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Photo courtesy of: Pauline Dierkens

Junior Zak Kegg and tutor Julie Genovese feed their Kunekune pigs, “Boojee” and “Meatlug.”

Rockets share fostering and unique pet ‘tails’

May 10, 2021

‘Pigs & birds & rabbits, oh my!’

Freshman+Jayy+Whited+cares+for+Peatrie%2C+a+white+Umbrella+Cockatoo.

Photo submitted by: Jayy Whited

Freshman Jayy Whited cares for Peatrie, a white Umbrella Cockatoo.

Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. 

 While many SHS families share their homes with the traditional dog, cat, or fish, others have some unique furry and feathered companions. 

Junior Zak Kegg and his mom, tutor, and volleyball coach Julie Genovese own two Kunekune. Kunekune are domestic pigs who originate from New Zealand. They are usually hairy and have a rotund build. Their color ranges from black, white, ginger, and brown. Many are even tricolored.

About a year ago, Kegg and Genovese adopted two Kunekune, “Boojee” and “Meatlug.”

 “My husband, who is a teacher, was away with his sixth-grade students at Camp Fitch. The pigs had just been born on the farm there. He found out that some of the pigs were not adopted and would be going to slaughter,” Genovese said. 

Learning that Kunekune is high-quality meat, they couldn’t stand the thought of them being killed. Soon enough the family was convinced to adopt.

The pigs have very unique personalities. They are very intelligent, loving, curious, and extremely food-driven. They learn very quickly, and within 10 minutes they learned how to spin and sit. They love being social and exploring around. Genovese explained.  

“Meatlug is the more adventurous one- she will get rough with her sister to get more food, she’s more likely to escape. While Boojee is the good girl and stays in the yard and is rather calm,” Genovese said.

They are kinda mean to be honest and are always hungry. ”

— Junior Zak Kegg

Meatlug and Boojee eat many different foods and have an extremely healthy diet. Some foods that they eat are heads of lettuce, celery, carrots, cheerios, granola, oats, along with their pellets sold at Farm and Family here in town.

“They eat all day, every day!” Genovese exclaimed.

Along with their eating, both pigs love to be very vocal. She explained how the pigs have over 32 different sounds in their language. 

“One of them is a mimic sound to a dog bark. When they are wandering the house and come up to a sleeping and lazy dog, they will “bark” at them to greet them. It’s a really cute sound and very different from any other sound they make,” Genovese said.

The entire family loves and enjoys the company of these cute and curious companions.

“Although I like the pigs, if I could get another animal, it would probably be a ferret, because they are pretty cute,” Kegg said. 

 Junior Haylee Bellar also has a few unique pets: an American rabbit and a Harlequin rabbit. Their names are Kevin and Ellie. She has had Kevin, the American, for two and a half years, and Ellie for about five months. She got both from a breeder.

“I’ve always wanted rabbits because they are adorable and are like miniature dogs,” she said. 

Bellar added that she loves to spoil them by buying them clothes, toys, and treats. 

Kevin is very laid back and lazy, she explained Ellie, on the other hand, is very energetic and is “an escape artist,” With a curious personality, Bellar said. 

“One time, when I went to go check on them, Ellie was on the roof of their hutch, trying to break out and escape,” she said.

Besides their yearning to get into everything, the rabbits love to lay around, run in the backyard, and play.

“If I could get another animal, it would be a cow…,” Bellar said. “They are just so sweet and friendly, and it makes me sad when people eat them.” 

Tutor and volleyball coach Julie Genovese feeds a carrot to one of her family’s pigs, Meatlug.

Another SHS student with an atypical choice in pets is freshman Jordan Whited. 

Whited owns 30 parrots and fosters 10. They got all of their parrots this year from the rescue and fosters at Parrot Hope in Mantua. 

Whited’s ultimate love for taking care of birds started with a Mexican Redhead Amazon named Cherry, they explained. When Whited’s family heard Cherry was going to be surrendered, they decided to bring it home. 

