ferrets were already very interested in ending the reign of the big red terror. A verbal contract was drawn up, and the ferrets agreed that as long as they were fed and allowed free reign of the back-rooms (lots of boxes to play in) and new toys, they would leave the store-rodents alone (thought not the mice that came in from the outside). This would only be good for a month, but the every small mammal in the store with the exception of a gerbil and some mice, agreed that they would worry about this expiration date once the Big Red Menace was officially gone for good.

Their biggest allies proved to be the other birds! All the birds would have loved a chance to fly free (even briefly). The two Sun Conures agreed to do their part for the plan. The Green-Cheek, who had regressed due to stress and required hand-feedings, was unsure of what to do. While the Suns felt they could convince him to join, they felt it would be unfair to force a baby to contribute. The Green Cheek was given a new toy, and left to his own devices.

The eight budgies, who were fast enough to avoid being bothered by Mara, were not as inclined to join. The Cockatiels, who were too sweet to wish harm on the Big Red Dinosaur, agreed to be the neutral party and help ensure any agreements were upheld. It was clear they were timid about the idea, but they did go along with the plan. The finches were the easiest to bribe, they just wanted more nesting material. This was procured and they quickly joined in, despite not caring a whit about whether the plan worked or not. (They kept to themselves and we not bothered much by Mara.) The only finches exempted were the ones currently sitting on eggs or raising chicks.
The animals had the advantage of appearing insignificant to the owner and anyone else that was looking for a child's pet. I told the man that is a good choice, since hamsters had a short life span that would teach a child the meaning of death over some animals.

It was getting late, we finches always know these things in order to avoid predators. I feel uncomfortable in this small cage, nesting boxes or what? My mate, Charles, sings such beautiful songs, wanting me more than this small cage for a lovely young finch as me.

Everybody is trapped in one way or another. I've overheard the boss, tell one his regular clients that he was lonely and felt trapped. She lead him into the back room so we couldn't hear the conversation. I was only hoping Charles wouldn't do anything stupid to keep his pet store.

So it began one night after all of the humans were gone for the night. Chopper, ever so smart, managed to unlock his cage door. He then showed the rest of the animals how to escape, too. The hamsters and Guinea pigs needed some extra help.

We scattered about the floor, checking for bugs and spare seeds. Feathers were scattered everywhere! No one though much about the mess. They were all having such a wonderful time, being able to move!

The next morning, Charles appeared than usual. We had all just fastened our cages and looked at him with blank faces. "Well, he said, mostly to himself, "I should have done a better job of sweeping the floors."

Who knows what tomorrow may bring? Some us might find good homes or not so good, while we have to sit in small cages in the pet shop. I sure hope we all find the perfect family, and is willing to give us the love and care that we crave every waking moment.
When the animals woke up, they saw several new arrivals. Charles asked Hailey about the extra mess on the floor, and she stated firmly that she had cleaned. She wouldn't have checked it off on the task-list if she had not. Because she was the oldest, and most reliable employees, he believed her. Charles suspected that either had had not cleaned properly that morning, or that the animals had been especially messy.

He set out several humane live-release traps with bait, just in case they had another rodent problem. Other than that, he went about his day and gave no thought at all the increased mess.

Charles seemed much more cheerful than usual. There were several new arrivals and he had high hopes that they would find new homes. The last set of animals had gathered a great deal of interest, and the shelter had called back later that day to say that they had gotten a record number of forms filled out. People had really wanted to adopt those cats, birds, and rabbits. The greyhound rescue liked to drop by, and while they always got interest in the dogs they brought to meet customers, Charles preferred having animals in-store. In between jobs he would play with the animals, and in those moments he always felt like the pet shop was worth every bit of money and time he put into it.

The customers would arrive with adoptions approved. They would come and buy supplies for their new family member, discuss what brand of food to buy, and would then leave. Charles always had mixed feelings. He was glad they had a new, loving home but he always missed them.

However, adoptions were far his mind at the moment. All the employees were sneaking in between their tasks to pet and fuss over the newly arrived critters. He would have scolded them, but he was doing the same thing. So he let them be, as long as work got done in a reasonable amount of time. He wanted all three of the cats settled in, and he needed the rabbits safely put away so they would not be stressed by customers walking by constantly. Charles felt bad for the animals; surrendered or rescued, than taken to a shelter full of frightened animals, and finally carted to a pet store full of strange sounds, sights, and odors.

He decided to let them settle in for a day or two before putting them out on the floor. What Charles didn't know, was the excitement the new arrivals would cause.
Charles especially liked the rabbits. They appeared so sweet and cuddly,will turn aggressive with little or no provocation. An angry rabbit bites hard with those long pointed teeth or can put out your eye with a well aimed kick. His rabbits were separated, so no little bunnies were born.

