By Maggie Mae…with Ronni Diamondstein
When I visited animal expert and author Jean Craighead George last spring I met her pet African parrot Tocca. I see birds outside, but I had never encountered a bird in a cage in someone’s home. I wondered “are there other unusual pets and who would take care of them?” I asked around Chappaqua and discovered that a veterinarian, Laurie Hess who specializes in parrots and other cool pets lives in our town.
I checked out her practice online, Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics www.avianexoticsvet.com and was intrigued by the tagline “Exceptional Care for Extraordinary Pets.” I knew I had to meet her so I got a ride over to her office in Bedford Hills.
The first thing I wanted to know was, “What is an exotic pet?” Dr. Hess said in her practice she sees birds(like parrots, macaws and canaries) and rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, ferrets, small rodents (like mice, rats, gerbils and degus), reptiles, amphibians and less seen exotics like kinkajous, wallabies, fennec foxes, and opossums. I asked her how she decided to take care of birds and exotics. She said that in veterinary school there was not a lot of training for these animals but during her internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City she had a chance to work with them and she knew these unique creatures were her calling.
Dr. Hess helps people before they even get their pet. She has a phone consultation service. “I welcome people calling. We talk about their lifestyle, their family and the financial piece of bringing an exotic pet into their home.” Exotics are low maintenance pets. Most are small and don’t need a lot space. They don’t need vaccines and they are easy to transport when they need to be boarded.
Dr. Hess recommends bringing a new bird or exotic pet in for a wellness visit. “We educate people as to how to care for all kinds of animals.” Offering advice on nutrition, environment and care, Dr. Hess says you don’t want to wait for a pet to get sick before you bring them in to be checked. She is very passionate about educating people about their pets and the importance of taking these little creatures seriously. “You can’t judge the value of a pet by its cost,” she says. Many of these animals live for decades. “I’ve had grown up grandchildren bring in a turtle that belonged to their grandparents.”
I know I like to be around people and asked if birds and exotics were good company too. She said that these pets bond with people and that they are quite social and can be very entertaining. Ferrets are playful, interactive, and comical. Parrots are good companions too. “I can’t tell you how rewarding these pets can be,” Dr. Hess says. “Birds talk to you!”
I had to know if she had any pets and I wasn’t surprised to hear that she did: three birds, four cats, and several fish. I wonder if I can convince her to get an exceptional dog like me to add to her extraordinary menagerie. And maybe I can get an exotic pet too!
Contact Maggie Mae Pup Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maggie Mae lives in Chappaqua with her adoring owner Ronni Diamondstein, who, when she isn’t walking Maggie, is a freelance writer, PR consultant, award-winning photographer and a School Library Media Specialist and teacher who has worked in the U.S. and abroad.