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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

December 11, 2011

Our First Pet Breeders Show: At Least I Didn't Buy the Llama

Elizabeth Creith


Pet Breeders are to the livestock trade what manufacturers are to dry goods. Our favourite place to buy direct from breeders is Fur and Feather, a twice-yearly show held in the little town of Mount Forest, Ontario. The first time we went was with Fred Gordon, our supplier of fancy finches, and Jennie Pearce, who bred ferrets.

“We should be there by 6 a.m. for the best selection,” Fred told us.
6 a.m.? Yikes! That meant driving down the day before, staying overnight with my dad. Getting into the chilly car for the hour-plus drive from there to the racetrack at the Mount Forest fairgrounds was tough. Getting up at 4 a.m. was tougher. Toughest of all was explaining to my dad why one Guinness was my limit for the night.

We came prepared to buy bunnies, small parrots, finches, possibly reptiles. Jennie was set on a pair of miniature pot-bellied pigs for breeding, ferrets and whatever else took her fancy. Fred was looking for a few fancy birds. We'd packed the back of our van with cages, dishes, water and feed and half a bale of straw.

Fred briefed us on the way down.

Zebra Finches for Sale

Zebra Finches at a Pet Breeders Show.

“Go around once quickly,” he said. “See what's there. Don't chat. If there's something you really can't live without, buy it right away. You can ask someone to hold something until you get around again, but don't count on it.”

I expected a sort of outdoor live-animal show and sale. What I wasn't prepared for was the atmosphere—a combination of farmers’ market, cattle auction and pre-Christmas Cabbage Patch Doll free-for-all. In the parking lot, people were doing the bargain-hunter's hustle toward the track. Even Fred, our supposed guide in this venture, got twitchy and abandoned us before we shut the car doors.

“Don't get carried away!” was his parting shot, delivered over his shoulder.

Carried away? We had a shopping list. We had a budget!

We had no idea what we were getting into.

In retrospect, we didn't do too badly. We passed up the dozens of ducks, the gorgeous angora bunnies, the adorable pygmy goats, the fancy chickens of every stripe, the Siamese kittens going for a song and most of the reptiles.

We hadn't planned to buy 40 zebra finches, but when the breeder was offering them for $2.50 apiece for the lot, less than half what we paid in the Sault, well.... Technically speaking, we didn't actually buy 40, because in the hand-over-net hand-over from his cage to ours, one made a break for it and flitted off into the sky.

We hadn't planned to buy cockatoos, either, but the price was right. With Fred's warning in mind, David made me loiter protectively around the cages while he took our bank card to an ATM. So much for the budget. We barely had room for the dwarf rex and lop-eared bunnies we'd come for, and only the fact that our minivan was packed to the gunwales with cages of birds, ferrets, rabbits and a pair of pot-bellied pigs stopped Jennie from succumbing to the llama or the miniature donkey.

All the same, the car ride home was redolent of critters and their poop, and the squeaks, squawks, chittering and chirping successfully outcompeted David's favourite heavy-metal driving music.

“Why don't we just paint 'Noah's Ark' on the side of the van?” I asked.

David gave me a Look that said he wasn't letting me out at a Canadian Tire on the way home.

“Because we don't have a giraffe or an elephant,” he said.

“We could have had the llama.”

“Oh, well,” he said. “Maybe next year.”

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