Tag Archives: BlogPaws

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

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Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

One of the highlights of my trip to Phoenix was visiting Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo, and finally meeting Sherry and Chris Pietilainen! Melanie was there, too, because of BlogPaws, and our new friend Jessica joined us. I knew that Chris and Sherry had an interesting collection of animals, but seeing so many unusual rodents in one place was a real thrill!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Back to front: Chris, Sherry, Jessica, Melanie’s Hat

I hadn’t seen a Paca since my trip to Panama, where they were so elusive. They are very sweet animals and very friendly, as you can see!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Jelly Bean

They are perfectly pet sized and seem to be pretty well behaved. Like many wild animals, though, pacas have proved to be challenging in captivity.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Cuniculus paca, Lowland Paca

It’s tempting to say “Oh, I definitely want one!” but I am willing to let experienced professionals like Chris and Sherry work with them first.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Oscar, showing off his zygomatic arches.

The males have a wider face due to a bony jaw extension, supposedly used to amplify vocalizations, which we did not hear. Oscar has kind of a pouched-up hamster look, doesn’t he? And what do they sound like? I will let you know if I find out.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

This is Oscar’s second home, and he is settling in nicely.

There are more Oscar and Jelly Bean photos here.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Nibbles and Nugget, the agoutis

There are about a million agoutis in Panama, and there is a park in Rio de Janeiro with about a trillion of them! They are so adorable, and I was so excited when Chris got his! They get pouffy in a funny way when they’re excited: just the back half of them gets sticky-outy fur! It’s very silly looking, like fancy pants.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Common agouti

Agoutis are the perfect example why we let professionals check these guys out first. Chris had told me that they stink, so I quit thinking about pet agoutis long ago. Now he tells me why: when you give them a morsel of food, they scurry around, bury it, then urinate on it! What an adorable habit! It’s also disconcerting to see them easily bite into a Brazil nut. I usually have to open those with a jackhammer! So, agoutis are cute, but not for me.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Sheila and her little Joey. JoJo, the dad, is not shown.

The little marsupial Bettongs represent a special part of the “Down Under” portion of the petting zoo.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Baby Brush-tailed Bettong, so tiny!

The Pietilainens have three breeding pairs of Brush-Tailed Bettongs! (JoJo & Sheila, Sydney & Dundee, Wego & Izzy) They were resting quietly when we were there, and I didn’t dare disturb them, so these are Chris’s photos.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Not surprisingly, the tail has a brush at the end!

The Bettongs are critically endangered and the Pietilainens are part of a program that is trying to help the species survive even though they will never be able to recover their natural habitat. They have placed 9 pairs so far and know of at least 4 babies from those pairings.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Darby and Blue

Chris and Sherry started the rescue about a dozen years ago and the zoo evolved from the rescue. Today it’s more of a sanctuary than rescue. Like my sanctuary, many of the animals that come in now are not adoptable due to their age. They are nice relaxed animals for a petting zoo, though!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Cheerio!

There is a growing need for rabbit and guinea pig sanctuaries. Chris has already taken in more guinea pigs since my visit!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

What else has been in the living room?

Don’t we all have chicks in the living room? In most homes, these little guys would be getting all the attention, but we walked right past them, because Chris was already outside talking to this guy.  There’s one in every crowd, and Chris let Alfie know we wouldn’t be putting up with any of his shenanigans.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

“We have guests, so behave yourself!”

The Patagonian maras, on the other hand, were eager to meet us!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Jessica and the mara.

And then there was this guy, a ring-tailed lemur. His large cage was right outside the door.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

King Julien

He looked very dignified until Chris fed him. He sure gets into his food!

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We picked a glorious week to visit Phoenix. It hadn’t been under 110º for days and had measured 120º just a few days before our visit. Quite a few of the animals kept to the shade by the house, but there were plenty of adventurous guys out and about.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

The Patagonian maras are Amy, Rudi, Cody, Layla, Mia, Lanie & Lonie.

The maras were all over the place, and the chickens proved how spunky they are. This little white duck refused to live with the other call ducks, and was all over the place. I wanted to bring her home, but I was still trying to figure out how to sneak Cheerio into my pocket.

These guys had their own outdoor air conditioning- see that big red fan? There’s a reason why they’re all huddled around it! I wanted to join them!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

The Fan Club

Wait, who is that way over there? Well, it’s Addy! It’s a capybara, of course, and amidst all these fabulous animals, you know the capybaras are what I came to see.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Addy the capy, getting some “space”

Chris! What are you doing over there with Becky the Emu? We need to see the capybaras!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Rebecca the Emu (Becky) getting some TLC.