Still, when Charles had to move the bunnies to another cage as he cleaned the older cage. He was extra carefull and used one hand underneath the rabbit so he didn't panic. They don't like it unless their feet are on the ground. He petted the rabbit and slipped the other hand undeneath the rabbit's front legs and chin, to avoid a nasty bite. He couldn't do it right because he kept on being savaged by the "Easter Bunny."

As he left for the night, Charles took a careful look around the store like he was burning it into his memory."Let's see what happens next, " he muttered, wondering if he could set up his Havaheart trapping cage. But it was outside at the other side of town. Hey, Nena lived nearby his trap. It would be the perfect excuse to see her with her hair down wearing flattering clothing.
"Wait!" He warned himself, " It would not be proper. After all, he was her boss. Any intimate affair at work was only a foolish fantacy.

He heard someone knocking on the locked entrance. It was Bill, an old fishing and drinking buddy of twenty years! How good it was to see someone else for a change! Bill had his rod and reel, artificial worms and flies and a flashlight to shine into the murky water. He grabbed his own paraphanalia and darted through the door, making double sure it was locked and safe.

This was the moment that all of the animals craved for. Even the fish did a little dance and song. All of the birds made their own choice of whistling of squauking, the ferrets were hyper, more than usual. The bunnies raced out of their cramped cages and scurried around on the floor, not noticing the little pills left behind.

The mean-tempered MacCaw was even in a good mood, "I thought he would never leave, " complained, "Thank God his fishing buddy took him away." The gold fish gasped when he mentioned fishing. He wondered if they would catch anything or just get drunk. The latter is what he was hoping.

The whole pet store was jucking and jiving, rocing and rolling to many popular songs. Chuck liked the Opra or Classical music.All of the animals hated his choices. "Let's have some 'Rolling Stones' and other rock music, " shouted Chopper and his entorage, the guinea pigs. They were all dancing the best they could with big fat tummies.

It was near dawn and Charles would stumble in with a monster hangover. So the animals cleaned up the best they could and hoped he wouldn't notice. When Mara slipped through the opened doorway, Charles barely noticed. He announced he had an emergency with his wife at home and hoped she didn't mind taking over the store for the day, Wooo Weee! she all but shouted. Now she could play with the animals all day. They all looked so sad being locked up for such a long time.

But before she did anything, the store needed a good sweeping and mopping. Not to worry; it wouldn't take long in such a small building. What on earth had made such a mess! Unless, no, she put it out of her mind. Her imagination was said to be one of her charms, but here was not the time for wild thinking.
The new arrivals had been quite happy to join in the wild party going on out on the sales floor. The cats had agreed to the same contract as the ferrets, but appeared not to be too interested in chasing anything. Chopper figured out how to set up one of the automated laser pointer toys in the back room, without electrocuting himself or the Guinea Pigs that were lending him a paw. The cats were more interested in chowing down on some tinned chicken with rice, happy to have decent food inside of cheap canned tuna flavor, dry kibble, and chicken flavored corn-based treats. They did spend several moments using the laser toy. Chopper wanted to see if he could make a laser show using the toys, but there were not enough stocked and he didn't dare pull any from the back stock room.

If If Charles' wife Betsy noticed that the laser toy was left out of it's box, she didn't comment. She was too busy cuddling the bunnies, who actually seemed to like her. They didn't kick or bite her, not even once. Instead, they sat, looking smug, nibbling on their raisins and Timothy hay. She wished she could bring them home, but she knew while her husband liked them, he did not like them enough to want one as a pet. Chopper, who nuzzled her and tried to groom her (he felt sorry for her, actually), received two raisins and a half a carrot, was jealously eyed by all the other rabbits. Luckily, the animals knew that he was only trying to be friendly; he wasn't being sweet just for the extra treats. The new rabbits would get over it, and in any case they would probably be adopted out soon enough.

If Betsy was guilty of anything, it was feeding about twice the amount of food and three times the amount of treats. Hailey went through and fed all the animals (it was her opening shift), and then Betsy went by doling out extra food and treats. By the time she was done even the goldfish were fat and happy, although no doubt the filtering system would soon be working over-time to compensate. Disaster was narrowly avoided by Hailey coming by after the required fifteen minutes, scooping out uneaten food and tossing it in the garbage.

When Hailey went to let Mara out for her usual play session in the back room, she found the locks tied up with twine (the work of some very clever finches, who had decided to practice with the twine). She decided that Charles must have gotten tired of Mara the escape-artist, and simply cut through the twine and opened the locks. Strangely, Mara did not seemed inclined to come out of her cage, but instead looked up at her with tired eyes.

