Stacy Rademacher of Pacific loves her big dogs and they are allowed the freedom of her house and fenced yard.
She has two Lab littermates, Brutus and Chaos, an Akita German shepherd mix named Backus and a basset hound named Low Rider.
All males, they’re attuned to each other and are allowed to go outside any time they wish, but are confined to the yard.
“Four dogs become a pack when they’re on the prowl,” Rademacher said. “You don’t want a pack of dogs in your neighborhood.”
An avid animal lover, when Rademacher wanted to expand her menagerie she looked for something much smaller and discovered ferrets. She bought two sable colored females, which she named Sugar and Honey. Although they have a cage that they’re comfortable in, they also have the run of the house.
“They’re all over the place,” Rademacher said. “The dogs love them.”
When she visits the pet store she prowls the ferret food aisle, picking up garments sewn to fit the tiny creatures, ferret toys and reading food labels.
“Because they’re so active, they need a lot of protein she said.”
These days Rademacher is the typical pet customer, said Mike Pigg, who operates Pigg’s Pets at 1710 W. Osage.
Although the store offers a complete array of fish, birds and reptiles, customers are turning to smaller and smaller pets.
Pet food sales hold their own, as does the dog grooming business, but the purchase of pets has made stars of charmers like ferrets, colorful African house snakes and tiny lizards that some owners wear on their lapel.
“They’re buying smaller pets now, rabbits and hamsters, but whatever they own they buy pet food for,” Pigg said.
A favorite small pet, for parents and kids alike, is the bearded dragon, a small reptile that can live to be more than 10 years old. The pets are so popular they now have their own web page that tells stories of individual bearded dragons and has links to bearded dragon discussion groups.
“Everybody likes them,” Pigg said. “Parents especially like them because they’re small.”
“Ferrets are also really cool pets,” Rademacher chimed in. “I’m in here all the time buying food or little clothes for my ferrets.”
Pigg understands the passions of pet owners. Before he and his wife Jill opened the pet store they had Rosie a female basset hound and Baby a blue and gold macaw, now age 16, who can live to be 90, animal scholars say. Baby and Rosie both came into the store when it opened. Baby is still there, greeting customers near the front door.
Pets large or small that come into the store are greeted by name. In the few minutes that Rademacher selected ferret food, a German Shepherd that had once been traumatized in some way the owner does not understand, now must have a tranquilizer before it can be bathed and the owner cannot leave the room.
Greg Flier’s English bulldog Sammy paraded up and down the aisles making eye-contact with humans as though arriving for a photo shoot.
“People like their animals,” Pigg said. “They may be eating out less often but they feed and bathe their pets.”