So here’s Collett, posing, and looking very colorful in a coating of DRIED MUD. Nice.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Pretty Collett

How about these guys, tussling through the fence over who is to be Lord Of The Rake! Dobby does the same thing- guys just like tools, and all of my tools must be properly marked.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

“It’s MINE, you fool!”

There’s nothing quite like a proper mudhole when the thermometer keeps going up!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Scrappy, Collett, and Chris

Chris has been breeding capybaras for a while. He’s working on a couple special breeds. Here’s one he calls “Hood Ornament” with a classy duck front and center.

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Standard Duck Hood Ornament

Here’s another that is sure to become popular, the “Two-Toned” model. Available soon, at a pet shop near you!

Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo

Two-Toned Scrappy

2016 BlogPaws Conference, Arizona

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2016 BlogPaws Conference, Arizona

That was the best BlogPaws conference, ever! I missed the first half due to work conflicts, but Melanie was settled in with our friend Carol (and her local yokel daughter Chris) when I got there. When you go to Phoenix, stay out in Chandler at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, it’s a masterpiece! A well considered collaboration between Starwood and the Gila River Indian Community, it blends easily into the community setting. An inviting lounge, a meandering pool (movies at night!), wildlife trail, great food, classy but not pretentious, and environmentally sensitive, too. Next year is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and we’re excited to go, but this location will be hard to beat.

Melanie and I have both been blogging a while, and most of the participants are dog/cat people, so what’s in it for us at this point? Why was this our fifth conference? We live so far from each other, we’d just be Facebook friends if we didn’t have Blogpaws. We both get a kick in the pants to blog more often when we hear what other people are doing, so you’ll notice more writing, better writing, spiffed up websites after each conference. I even incorporated as a non-profit after one conference. Plus, we always pick up a stray though she swears she found us, and she’s right, that’s how it is with strays. They find us.

Jessica Claudio is a young enthusiastic zoo veterinarian from the D.C. area who already knew all about capybaras. If she thought we were weird she was very polite about it. She had a couple free days after the conference, too, and a rental car, so we talked her into chauffering us all over Arizona. For us, the most exciting part of the conference was its proximity to two capybara breeders! For Jessica, it was an invitation to enter the obscure animal world bridging the gap between zoos and pets.

I think I took some photos, but here on this flight, balancing my orange juice, mini-pretzels, and funky iPad on a tiny airline tray, there are no guarantees. I’ll want to have some fun showing you the capybaras and their oddball sidekicks, and by that I could be talking about the other rodents . . . or maybe the owners. Like us, they are quirky, and I could still be talking about the animals or their humans. Those blogs will come along later, but I meant it when I said Blogpaws conferences are inspiring, because I couldn’t wait to write this!

So with Jessica driving, Melanie and I chattered her ears off, and we covered Chandler to Tucson. Two fun days of drive-testing a rental Prius with Los Lonely Boys, Santana, Dizzy Gillespie, and Nirvana providing the sound track. We saw dust devils, blue skies, distant rain, thunderclouds, lighting strikes, and sudden spatters of rain. Saguaros were through blooming and now pimpled with red fruit. At dusk, their spooky stubby arms raised like an alien army begging “Don’t Shoot!” Palm trees scattered like shady jokes among the trailer parks, and vultures soared in the distance. (Ever seen a cell tower disguised as a palm tree?) Stone walls, stone piles, stone mountains, dry creek beds with Flood Warning signs. More Saguaro cactus, seriously, is this the same planet that hosts soggy Seattle? Like marauding pirates landing at Olive Garden, we looted their wine cellar. Not really, but they had free wine so we felt like we had hit the jackpot. Sorry, Jessica, you’re the duty driver, but hey, can we have yours?

Whenever I see a chipmunk, I feel as though my life is complete, and so the Phoenix area rates all ten points. Even if they were actually Harris’s Antelope squirrels (these certainly weren’t the Chip and Dale variety of chipmunk), I am partial to all kinds of rodents, large and small. A cute furry tailed rodent scurried directly across our path. We first thought it was a kangaroo rat, but it was probably a pack rat. We saw bats, big ones. Or maybe one was a goatsucker? That was a Great Horned Owl in the distance. Vultures, of course, but a covey of quail and bunches of dove/pigeon types. Big fat doves, smaller ring-necked guys, tiny tan ones, flying, strutting, hiding in upper branches. We saw jack rabbits playing under the trees before they raced away. Not as many lizards as I expected, and nary a snake. When it’s too hot for reptiles, it’s really, really hot!