"Did those silly rodents keep you up again with their wheels?" asked Hailey. She decided to let Mara nap, and moved on to working with the other animals. Mara was peeved, but luckily too tired to do anything about it. Hailey kept all of her fingers that day.
While Mara napped, she did not see the new pets that were brought in from those kinds of people who turned wild critters into pets for a while, but got rid of them when they grew too large or began to interfere with people's daily lives. One of the new pets, marked "For Sale", was a grayish white turkey named Sweet T. She was full grown but appeared to be calm and pet-like when she was placed on the floor by her previous owner. Immediately, she walked over to Hailey and sat down as if she wanted to be petted.

Hailey tested her sincerity by bending down, patting her slick feathers and the tiny feathers around her head. Sweet T seemed to smile with pleasure. Betsy saw the scene and joined in the appreciation of the pet turkey. "I know just where to put you, Sweet T, I'll put you in the window where people can see how beautiful you are. It's a rather open place with a barrier only around you but no cover over it. I doubt that you'll want to leave it because there'll always be good pickin's for you to eat and people will reach over the barrier and pet your shiny white feathers."

For the next several days, Sweet T had no reason to leave the cage where she was happy. She enjoyed both adults and kids who reached to pet her head and talk to her as if she understood every word. Life was fun in the window where kids would tap on the window or kiss the window as if kissing her.

Everything changed one night because Mara had rested and began her plan to create havoc for the animals, including the finches, who had dished out the same kind of mirth and mischievousness to her that she had always done to them. And, she wanted to find out more about the big turkey-bird that was living in the front of the store.
Sweet T. may have basked in the attention she received from humans, but she wasn't sure about some of the denizens of the store, such as Mara. This did not stop her from settling in nicely. As she adjusted, it turned out to be a good thing she was penned-in, because she would have happily followed the first friendly person around the store. Sweet T. was a little too sweet, and Chopper admitted that he was worried about her. If the rivalry between the small birds and Mara turned into a big fight, Sweet T. might be caught in the middle.

So far, things were quiet. There was a sort of cease-fire in the pet shop. All of the new animals had been adopted out, except for Sweet T. People loved her, and some did want to take her home with them, but there was no one interested who had enough land to let her roam. Mara had seemed well-behaved of late, and that worried Chopper quite a bit. He knew enough about the Red Menace to be concerned.

Mara had to admit she was terribly interested in the big Turkey living in the window. She had never seen a live turkey before. She had thought, for most of her life, that turkeys were strange plucked, pink-skinned, bird-like food products, sans head or feet. She was intrigued to discover (mostly through eavesdropping) that they were actually a kind of bird, sometimes kept as a pet.

Her curiosity had over-ridden her jealousy of anything that caught people's attention. Some people were surprised at how friendly she was, others were simply over-joyed to see her whenever they to shop. Charles had even thought about making her the unofficial mascot, but he knew that there wasn't enough room to keep her for the long-term. If Mara had known about Betsy's plans to bring Sweet T. home and keep her in their yard (prevented by the more pragmatic Charles, who pointed out the lack of yard-space), she would have forgotten curiosity and moved straight on to pure rage.

As it was, she was busy planning her revenge of the finches, and Sweet T was about to be caught in the crossfire.
Darkness fell on the 4th of July and the was a strange stillness in the shop. Mara worked to get out of her cage so she could get even with the finches. Earlier in the day, she had not noticed that two new finches were placed in with those whom she had determined would pay largely for their conniving. Both of the new ones were tan with white feathers; one was a murderer who was sold to the shop that day after he had murdered the male that all the girl finches were crazy about. His murderous personality might strike again if he didn't like what happened in the finch cage when the humans were gone.

Mara had always been the loudest in the shop and was getting quite upset at Sweet T, that loud and awful turkey. Several times the two of them had a contest to see who could yell the loudest. All the animals voted for Sweet T because they liked her loud tones which were more pleasant to the ears than Mara's screeching. After she lost that contest, she placed special blame on the finches and Chopper who rallied others to vote against her; now, she had another score to settle.

Mara had the mistaken idea that she was the biggest flyer in the shop. The finches could fly faster, but she was bigger. She had no knowledge of Sweet T's history. If she had known that one reason Sweet T was taken to the pet shop was that her owners couldn't seem to stop her from exercising her greatest joy. She loved to fly from the peak of her owner's house all the way to the peak of the roofs belonging to all of the neighbors. She could lift her large body with the sweep of large muscular wings and whisk herself on a straight course and land exactly were she had aimed. Now, if Mara knew that Sweet T could fly and dive at her anywhere in the shop, she would not have approached the silly finches the way she did. Mara's lack of knowledge would surely be the bane of her existence if she ticked off Sweet T and became the target of the flying big bird.

