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Furless pets

Published: Sun, July 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



THEY ARE CREEPY AND they are crawly and they lunch on live crickets.

So why would anyone want to keep a reptile as a pet?

"They are cute," said Breeanna Markowitz, 9, of Warren, whose fat-tailed gecko, Lizzie, placed first this past week at the Trumbull County Junior Fair.

"She wanted a horse," said Breeanna's father, Doug. "We kind of had to do what we can do in the city."

Breeanna has been involved in Brookfield 4-H Friends for about a year and has made do with guinea pigs, bunny rabbits, Lizzie and the family dog.

On a premonition

The family used to have a ball python as well, but dad gave it away based on a friend's premonition.

"My dad's friend kept having dreams he was going to eat our little puppies," Breeanna said.

Reptile lovers, it seems, rarely settle for just a single pet. Take Jessica Boley, age 15. She has two box turtles, a bearded dragon, two green anoles, a sulcata tortoise, and, most recently, a dairy feeder cow.

"Every year I entered a small animal in the fair and I always won first place," said Jessica, of Brookfield. "I thought the cow would be more competition for me."

Oh yes, she also has a handful of guinea pigs and rabbits.

"At least we know where she is," said Jessica's mother, Jill, one of the Brookfield 4-H Friends advisers.

"She is out cleaning a cage."

Her latest acquisition is Ralph, a turtle whose species lives 70 to 100 years and can grow to 240 to 400 pounds.

"Hopefully, by that time, I will move out and get my own home," Jessica said.

Ralph now makes do in a tastefully decorated aquarium tank. "I told Jessica that when she gets married, her turtle is going down the aisle after her," her mother said.

Todd Margo, 13, of Niles, is a toad guy. He keeps pairs of American toads and fire-bellied toads, and even goes by the nickname Toad, on occasion.

"I like to watch them because they are comical sometimes," he said. "They'll ride a box turtle and sit on its shell."

No difference

Reptiles do not offer the same kinds of enjoyment that dogs and cats do, said Danny Kerr, who has judged the 4-H reptile competition for the last three years.

They are never going to run over when you call their name, he said. But there is a lot to learn from a lizard, he said.

Study them, and you can learn their techniques of communication through bobbing heads and waving arms.

"They are misunderstood," he said. "They really do make good pets."


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