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Pets Come In Different Shapes & Sizes

by Barry KuKes
When I was with the humane society, people visited the campus looking for a new pet daily. Most people narrow down their preferred choice for a pet prior to visiting. Some are looking for that special cat, while others are strictly dog people. There are those looking for a hamster or other pocket pet. Finally, there are those looking for no pet at all. They just liked to visit the animals and share some love. However, this practice can be a dangerous for those with loving and open hearts for a homeless animal. So many people walked into the facility with no intention of adopting any animal but walked out an hour later with a dog, two cats, and a gerbil. Go figure.
Most of the employees at the humane society would usually adopt an animal within 90 days of their employment. I held out for 3 years before adopting Bentley, an abandoned and abused Golden Retriever found near a local university in Daytona Beach. When I adopted Bentley, he was only 40 lbs. He is now 84 lbs. Since that time, I have adopted two more dogs, a small Cocker Cavalier mix named Cooper. I changed his name to Mini-Cooper because he was full-grown and only weighed 12 lbs. I also adopted an older dog named Spencer. He is a 45 lb. Golden, Lab, Chow mix. He looks like a large fox with Golden Retriever hair. Not sure how that happened, but I will give him the best home for the rest of his life. I think he is around 14 years old. All three dogs are the exact same golden reddish color and are often mistaken for dad, mom, and baby when we walk around the neighborhood.
One of the most common reasons for not adopting a pet in the Daytona Beach area is size restrictions. There are many condo and apartment complexes in Daytona, and most have weight and breed restrictions. Due to this, many potential adopters who would love to share their lives with a furry companion search for a small dog under 30 lbs. that typically resembles a Westie, Shih Tzu, Cavalier, or other small breed canine. Unfortunately, finding a small dog at a shelter can be difficult. Most smaller dogs are adopted very quickly, so timing is everything. If one waits until the dog’s photo is on the shelter website, they will miss out on adopting the dog because it was probably adopted within five minutes of being placed on the adoption floor. My suggestion is to visit your local shelters frequently. New animals are placed up for adoption daily.
If you live in a condo or apartment with pet weight restrictions, then you may want to consider adopting a cat or a pocket pet like a hamster or mouse. Cats are a very popular choice for the condo dweller who wants to have a pet to talk to and love. Cats are very independent, don’t need to be walked or let outside like a dog, are self-sufficient, and can be very loving as well as entertaining. As many cat owners will attest, cats are often the masters of the home. They love to be petted until they no longer wish to be petted, and then they will let you know to stop by, giving you a light warning bite. This process should only happen to the owner once or twice. After being bitten twice, the owner will learn not to over-stimulate the cat. Cats are very good teachers, but some owners are not the best students. All pet owners need to take cues from their pets. I once had a dog that would place his open mouth on my arm when I was trying to trim his nails. He didn’t bite me, but he was sending me a warning that if I was to continue, he very well might.
There are many smaller animals that can be considered as pets. Fish, although difficult to hug and play fetch with, can be entertaining to watch as they swim from one side of an aquarium to the other. A hamster is fun to watch as it runs on a hamster wheel. My ex-wife loved and had many hamsters when she was in her late teens. The downside of having a hamster or small animal from the rodent family is that they don’t live very long. The average lifespan of a hamster is 2-3 years, so dealing with the loss happens more frequently than the usual ten-plus years a dog and cat will live.
Birds, like parakeets and cockatiels, can make great pets too. You can train almost any animal, and birds are no exception. Again, some birds only live a few lives, but there are some larger birds, like Amazons and Cockatoos, that can live over 50 years.
Regardless of the pet you would like to share your life with, please visit your local shelter and adopt a homeless animal in need of a loving home. Please support your community’s animals, and adopt, don’t shop.

Barry KuKes is the former community outreach director at Halifax Humane Society. E-mail him at View more of his work at