Snakes, rats, parakeets, iguanas, oh my! |

Snakes, rats, parakeets, iguanas, oh my!

Kay Vasilakis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

RIFLE, Colorado ” Judy Parks of Rifle has cared for animals her entire life. Lucky animals seem to follow her home or find her.

A wild rat befriended her when she was a young girl, but her mother wasn’t very pleased with that choice of pet. So on her tenth birthday, Judy received two parakeets, and she has been hooked on birds ever since.

When Judy was in high school, she had three dogs, two bull snakes, two parakeets, a cat and a Red Lore Amazon parrot. They taught her many lessons about responsibility and perseverance.

Now Judy is the human companion of two parakeets, two Chinese water dragons, a leopard gecko and an iguana, all of which are adopted. Adopted means the pets were not purchased, but obtained in some other way. Some of them were homeless, others abused, dropped off at Petco, left behind at rental properties or found at shelters.

“I have rescued many animals and showed them not all humans are bad people, and turned them into happy pets,” said Judy. “Lazorith, the iguana, was one of these. He split open my hand and bit my fingernail in half, but I told him I was going to win and we were going to be good friends, and it worked. He is quite the cuddler now.”

Judy has worked with animals in pet stores and with veterinarians. She worked at The Animal Hospital in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for six years before she started traveling, working for different veterinarians on whatever island she landed.

Rifle is her current port-of-call, and she works in Glenwood Springs. More than a year ago, Judy rehabilitated a Chinese water dragon, Rasta, when no one thought he would live. He was starving, completely black, had broken rib and hip bones, and could not open his eyes. Judy made a hospital habitat and physically put crickets in his mouth as part of his therapy. He has recovered, become chunky, and his color (vibrant green with turquoise stripes) has returned.

“When I take in an animal that needs to be rehabilitated, I go about it in different ways depending on the situation,” Judy continued. “I do go online and talk to veterinarian friends, and use my medical background with animals to figure out what to do. The majority of my rehab animals just need to learn to trust humans again. That takes a lot of love and patience, which people have told me I am blessed with.”

The pet lover offers a local pet-sitting service, the Critter Sitter Extraordinaire, and will stay in your home between Rifle and Carbondale to give your pet the care and attention it needs when you are away. This is much more fun for the bird, the dog or the gecko than spending time in a kennel.

Judy started pet-sitting when she worked at The Animal Hospital. Her first client boarded her pets there, and Judy spoke with the veterinarian about the length of stay and the small enclosures in which the animals were kept. She asked for permission to suggest they stay in their own home, which the vet thought was a great idea, and healthier for the animals, too. Judy and the pet owner talked about this idea, which led to a job which lasted six years until the client sold her place and left the islands.

Besides being great for the pets, owners can relax while they are away, confident their pets are in capable hands, with plenty of loving attention.

“Since I started this years ago, owners are always very happy,” Judy continued. “The only complaint I’ve ever had was that their pets did not seem to miss them as much when they returned home.”

Taking on a new client requires sharing lots of information ” veterinarian information; emergency phone numbers (both here and contact numbers where they are staying); what medication the pet is on, if any; the pet’s routine; and food and play habits.

“Our pet friends, whether furry, feathery or scaly are healing to us,” Judy concluded. “Studies show how therapeutic they are. If they can keep us happy and healthy, we should do the same for them, and if we have to leave them, make sure they are not stressed.”

To contact the Critter Sitter Extraordinaire for expert pet care while you are away, call 625-8090.

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