Angie Prince of Delta, Colo., gets a lot of pirate jokes these days thanks to Frank, the blue and gold Macaw that is constantly on her shoulder. “People often think he’s fake,” she says, “but when he squawks, they jump.” Nine-years-old and about 2-feet long, the beautiful bird goes practically everywhere (including to drive-up windows) with her in the van, also, which makes other drivers do a double-take. “He tends to draw a crowd,” Angie admits with a smile, “and he’ll pose if he sees a camera.”
Owner of Little Creatures Pet Store in the Valley View Plaza mini-mall, Angie met Frank in January, 2012 after she and her husband, Gabe, had gone to fetch some aquatic turtles that some other folks were selling. They heard the bird first and followed the noises, “finding him in a covered, unheated porch with a carpet over the small cage. He was hunched over, and so stressed and unhappy that he’d yanked out a bunch of his feathers.” Feeling sorry for the bird, the couple began actively bargaining, eventually taking him home “for a song and a dance.” Frank wasn’t sure about the freedom that his new owners offered, however, and “He was really shy and scared in the beginning,” Angie continues. “The poor thing actually hid his face from us. It was so sad.”
Now, however, he is completely the opposite. “We used to have an enormous cage in the pet store for him, and the door was constantly open. He would perch at the top, wait for people to walk below him, and then squawk at the top of his lungs, which scared some half to death.” Another of Frank’s favorite tricks was to reach out and snatch baseball caps, and if he was really in a fun mood he’d hang on to the side and block the passageway to the fish tanks. “Now we keep him behind the counter,” his mistress concludes a bit dryly, “out of the way!”
Birds take a lot more care and feeding than most people realize, and this one definitely required extra work and expense after they brought him home, starting with food. “His previous owners had only fed him peanuts and sunflower seeds, so his diet wasn’t balanced.” Angie explains. “They can eat practically anything except avocados and chocolate, so after starting him on some special Macaw pellets we slowly added other stuff.” Frank’s favorite things are potato pancakes (he’s an addict, and even likes them cold) and peas in pod, which are “really hard to find, so we just started growing our own this past year.” (Of course, Frank likes to pick his own.) And he loves the family chickens, choosing to watch them from the window when they’re outside of the coop. As for personal care, “he does NOT like to be sprayed with water like the books say,” Angie laughs. “Instead, he wants brief showers with his wings spread.” And he likes to go to bed at a decent hour, which results in “little hissy fits” if she and Gabe stay up too late watching T.V.
Lately, the 2-pound bird has started talking, which began with a simple Hello. “He’ll hang upside down on his perch and scream ‘Hello, hello, hello,’ if not immediately acknowledged with something like ‘Yes, you are so cute!’” Completely bonded with Angie, he gets upset if she leaves the room without telling him first and will yell “Hey! C’mere! Where’d you go?” It’s no problem for his adopted mother, though. “He’s the messiest, loudest, neediest and coolest pet I’ve ever had,” she admits, and she’s certainly had plenty.
Originally from Cedaredge. Colo., Angie (as well as her four children) grew up loving animals. “The kids had every kind there was, and we made them do research first before they brought anything else home.” Meantime, “Gabe has always been big on fish, even setting up and maintaining tanks for doctor’s offices.” (She refers to him as the “Fish Rain Man.”) After spending 20 years in Billings, Mont., when the job market crashed the couple decided to move back to the Delta area and open their own business. Not only do they sell small animals such as guinea pigs and mice, but Little Creatures stocks iguanas, turtles, toys, aquarium supplies, collars and leashes, and an enormous variety of fish including Freshwater Puffers, Betas, sharks, Cichlidas, the Clown Knife and seven kinds of fancy Goldfish.
They also stock “Earth Born” brand foods, which are “Very earth friendly. Dogs and cats don’t eat corn, they eat meat, and it makes a huge difference when you take that out of their diets — there is less gas, less poop and better digestion. It improves the quality of their coats, as well. And although it may seem to cost more at first, they eat a lot less so you’re actually saving money.” That’s a good thing when you consider that Angie has a real zoo in her house, including two pugs; a newt with no legs; a one-eyed catfish; a snaggle-toothed rat; and a Chinchilla with no back feet ... all of which were shipped to the pet store, from other suppliers, in such conditions. “The sellers didn’t even notice the ailments and it breaks my heart,” Angie adds, while admitting that even though she’s animal-poor these days, she’s happy. “Running a pet store is the best job we’ve ever had,” especially when it comes to the customers. “Nice people have pets,” she smiles. “I just love what I do.” And Frank, who was lifted off his store perch by a favorite customer, then stroked and kissed while I was there, clearly enjoys his position as Good Will ambassador, too. ❖