In the darkness, Mara finally got her cage open and headed to the finches' cage. Just as she got there and was opening their cage with her crooked, sharp beak, the darkness was blasted away when the townspeople shot off their Fourth of July Fireworks Display. Light from the noise blasts, lit up the shop and, suddenly, all the critters knew what Mara was up to. The noise hadn't scared the big white turkey bird, but had made it possible for Sweet T to see what Mara was up to.

When it came to protecting his new friends, Sweet T. was not sweet, at all. Turkeys weigh a lot more than a parrot who has no self defense other than biting. Sweet T., because of her thick feathers hardly felt like he was being savaged by a spoiled rotten bird who was jealous. The turkey was not jealous, he was just protecting his new-found flock members.

The turkey's feet were strong, long and his claws almost leathal. He had a lot of strenth in his wings. He could break a human's arm by smacking his "elbows" around weak areas, including the face and arms and legs. But Sweet T. Was only trying to help everyone else. He had no doubt that this evil parrot was planning a mass murder in his own sick, damaged mind.

When it was clear that the big red bird meant business, the sweet and beautiful turkey decided, "Enough is enough!" So he fluffed up his feathers and displayed his full tail. No turning back now! The two birds squared off and when the turkey scratched his back, Mara moved in for the kill. But, again, Sweet T. had those darn, slick and strong feathers like a shield.

Now, the turkey knew she had to destroy the parrot's Alpha position. So Sweet T pounced on Mara, digging in his large claws, battering him with his bird "elbows," breaking Mara's wing. The parrot backed off and said,"Okay, you win. I quit.

So now, the past "boss" of the pet store was busted down to nothing. Though he was injured, he would be okay, just would never fly again. Sweet T. organized the rest of the animals to clean up their messes before going back into their cages.All of the animals rejoiced and finally felt safe.Even Chopper, who was so dear, rubbed the big white turkey with his chin glands, meaning, "Friends forever!"
For the next weeks, Mara stayed quiet and sullen. First of all, she was hurting all over from her fight with that interfering turkey bird, Sweet T. She wasn't feeling too happy about anything; in fact, she was just plain depressed. It's a good thing that a new pet was placed in a For Sale cage. It was a horny old owl named "Doc".

Doc was well known at his previous home, the office of psychiatrist Homer Knosall. For two years, Doc had been listening to Dr. Knosall diagnose the mental illnesses of thousands of human patients. Doc had listened quietly as the psychiatrist talked to patients who had trouble adjusting to the stresses of their families, employers and people in general. Being intelligent and observant, Doc figured that he had learned all that he needed and he wanted to find a place where he could try his knowledge to various non-human critters. To do that, he needed to be set free from the office of Dr. Knosall. The wise old owl began to cause a ruckus whenever a patient was in the office and was unwilling to tame his actions. All of that was to cause Dr. Knosall to send him to a pet store; he succeeded.

It didn't take long for Doc, the horned horny owl to recognize that the pet store was filled with neurotic critters from parrot to turkey to gerbel; he did not think any of them had a reasonable level of positive self esteem except Sweet T who seemed to have a "God Complex", just one more psychiatric problem. As cocky wise owl, like Doc, could do a lot to sweeten the atmosphere of the pet shop if he could help all of those whom he believed were of 'less value' than himself. The red parrot, Mara, was definitely clinically depressed with seriously damaged self esteem; therefore, Doc's focused on developing a relationship with her so that she would be his first patient. Since all of the other animals ignored her and seemed to have an ingrained hatred for her, she needed his wise counsel the most.

On evening as soon as the caretakers locked the door behind them, Doc was able to untie the leather strap that kept him at his perch. As soon as he was free, he flew over to sit by the cage where Mara seemed to be crying real tears of sadness.
Mara had always been top bird, until she had been carted over to the pet shop to spend her days. She had tried to be top bird at the pet shop, and it had worked. She had never been able to learned how to get along with birds. It wasn't that Mara was a mean bird, but she only knew how to be sweet to people. She had become downright aggressive towards other birds, and it had backfired on her.

Now she spent her days lonely, without the attention she craved. Moreover, now she was trapped in her cage for the night, and was going slowly stir-crazy. She wished Charles would take her home and play with her, the way he did when she was a sweet little baby. To him, she was just the store mascot, and trouble-maker to boot.

Doc could see that Mara didn't have an inability to socialize, she just never learned the right way to interact with other birds. If he wanted Mara to regain her lost dignity, she first needed to see where she had gone wrong. It wasn't that she couldn't show remorse she just didn't know what she had done wrong. Well, if anyone could help her it was Doc.
By now, the other animals whispered among themselves that Mara was crying and all alone. "That's the answer to the problem and we can be the solution,"Chopper.whyn't we give him some of our food?" someone said.

