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Our ever-growing menagerie

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 15, 2023 5:00 am

We’ve just done it again: taken in a little bird that literally fell out of the sky. A baby fantail, to be exact. Not old enough to fend for itself, we put it in a cage near the spot where we found it and, in no time, its parents appeared with what looked like bread in their beaks and the red fruit from our Is-is tree.

To say we have pets is a major understatement. It’s more like we live in a zoo. In addition to nine rabbits there are three Pomeranians, five turtles, two ducks, the tiny Chinese fighting chickens and their bigger silky cousins. There are innumerable pigeons, fish, shrimp and aquarium snails. During the long lockdowns our sugar glider and hedgehog died of old age.

Dead pets are never thrown away but buried in planters and large pots in the garden. I remember as a child, marking spots where my rabbits were buried with crosses.

Our beady-eyed sugar glider Acrobat

Because we are animal lovers, students and relatives often bring to us the pets they can no longer care for, as if we were an animal shelter. But in a way we are, caring for birds that fall out of trees and even, unsuccessfully, tiny snakes that wiggle their way into the garage.

Asleep on my thumb

Our pets are like family and they are very entertaining. They have personalities, quirks and peculiarities just like humans. They can be affectionate, grumpy, jealous, greedy—yet always endearing.

They all get along—pigeons, chickens, rabbits

The animals who live with us inform much of my writing, providing characters and plenty of humor. When I pass by the aquariums or the rabbit cages I hear conversations that fill my books. Even the wild creatures like the lizards, bees, salagubang and fantails find a place in our home… and in my books.

Chinese fighting chickens—the junior is a runt

In time, we will have to be the ones to watch this newest addition learn how to fly. We let these little birds practice flying inside our home as there are too many predators outside. Then we set them free.

Orange frog moves only to eat.

We believe one such fantail, whom we named Chikiting, returned time and time again. But who knows? Some people say they all look alike.

Gar the alligator

It’s like the house in Zamora where my mom and sister live, home to many old trees and naughty squirrels. But when I’m there I swear it’s the same one that shows up when I walk in the garden, it will always pause on its climb up a tree and stare at me, eye to eye.

Live rabbit collection

The fantails I especially love when they fan their tails. In the 20 years that we’ve lived here in Quezon City, an avocado tree, an Is-is and a eugenia have grown side by side, providing plenty of fruit and cover for handsome sunbirds, fantails and other songbirds.

They make their home here with us and, more than that, they get to live forever—in my books.