Sadly, Cherry passed away last year, but this led Whited and their family to foster even more birds. 

The next birds they brought home were two little love birds and an African Grey. At this point, Whited’s family was attached.

Whited’s birds each have very different and unique personalities. 

“Half the birds sing, talk and dance,” Whited said. “The cockatoos love to cuddle and not leave you alone.” 

Whited said if they could get another pet, it would be a dog. 

“I have a dog that’s tired of being friends with the birds,” they said, “so I would love to get him another dog friend.” 

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Fostering fur-ever friends

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photo courtesy of: Louise Milton

Intervention specialist Louise Milton with one of her fostered kittens.

Intervention specialist Louise Milton and her husband spent their spring/summer quarantine time fostering and enjoying the company of kittens and mama cats. 

“We play with them, which is the best part,” Milton said of their foster kitties, “help with transitioning them from Mama’s milk to kitten food at about three-four weeks old, and just generally spend time socializing them.” 

The Miltons are not the only members of the SHS community who foster. 

Junior Gia Hlad was initially fostering the miniature blue Shar-Pei and regular Shar-pei who are now officially family pets. 

Freshman Jayy Whited fosters birds ranging from big macaws to tiny finches. 

Milton said she has always wanted to foster kittens and cats and she felt this dream was also a way to give back. Without much to do during quarantine, she began fostering in May. 

Her love for animals also inspired her to volunteer at a local animal shelter a few years ago. 

Many cats are euthanized due to overpopulation at shelters, she explained. “Even more suffer outside on the streets and in neighborhoods and if I can help change the life of a few kittens a year, then I am helping in some way,” she said. 

Milton is so committed to fostering that one of the bedrooms in her home is dedicated to the kitties she brings in. Milton does this because the mama cats and kittens can carry germs and viruses that could potentially spread to the other animals in her home. 

Despite the potential dangers, Milton said the fostering is rewarding, but also emotional.

Although fostering is one of the most rewarding experiences, it is also very emotional,” Milton said. The second group of cats she fostered was very sick and one of the kittens, Ruby, did not make it. 

While the experience was heartbreaking, Milton said she believes if they had not been fostering Ruby’s litter, none of them would have survived. Though this was a scary experience for the Miltons, they learned how to recognize signs of illness and administer medication, along with IV fluids. 

Over the course of the summer, Milton’s fostering changed — and potentially saved — the lives of 11 animals. Despite the emotion and exhaustion, she said the experience was worth it. 

Milton plans to resume fostering this May. Anyone interested in following her foster journey and possibly adopting one of her cats or kittens can check out “Foster in the Falls” on Facebook and Instagram. 

Hlad’s fostering story started about three years ago with a family friend who was going through a hard time and could not take care of her dogs. The Hlads offered to foster them for a while, but after a few months, the friend was unable to take the dogs back. 

Hlad and her dad did not want the dogs to have to go to the pound so they decided to keep them. 

While Hlad was fostering, she learned how easy it was to get attached. “I honestly think it would have been really hard on us if we had to give them back,” she said. 

She enjoys taking the miniature blue Shar-Pei, Luna, on walks at local park Sunny Lake, she said. Her regular Shar-pei, Roxy, is more laid back and likes to stay at home and play with toys. 

Hlad said she considers fostering to be caring and showing love towards a pet while arrangements are being made.

Rumba, an African Grey, is one of the dozens of parrots freshman Jayy Whited has cared for

Like Milton, Whited also began fostering during the quarantine. They originally adopted two lovebirds and an African grey, but later decided to foster.

“We like to help the birds recover from past abuse, and sometimes we do end up adopting if it is a good fit,” they said. 

Whited said they do not mind fostering but that it can be stressful at times. Based on their fostering experience. they learned that all birds bite and not all are easy to care for. 

Whited said they believe fostering is a recovery process for the bird and a learning experience for them.

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