Before too long, the cage was full of ratfood, other rodent food, and treats. Mara liked the treats. But he was crying again later. The other animals knew why he was so sad. Charles had handraised the helpless baby, and now had other things to do. Oh no! It was already time to climb back into their cages. "Let's give Mara special attention and it might help. But it was really up to charles. Would he notice his once "Baby Bird?"

Charles was surprised when he noticed how clean the floor was looking. He saw the toys and food in Mara's cage. Knowing animals is a gift from God and Charles had more than his fair share. The bird was lonely and he didn't have to guess why. She needed special attention, just like any young child. So that is what he will do for Mara.
Hopefully, Charles wouldn't forget his commitment to Mara.

Doc, the Hoot Owl, was especially concerned for Mara. He learned from the others about her quarrels and fighting with the other animals and he knew that it would take more than forgiveness by the others to shake her from the depression. He noticed that the only time during the day that she seemed to brighten a little was when Charles was nearby, especially when he talked to her. Most of the time he was in the backroom doing his work or talking with a customer. Mara watched intently as Charles locked the door without even a look her way then she closed her eyes and dropped her head down. Once more she was saddened at his neglect; something so different that when she was young and vibrant.

Doc worked feverously to untie the knot so he could leave his perch and talk to Mara. His last visit sitting at her cage was especially quiet and she paid no attention as he sat there looking at her. This time, after he sat there for a while, he asked in his kindest voice, "You don't seem to be feeling very well. What's on your mind? I'm new here and I want to be your friend. What's bothering you?" He sat quietly hoping she would know that he meant no harm. He just want to help.

After a while, Mara scratched the scar on her neck with her longest toenail. "Nobody here likes me. And Charles ignores me all day long. He used to talk to me every day and give me special treats. Now he treats me like I'm not even here. I guess you've heard from the other pets that they don't like me. Sure, they've all brought me treats and even toys, but they have every reason to hate me. They probably do and just have pity on me. I don't want their pity. I just want Charles to like me again."

Doc saw tears in her eyes. "I don't think it's pity; from my observations, I believe they want everybody here to be friends. When anybody in the pet family is angry or sad or hurts another family member, it's just plain hard on the whole family. If you talk to them, and overlook their faults, even the finches', you'll be happier. Who knows, maybe if you're happy with your pet family, Charles might even be drawn back to you. Happy pets make for happy humans. Do you suppose you could mend the fences with everyone here, including Sweet T? She can't be all bad. After all, when you say her name fast, it sounds like "Sweetie" and that says something good about her. Who knows? She might become you best friend here."

Mara fluffed her feathers and looked a little bit brighter and she seemed to have a bit more energy. "I'm willing to try harder to fit in what you've called 'the family' and see what happens. But if it doesn't make Charles talk to me more like he used to, well, I'll probably get so depressed that I'll just kill myself."

"Whoa, Mara! Don't even think that way. Every animal here has value and you do too." Doc sat quietly for a while longer then he flew over to see if Sweet T was still awake.
Mara was barbering her feathers, over-preening so that she grew more raggedy with every passing day. Charles would look at her and shrug, Betsy felt terrible. Hailey couldn't figure out why her Big Red Menace was so lethargic, and worried that Mara would become a plucker. She'd seen far too many parrots who's frustration and agony could only be expressed by ripping out their own feathers. She'd seen worse, too - a Cockatoo with a gaping hole in his chest where he'd mutilated himself. By the time Hailey had convinced his owner to let her pay for treatment, the poor thing had died of a massive infection.

Sweet T did not feel sorry for Mara, because Sweet tea lacked the sense of superiority that pity implied. She did however, feel a great deal of empathy.
Charles was busy cleaning cages and feeding the many animals. Each had certain needs and he made sure he acquired the knowledge needed. He looked up when he heard the door open and saw a lady carrying a cage in which there was a green and yellow macaw. The lady was wearing a yellow straw hat decorated with greenery and tiny plastic flowers. She brought the cage to Charles. "I have had this lovely macaw for twelve years but now I have to move into an assisted living place so I must find him a new home. You have a good reputation at your pet shop so I am hoping you can take "Itchey" and find him a home."

Charles looked closely at Itchey and saw that he was healthy. "How are you Itchey Macaw?" To his surprise he got and answer.

"I'm fine as silk. How are you?" Charles smiled and told the lady that he was sure he could help Itchey. She left the store in tears.

