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Creative Pets


Profile/Photography: Melissa Taylor

Size and Appearance: Ponds come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the creativity of the builder! This review specifically applies to a "starter" pond for smaller yards: a half whiskey barrel.

General Requirements: De-chlorinated water, a half whiskey barrel planter (middle photo), liner, a location with a few hours of sunlight each day, one marginal plant, one oxygenating plant, two fantail goldfish (or two mosquito fish), and a dwarf water lily (top photo). Faux lily pads are needed for the top of the water to give the fish and water shade before the plants become developed. An essential requirement to a pond is to make sure children are older and responsible. It's important to inform neighbors to keep small children and pets out of your yard, or set up proper fencing. It's also important to figure out--before beginning--where the pond animals and plants will go during the colder months, if your area's temperature isn't constant.

Lifespan: Pond plants are often perennials. In a pond as small as a half barrel, though, they will need to be brought inside and "wintered" if you do not live in an area that is warm for all seasons. Fish will live a varying lifespan, and will also need inside housing during the colder months when making this small of a pond. Goldfish can live 20-40 years, but mosquito fish (a relative of the guppy, but pale and dull in color) live only about two years. Goldfish are generally more fun for viewers since they are colorful.

Responsiveness to Caretaker: Goldfish may learn to take food from people's hands, or come to the top of the pond for food. Some goldfish do not mind being touched or petted.

Quantity: It's best to start small and not overcrowd a container. Two fish is about the maximum, as well as one plant of each type mentioned above. Of course, the number of ponds you create is entirely up to you! Don't place koi or large goldfish types in a container of this size! Fantail goldfish are about the only type of fancy carp that will remain small enough.

Notes of Interest:
* Goldfish were originally developed for this type of container! It's an unique experience to view goldfish from the top rather than the side; peeking out from under a lily or sparkling water (bottom photo in profile).
* Though many people worry a pond will help increase the mosquito population, fish are good at keeping this from happening.
* Ponds near ground level may attract area frogs (and, consequently, tadpoles!).
* Building a pond (especially a larger one) may require obtaining a permit.

Link: PBS' Cultivating Life has an excellent article on how to set up a barrel pond, located on their website at:


Profile: Peter Pumice, as told to Juliann Seebauer Photography: ygg

Size and Appearance: Size can vary from the tiniest speck to a large boulder. Appearance varies from the conglomerate in the street to a bumpy geode to a gemstone to an alabaster vase. Who says a pet rock needs eyes?

General Requirements: Pet rocks are very low maintenance. No food, water, or cleaning up after; though they need a general dusting or bath every once in a while. You may need to look up specific care requirements for your rock variety, as some rocks dissolve in water (e.g. salt rock), and would need a cool, dry spot. Some rocks like to roast in the sunshine, while others like to be carried around your neck or finger. Many rocks are fragile, and need to be handled carefully. They may get a splitting headache if stepped on or dropped. Virtual pet rocks may take some computer time, energy, and space.

Lifespan: Common Rocks have a very long lifespan. Soft rocks like talc and slate will crumble and die if not handled carefully. New and young rocks can be found after volcanic explosions, but wait for them to get hardened to this world, please. Some rocks were born millions of years ago, and have fossil tattoos to prove it.

Responsiveness to Caretaker: Pet rocks usually don't come when called, but some can be taught to hang on chains or roll down ramps. Rocks with nerves of steel may come with the call of a magnet. A rock pet can be dressed up or down, according to your mood, and some have grown up to be weather reporters! A few lava rocks can learn to float.

Quantity: Pet rocks usually enjoy company and large families, though some can be loners.

Notes of Interest:
* Pet rocks do not require any allergen-containing food.
* The Greek word Petros means "rock," and the study of rocks is PETrology. A pet rock is very educational, as you learn about its origin and composition, previous lives, and hard(headed)ness.
* Please do not obtain your pet rocks from National Parks, they are protected.
* Some rocks can be domesticated, while others are best left alone in the wild.

Links:Pet Rocks history (, Virtual Pet Rock for Macs (, Wikipedia definition of "Petrology" (, and Rockdoctor (


Profile/Photography: Melissa Taylor

Size and Appearance: Finding an animal to sponsor is limited only by your imagination! Your favorite animal can probably be sponsored either through a national zoo or your local shelter. At right is a shelter cat. While he was adopted, the shelter he came from--like many others--has a sponsorship program.

General Requirements: The main requirement is money to sponsor a pet. Programs usually run from between 15 to 30 dollars per month.

Lifespan: Sponsorship commitments usually are from one month to one year, and can be renewed.

Responsiveness to Caretaker: While the individual animal won't respond, the organization will typically send a photo to you of the sponsored animal, and perhaps a newsletter.

Quantity: You can sponsor as many animals as is affordable.

Notes of Interest:
* In the case of shelter sponsorship, you may be able to send toys or treats to your animal, as well as other animals in the shelter. Be sure to inquire what items and what specific brands the shelter is in need of.
* Sponsoring can be made more fun for children by giving them an accessory that goes along with the pet. For example, how about a themed figurine or stationery?

Link: To find a local pet shelter, visit Pet Finder ( From there you can ask if they have a sponsorship program. Your local zoo is also a place to check for sponsorship programs. They may have a website online with more information.

Window Pets

Profile: Kelly, and Melissa Taylor Photography: Kelly, and Melissa Taylor

Size and Appearance: Varies.

General Requirements: Sometimes "pets" are right outside our windows. Melissa's family enjoys offering seed and water to birds such as this goldfinch (bottom right), but they've seen many animals in the yard, including a wild turkey and nursing rabbit kittens. The middle photo is of a squirrel she found napping in a tree. Kelly likes to watch her neighbors' horses from the window (top photo at right). Items (such as birdfeeders and houses) that come into contact with potentially allergenic animals may need to be cleaned, so it's important to have a family member without allergies perform maintenance.

Lifespan: As long as your yard provides for the needs of animals, they will continue to visit.

Responsiveness to Caretaker: It's best not to approach wild animals, and try to just enjoy them from afar. If the animals belong to someone, it's always good to ask first before petting.

Quantity: The sky's the limit--and also a place to look!

Notes of Interest:
* If your area is currently animal-free, there are ways to help attract animals. For success, try to create a yard environment that replicates their habitat and provides necessary food and shelter. Offer birdhouses, birdbaths, and native plants.
* If space is limited (for example, if your backyard equals a balcony), a birdfeeder will still often attract birds. Patience helps, because it can take weeks for them to find it.

Links: Some researchers have volunteers track animals in "citizen science projects." Being involved in such a program might help children feel the "responsibility" of caring about animals, without actually owning a pet. A few you may be interested in monitoring are: birds (, butterflies (, and frogs (

* Only your allergist can determine what is truly allergen-free for you and/or your child. The animals in the above profiles are fur- and feather-free, but that doesn't mean they will necessarily be allergen-free for all individuals. This website and participants in this article are not responsible for reactions that take place as a result of owning any pet.

Would you like to help by providing a profile of your favorite pet(s)? Only profiles including a personally-taken photo(s) will be accepted. Send an e-mail from this webpage, including all of the following information: your name as you would like to be credited, size and appearance of the animal, general housing requirements, lifespan, responsiveness to humans, quantity, and any fun notes. Thank you for taking the time to share about your pet(s)! E-mails about broken links are also appreciated--just use the link above.

Allergen-Free* Pets Database


This website is for personal support information only. Nothing should be construed as medical advice.