Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"I want one!".....but, do you really?

I am spending my vacation at an unbelievable and beautiful villa on the Caribbean called Baraka Point.  As if meeting the toucans on the island wasn't enough, I have been fortunate to meet many animals on this trip, including the Red Footed Tortoises that live here at the villa.  We were also treated to a visit to Richard Branson's Necker Island which is home to many different animals.

A 66 year old female Aldabra Tortoise from Necker Island

One of the Red Foot Tortoises from Baraka Point
I am on several different bird/parrot facebook pages and forums, including pages that list baby birds and adult rehomes looking for new homes.  So many times I see people exclaim "I want one" after seeing a picture or a video of a bird that they like the look of.  Many times they don't even know the species or anything about it, it may even be a wild animal or a species that is not legal to keep.  Still they "want one" because of how the animal looks in the picture.  Not the best way to choose a companion animal!  Maybe they are saying this jokingly and don't mean it, but judging by the number of parrots and other animals looking for new homes, sometimes just after a few short months once the owner realized that the adorable parrot they had to have is actually quite loud, demanding, messy and a lot of work is something that they "don't have enough time for" indicates that a LOT of people bring home a new pet without giving it nearly enough thought.

I have worked with tortoises in the past and after spending time with Nemo, the California Desert Tortoise that I have agreed to be a "godmother" to, I have become more interested in learning about them, their requirements and how they live.  Naturally, I was drawn to the tortoises here and Rick and I have been feeding and watering them daily since we got here.

Nemo, Native Bird Connections Ca Desert Tortoise, my "god tortoise"
Needless to say, I am enjoying these tortoises.  It would be very easy for me to say, "I want one!" beause of my newfound interest in them.  Okay, fair enough, they are cool and truth be told, I have thought, "Wow, I could have one of these guys".  If I am going to truly consider this, or any new animal, I have to seriously think about what this means and weigh all the realizations and possibilities.  Here are some of the things I need to look at and what I need to consider:

  • Do I have the time?  I have a lot of animals already.  Several dogs, birds, cats, my doves.  Bringing in another animal would require more of my time.  I spend a lot of time hanging out with my animals, but there is also the cleaning, feeding and other things I need to invest time in associated with them.
  • Do I have the space?  The tortoises here have a large, outdoor space here.  Because of the climate they do not need an indoor space, but if I were to keep a tortoise at my home I would need an indoor and an outdoor space.  It would need to be large, tortoises require a decent amount of space.  I would also need lamps, water sources and all of that takes up space.
  • Do I have the information?  I am always working to gain as much knowledge, experience and skill development in working with, keeping and handling any animals that I am responsible for.  Taking on a whole new species requires a whole new world of animal care to learn about.  This is something I take seriously and would be a big project for me.
  • Can I make the commitment?  Tortoises can live for a very long time.  Can I commit to an animal that may live up to 50 years?  If I got a young tortoise it could outlive me!  
  • The impact on my other animals.  I have a houseful of animals that I am committed to, responsible for and who count on me.  Is it far to them for me to have to make room, find time and give part of their attention to another animal.  With my dogs, I purposely choose to live with dogs who do well in groups, that thrive on the attention and interaction of one another as well as with me and my husband.  This is why it works, they get along, they are dogs that are bred for and thrive on being around other dogs.  Bringing in another species changes everything.  Not to mention that my dogs have not been around tortoises, what would they think?  
  • More work.  I spend a lot of time not only interacting with and training my animals, but also cleaning, preparing food and caring for them.  My dogs eat twice a day with their second meal including a dehydrated food that must be rehydrated with water and then left to sit before being mixed with their other food.  The birds eat twice a day with their breakfast including a soft, wet, fresh food meal that must be removed after a few hours.  Several of our dogs eat in crates so their crate pads have to be changed and cleaned.  Bird cages have to be cleaned.  The dove aviary has to be cleaned.  Areas have to be vacuumed.  Cat boxes have to be cleaned.  You get the idea.
  • More money.  My animals eat well.  I am proud of this and it is important to me to be able to provide this, but it isn't cheap.  I use fresh foods, store bought diets from local pet supply stores and order a lot online.  Dogs and birds require a lot of toys and enrichment, so I spend an obsene amount of money on dog and bird toys and enrichment.  In addition to food and toys there are also vet bills.  If you think routine dog and cat veterinary care is expensive, you don't even want to know about bird care.  The list goes on.  Financial impact is something to think seriously about.
When I am an honest and lay it all on the line, it becomes clear to me that no, I am not in a position to add a tortoise to my family.  It would require more time, space, money and commitment that I am prepared to offer right now or for the next 50 years.  I won't say that it isn't something I won't consider in the future, but I am currently pretty busy with owning a business, having a husband, several dogs, two cats, a flock of birds and volunteering with a wildlife education program and simply don't have time.  I will continue to respect and admire the tortoises, toucans, lemurs, flamingos, macaws, cockatoos and the people who are able to provide for them correctly, from a distance.  Instead of "wanting one" and taking one home, I will take home pictures, memories and admiration.