"Okay, Itchey Macaw. I think you will like living here. I'm going to put your cage right up here." He hung the cage on a hook then went back to cleaning cages and making sure every pet was well cared for.
Itchey Macaw settled in nicely. He was loud and sometimes frightened the staff. He wasn't a bad bird, he just liked to explore. He often got into trouble when he got out of his cage. He was nice, so everyone liked him despite this.

Itchey liked to chat with the customers, so he made quite a lot of friends among the regulars. Itchey might have been adopted quickly, if not for the stringent requirements attached. Charles wanted to be sure that Itchey would got to a great home, so in order to take the bird home, customers would have to purchase a good cage, lots of toys, and good food. Charles also offered 25% off any purchases made for Itchey's well-being.

Customers were interested in Itchey, but not many could afford the cost of caring for such a large bird. So Itchey stayed in the store for a little while. During this time, he made friends with a lonely, despondent Mara. At first Mara was not interested, but Itchey said "How are you doing?" and offered her a bit of his grapes. Mara was touched by this newcomers generosity.
Itchey was so lovely and sweet, it was really depressing Mara. But Itchey's good humor and friendliness seemed to be rubbing off on Mara. It is like going to a good movie. Mara had been watching depressing movies with violence. Doc's well earned wisdom was also helping with the Pet Shop Attituded. Everyone who walked in the story who had visited before was pleased with the new look.

As word got around about the wonderful Pet Store in town, more people came to see everything and more wanted to buy the pets. Chooper was popular and the ferrets, gerbals, and hampters all needed real homes. The Pet Store was home, but the animals needed special attention only a real owner could provide.
Hailey Marley, one of the staff, watched happily the day a woman with the same color of hair as Sweet T, the turkey who carried on conversations with customers, stood watching the turkey. "I'd like to buy her. She looks like a healthy hen and I have a Tom Turkey Gobbler at home who's letting me know he would like to have a female. Sweet T might be a good match." Sweet T seemed to understand what was being said because she began to softly garble to the animal friends around her. Then she raised her voice to tell the Red Dinosaur how happy she was. "Hey, Red, I'm getting a new home. Look, the woman looks a lot like me. I heard her say she's got a Tom at home so that means I'll get to have some babies. If she really takes me, be sure to tell all my friends here tonight that I'm glad I got to know them. And, tell them that I hope they all get happy homes too."

Sweet T the turkey was right. She went home with the white haired woman. Thanksgiving Day would come soon, and she wanted to raise turkeys for dinner so, we know that Sweet T needs to be successful at having babies, or she could end up being Thanksgiving Dinner.

Earlier in the day, two of the gerbles and three parrots were bought by nice people. Itchey watched them go and wondered if he would ever get a chance to have a home again. Even with all the benefits that Charles offerred, nobody seemed interested in him. When he worried about that, he hid his head under his big wing so the other pets wouldn't know how sad he had become. He had always been told, "Big Birds don't cry."

Charlie and Hailey both cheered up Itchey. "No one is ready to take you home, 'cause they know they're not ready. But just you wait, the perfect person will come along soon." said Charlie. Hailey, who was more practical, gave Itchey a few extra grapes. He shared them with the Big Red Dinosaur, who preened his head feathers lovingly. Mara was turning out to be a sweet bird, once she learned how to get along with other animals.

"Just you wait, someone good enough to give you the perfect home is going to come in this store someday," said Hailey. She scratched his head, on the other side. Between Mara and Hailey scratching his head, Itchey felt like he was in heaven. He knew one thing though, when that perfect person came to take him home, he would miss his friends at the pet store. Even the hamsters, who liked to use his cage to stash their extra seeds and carrot chunks. Well, maybe he wouldn't miss them.
Charles, like so many animal lovers, realized how lucky, fun, and also the responsibility goes along with so many animals to care for. He often praised both ladies for being so indispenible. It seems the word got around town that Charles' pet store was a Foster for the local Humane Society.

"Hey, thought Charles, " Now I can really keep a lot more animals and the SPCA would pay for food and medical needs!" He called them right then and beamed as he hung up the phone. "They are tickled about the idea, but only if we pass inspection. That's no big deal, we have a very clean, well-organized place, the animals are healthy and friendly, won't this be great?" He started to clean cages and give the critters treats as he chattered about the idea.

Betsy who also had a say in this, had already agreed by bobbing her head up and down when Charles mentioned his big idea, " Dear, " she smiled, " Now we can have more animals and pick and choose the new owners. These places have stingent rules and conditions to adopt an animal. So, we will still have a place full. New animals would replace the adopted ones."

