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The Unshakeable Interspecies Bond of Pet Moms

Pet parents are a special breed.

5/7/2021 3:41:00 AM

For many of these women, sharing their lives with these pets is also the realization of a lifelong goal. Pet parents are a special breed:

Pet parents are a special breed.

.It takes a certain sort of person to devote themself to raising a different species—though being a pet mom certainly has its appeal. Sure, one’s non-human progeny aren't likely to grow up to be president, to solve climate change, to make great art, or even just to be an adult who is somewhat indebted to aid you in your old age. But

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unlikehuman children, pets don’t give you stretch marks, or labor pains, or crayon on the walls, and you can be certain that the chances of them growing up to resent you are truly nonexistent. All pets really need is your care and the occasional use of your opposable thumbs. In return, you get love and companionship and the kind of unwavering appreciation that even the most devoted offspring can’t consistently provide. A pet and its human are in this thing together, and in some cases—like with certain species of birds and turtles—for a very long time. (This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. Says Louann, whose flock includes five parrots and one toco toucan: “The good thing is you don’t have to save money for college, but they

donever leave.”)The pet moms photographed for this story understand the peculiarities and particular privileges that come with the territory. Some have human children in addition to their interspecies brood; others don’t. Some stick to only one species; others raise a variety. Some manage rescues and shelters, others only the careers of burgeoning

social media stars. All of them consider their pets to be part of the family, which means they have many of the responsibilities of a parent, but rarely the same respect. (Or accomodation: though pets can occupy a place in the home and heart equal to a person, in the eyes of U.S. law they’re more akin to possessions.) During quarantine, Ulla Bazant operated her Manhattan-based textile design business,

Blue Boa Studio, out of the same space where she lives with her pomeranian, two cats, an aviary full of finches, and a pair of African Grey parrots who often swoop around her loft on periodic “joyrides.” Occasionally, a visiting client asks whether she could get rid of the birds. “You hear a lot of people complaining about their kids at home during lockdown,” Bazant says, “and no one ever suggests, ‘Well, maybe they could go live on a farm.’”

As for the allure of pet parenting, even with the hours spent feeding and cleaning and having mostly one-sided conversations—well, love is a funny thing. “I certainly could tell you all the different ways pet ownership helps in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and helping people relieve social isolation, all that stuff,” says Dr. Katherine Compitus, the founder of

Surrey Hills Sanctuary, a non-profit micro-farm in upstate New York. But to her the most important part is the power of healing that our relationship with animals offers. “It brings us a deeper connection and deeper meaning with nature, with the world, with other humans, with ourselves.”

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It’s often also a way of being a parent—with all of the nurturing and devotion the term implies—on one’s own terms. And it’s worth noting that unlike rearing humans, who now must unavoidably be raised with the awareness of several existential threats to continued life on earth, with pets, the natural order of things is simpler and also sweeter: life abides by a feeding schedule, pockets are always full of treats and toys or tucked away hands just waiting to pet, and things like politics and plague are simply beyond the realm of comprehension. It makes you want to live up to their standard.

For many of these women, sharing their lives with these pets is also the realization of a lifelong goal. “So maybe that’s the best part,” says Louann, “I’m living my dream, you know?”Ulla BazantPhotographed by Chris Maggio“They feed my soul,” textile designer Ulla Bazant says of her New York City menagerie, which includes a pomeranian, a Bengal and a regular housecat, two African Grey parrots, and an aviary full of finches. “I can’t imagine for one second that my work wouldn’t suffer if I didn’t have them. In the morning when I come back from walking my dog, before I start working, I have my coffee, and I just sit there for a few minutes and watch the finches and listen to their singing. That is the time in the morning that they start to really sing. And their song is so beautiful. I think about the day, and what I’m supposed to work on, and that time in the morning with them is so precious. I really feel that centers you. It inspires me so much.” And at the end of the day, Bazant continues: “The peace that comes over you when you have your tea or your wine or whatever and you have a cat and a dog at your foot and the parrot is laughing in your own laugh watching a TV show with you. It’s amazing. They just provide me so much joy.”

“I get two extremely odd questions at least once every time I walk them,” Bazant says of her two African Grey parrots, Lola and Gianni. “The first is: ‘Are those your pets?’ Which is crazy to me, because is the assumption that there are parrots living in Central Park and they chose me to land on, and I'm walking around, like, ‘I hope these birds leave me alone at some point!’? The second question I get is ‘Are they real?’ And I find that so creepy because that implies that I purchased artificial parrots and I attached them to my body and I walk around like that. I’m always mystified. Why do people think that they're not real? They're very much alive and making sounds.”

“Children especially really love them. I let kids hold Lola or put her on their shoulder and take pictures. People go: ‘Isn't this annoying? Aren’t you bothered?’ And I go, no, because every child that holds them may grow up to be an animal lover or become educated about the parrot, and that makes me happy. I don't mind stopping and answering people’s questions, and the kids are so happy. It makes me happy to make my fellow New Yorkers happy, you know?”

Read more: Vogue Magazine »

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