The animals heard this exchange and had mixed emotions. It would be better than going to some just walking through the door. Not that Charles wouldn't check them out, as well. Maybe this will be exciting, meeing new friends, or even finding a great home with lots of love to give. It was exciting, but would it work?
After Charles and all the workers went home, cages began to open and various animals gathered around Itchey and Mara until almost all of them were there. Chopper, the old rabbit, became the self-appointed leader of the meeting. "We need to be of one voice now that there is going to be extra work and extra animals here. Over the months, with additions to our group being slow, one at at time, not too many at once, that has allowed us to gradually and easily assimilate the new ones into our group without too much trouble...that is, since Mara has decided to be sweet to most of you here... But if there is an influx of new animals and feathered friends, we can expect problems. This meeting is to agree on some rules that all of us will work together to require of all the new ones."

Suddenly, Chopper, was interrupted by the gerbils who jumped on a box and started yelling. "We don't want just anyone to come here. As long as there have been a limited number of any particular animals or birds, we've still had a voice in things that get done. We don't want all the new creatures that this new program will bring. Instead of rules that nobody will be able to enforce, we, the gerbils, demand a stop to the new plans. We don't want Charles to start bringing in newcomers who'll get adopted out so fast that all their presence does is disrupt the civility we have here. We, the gerbils say "No No No New Foster Kids or Otherwise." That's the rule we want.

Itchey stood up. "Hear me. Hear me. I think Charles and his workers should improve our living area, make it more plush and comfy and keep all those new animals and birds and whatever else he comes in with, and put them in pens against the back wall and not let them corrupt our life styles. I don't want the new critters upsetting my lifestyle, and I don't want them creating problems for anyone who is her now. No strangers. Keep our group exclusive. I vote to demand Charles figure that's what we want. We're an exclusive group that's holier and better than any foster creatures that might be brought here. We've got to work to stay exclusive. Maybe we even need to put up some barriers tonight to get the message to Charles. No New Creatures; We're exclusive."

The rabbits jumped together on top of the table. "No, we disagree. We are no better than any other creature that Charles brings in here. We're not exclusive. We're not different and more important, they are no less than we are. We say, give everyone equal rights and let everyone live by the same rules. We want equality."

The rabbits had a pretty good idea in regards to the pros and cons of having a store full of mostly adopted animals. After all, many of their compatriots were rabbits from the shelter. It was stressful, seeing so many rabbits come and go, and even more stressful to be confined to the store, desperately awaiting the right person to take them home.

Really, the gerbils were upset because no gerbils or small rodents were ever brought in for adoption, with the exception of rats. They were sold fairly quickly, and thus came and went. It was disruptive, and upsetting for the little guys, who found it difficult to adjust. Chopper felt their pain and understood their reasoning, however, he felt that more shelter animals could be a good thing.

Itchey was afraid that too many birds would come into the store, and upset the delicate pecking order. After all, Itchey was an adoptee (of a sort). The local bird rescue was so full of birds, that if the store accepted shelter animals they might very well end up filled with them. The store could become crowded, and a stressful, instead of soothing, place to live.

Chopper could see why the animals felt the way he did, but he felt sure that shelter animals could be a good thing. Not only would the animals have a better chance of finding homes, but the store could actually be improved by greater attention from the public to the plight of homeless animals. The wise old rabbit Chopper had years of experience dealing with the changes that shook the little pet store. If anyone could unite the animals, it would be him.
Luckily, the local SPCA mostly sent cute puppies and kittens. Of course, they sent Charles a few really nice dogs and cats. These animals came from the main shelter after staying there for ten days. All of the animals, that is dogs and cats, were neutered and spayed. The unwanted pet population needed to decrease and the shelter made sure that no one could breed the animals or let them run lose. The shelter would not adopt out a dog unless the potential new owners had a fenced yard for the dogs and cat owners were to keep the cat or kitten inside.

The animals at the shop/adoption/petstore enjoyed swapping stories and learning about what happens out there, in the other world. When people visited to see who they wanted to shower with love, some wanted to adopt the residents of the store. A couple of sweet fuzzy gerbils were adopted by people with children to play with and care for. The rats were also popular and went to good homes.

Charles's heart went out to the new foster animals. A couple of rabbits, spayed and neutered, as well, got on with Chopper and even shared his roomy cage. They snuggled and groomed each other like rabbits love to do for each other. Their names were Thumper, and Sweetpea. Both had lopped ears and light brown spots. Since people that visited for mostly cats and dogs, maybe Chopper's new buddies would stay a while.

With so many animals at the shop, the SPCA sent over volunteers to clean cages and play with the animals. It was good for the critters to be held and hugged. So far, Charles was pleased. He was glad to help out and the humane organization paid for upkeep and vet bills. The only downside was the new pets would come and go. But he felt like he was doing the right thing.
All the animals benefited from the work of the SPCA volunteers, not only because the cleaned the cages, made repairs and helped keep things orderly, but because they took time to hold, softly brush and talk sweetly to each pet. Soaking up all that love, each of the pets became happier than they had ever been in the store.

One day a big, tall man dressed in a handsome suit came into the pet store. He took off his fancy felt hat and walked from cage to cage. Mara held his attention for quite a while. He chuckled at her silly responses to his questions. When he talked to Doc, the old owl, he made hooting sounds and laughed softly when Doc answered him in real hooting sounds. The rabbits liked the way he talked softly in his gruff voice then laughed at their antics.

When the big, kind man got to Itchy's cage, his eyes brightened. "Now, aren't you a gorgeous creature. I bet you can be a lot of fun. How are you today?"

Itchy fluffled his feathers. "I'm fine as silk. I'm gorgeous." The man laughed for it seemed like Itchy was joking with him.

Charles walked up. The man reached to his back pocket and took out a wallet. When the pets saw lots of money in his wallet, they all caught their breath. Charles felt a sudden change in the whole atmosphere. "I'd like to buy this one. I think he and I could have plenty of fun and I'm quite sure my grandkids would enjoy talking to him. He seems pretty smart." Charles told the man about Itchy and the requirements for purchasing him. "Fine with me. Sell me everything I need to take care of him. "Itchy, so that's his name. Well, I'll take good care of him and we'll get along just fine."

Itchy fluffled his feathers and sat tall as if the prove how perfect he was and, maybe, to be a show off to let the other pets know how lucky he was.

If the humans noticed the animals in the pet store acting a little odd, they did not say anything. It might have been that they simply disregarded what they saw as ordinary, as humans are wont to do. Or maybe, they didn't feel like pointing out the obvious. The rabbits seemed excited to see their friend getting a new home. The gerbils and Guinea Pigs had their noses pressed up against the glass, watching the proceedings. Mara, the Macaw, was sulking in her corner, finding that she did indeed miss Itchey Macaw, and resented him for leaving.

Chopper, wise rabbit that he was, slipped out of his cage and hopped his way over to the Big Red Dino cage. He offered Mara a raisin, as a peace offering. Mara took in delicately in her talon, instead of snatching it up as she might have done in the past. Chopper placed one paw against the side of his cage, and said, "Tell him you miss him. He was your friend, wasn't he?"

Mara, instead of disregarding the old rabbit as she would have in the past, slipped off of her play-stand and flew over to Charles. She regarded Itchey with sad, beady black eyes. She waved one foot, and softly said "Bye-bye!"

The man bought the largest Macaw-appropriate cage Charles had for sale, as well as several pounds of food, treats, perches, and a cart full of toys. The cage required assembly, but Charles waived the fees and offered to set it up for the owner. All in all, it looked like Itchey would enjoy his new home.

Charles scratched Mara's head, and Itchey's new human smiled at the two friends. Itchey passed Mara a grape through the bars of his travel cage. Chopper jumped about, twisting his head, overjoyed. He flopped over onto his side, content.
Itchy was, indeed, sorely missed, but the new foster/ adoption center always had somebody new, looking for a home. The volunteers kept the cages clean at all times, sometimes cleaning the cages several times a day. They also gave the dogs much needed baths. All of the animals in the shop were also brushed as often as possible. Charles was please with the new arrangement.

The ferrets were loose from time to time, and the weasely little rascals won everyones' hearts. When picked up, the ferrets would go limp and felt like furry slinkies. Charles and the others had to be careful about their diets. A lot of foods would kill them. They only ate ferret food, and not treats, fruits and veggies. Even a grape can make a ferret deathly ill.

Several people were interested in the ferrets, but they needed a nice two decker cage so they could get some exercise. The furry critters needed lots of exercise. The other animals were interested in the ferrets. They used to have a home and told them what it would be like. One of the interested animal lovers came back and went through the strict care for the ferrets. The SPCA approved the young man and he walked out with the two buddies.

Meanwhile, Mara was growing to be tame, but not a lot. All of the new animals interested her and loved their stories. Most of the animals were excited about being adopted. The rats and gerbils were very popular, as were the guinea pigs. All of them went to the rigtht homes and everyone was pleased. The others were pleased for the ferrets, but would miss their silly antics.

In a few days, two more ferrets were dropped off. These two were white with pink eyes. They were called Snowflake and Vanilla. They were as friendly and as fun as the other two. So far, Charles happily noticed, all of the animals were friendly toward each other. Chomper was pleased, as well.

© Copyright 2012 InkRose, Lesley Scott, ANN Counselor, Lesbian & Happy, (known as GROUP).
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