June 28, 2015

pet-world-logoPET WORLD EXPRESS
Our temporary location is up and running! We are across the parking lot from our old store, between the laundromat and Bikram Yoga. The space is only ¼ of what we’re accustomed to but we’re making it work. How can you help? Bring us your smiling faces and your product suggestions. We are currently stocking all the top selling merchandise just as fast as we can but we need to know exactly what you need that we have yet to order in. We can fill most orders within a week and your requests are critical in helping us create our inventory to best suit your needs. Each time you pick up an order, that item is automatically reordered and then becomes part of our normal inventory. Then, the next time you shop, you’ll be able to simply find what you need on hand. Your input is very important so please keep those orders coming!

We currently have everything you need for feeder insects, fish, and rodents – live and frozen. Live pinkies will arrive on Fridays starting July 3 but won’t last long. Breeder rodents will be back soon and after a few weeks we should be able to meet the demand for live pinkies and fuzzies. We have heard your complaints about corporate policies regarding feeder rodents and fully understand your frustration with other stores. Our position is that a pet snake’s life is just as valuable as any other pet’s life. We understand the food chain and embrace the circle of life, placing equal value on animals regardless of whether they have scales or fur.

In addition to our personal pets for you to enjoy, we are slowly starting to bring in a few pets for sale. Little by little, employees are bringing in pets they’ve been fostering to stay at PWX most of the day then go back home at night. We won’t have very many but after the new system is in place, we’ll bring in a few more and the fish and reptiles will stay overnight. The new system we selected will be monitored via landline, WiFi, and – most importantly – cellular. We don’t know of any facility in the area with this level of monitoring. At the first sign of danger, an emergency signal is sent as fast as a text message, with battery back up in the event of power failure. The risk of transmission failure like all the “landline only” systems is practically eliminated. That said, after your heartfelt feedback regarding live pets, we’ve decided we are not yet willing to risk having birds or mammals stay overnight. Our temporary location has floor to ceiling brick walls between us and our neighbors and even without sprinklers our new system exceeds all industry standards, but, quite frankly, it’s just too soon. Warm blooded animals (fur and feathers) are much more susceptible to smoke and fumes than cold blooded animals (scales) so we have decided to only bring in a few, low risk, cold blooded pets for sale. Remember, though, we can special order any pet you want anytime.

Because our temporary location is not yet generating much revenue, we can’t yet afford to call back more employees. Hopefully, soon, our sales will increase to a level where we can afford to call everyone back. Until then, we would like to update you regarding the status of the employees you miss and the PW pets they are fostering. Please follow us on Facebook and Twittter to see regular progress reports of PW staff and PW pets, showing you where they are now. Pet World is nothing without our staff and we know how much you love and miss them. We do, too.

Losing Pet World has been difficult for our community. Thousands of us felt pain but no one experienced the loss quite as much as our summer camp kids. There’s never a good time for a fire, but there could not have been a worse possible time than late May for something like this to happen at PW because June is camp month. Cancelling our camps was one of the hardest decisions we've ever had to make. Employees work hard to achieve the highly coveted camp counselor status. Kids wait all summer for our camps to come around. Parents go to great lengths to secure spots for their kids who often start at age four and spend eight summers in a row with us then go on to become junior volunteers and even employees. Breaking the news caused extra heartbreak on top of the obvious losses because for many kids it was their last chance for a particular camp because of their age. We have five camps and four of them are mostly on site so we had no choice. Morning Critter Camp (ages 3-4) had to be cancelled completely, Afternoon Critter Camp (ages 5-7) and both weeks of Animal Camp (ages 8-9) were canceled with the offer of a free Friday field trip to the tortoise farm. But the last camp of the summer, Wilderness Camp (ages 9-11), we were able to keep and it proved to be a blessing for all involved.

This particular camp begins and ends at PW every day but is primarily held at the tortoise farm which is located on the private, Pet World Nature Preserve so we decided with a few modifications we could still offer it. PWX does not have a kitchen area or even a break room that could serve as an Education Room. For this reason we couldn't pull off our foil dinner, family cookout Thursday night. Instead of being disappointed with us, parents and siblings joined us for roasting hot dogs and s’mores, spending the afternoon/evening getting private tours from their camp kids.

Usually, after kids pack their lunches, they get free time at PW up until 10am each morning before we leave for the farm. The kids get to “work” at PW, help care for the animals, or simply play with them. Sometimes we return early for additional free time between 3:30 and 4. Normally, anytime we get severe weather, we can always have free time inside at PW. The lack of animals at PWX greatly reduced the free time possibilities. This concerned me but to make things better, employees rallied each morning, bringing pets from home. The Humane Society, Sunfire Ceramics, Prairie Park Nature Center, and the Natural History Museum all offered assistance as alternate field trips in time of inclement weather. Parents of former employees hosted catch and release fishing field trips at their nearby pond and even let us use their home for restroom breaks and ice water refills.

All of our camp supplies got ruined by water and smoke from the fire but vendors worked hard to replace everything as fast as possible. We received our water bottles and backpacks just days before camp and Gambler Graphics remade our shirts in less than a week. Even with the wonderful support and modifications, without Pet World we knew the overall camp experience would not be the same so we offered no hassle withdrawls with full refunds, no questions asked, at any time before or even during camp.

Not one parent took us up on our offer. Not one.

There are two burial sites at the tortoise farm for Pet World animals who died in the fire. Camp parents know that our philosophy includes telling kids the truth up to the point of understanding (no unnecessary oversharing) yet they didn’t shy away from the situation. We are experienced with pet loss and have found the truth is generally the best approach as kids tend to handle loss better than adults. The camp kids were free to visit the burial sites as desired, alone or with others, since both are within sight of base camp. We didn't make a big deal of visiting but it also wasn’t something we avoided. Some kids visited briefly in groups, others a little longer in private or with a counselor. All the kids shared in some discussion – some fleeting, some in depth. Most already knew enough about the fire from their parents but some had questions. Many kids simply shared how they heard about the fire, where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt. The most meaningful thing to me was how their parents not only trusted us to handle these discussions, they encouraged the overall experience. Several families even compiled a huge scrapbook of photos from past camps and PW parties, some going back many years, to remind us the importance of what we teach every summer and how it shapes their kids. Many times, right in the middle of camp, I would just catch Ande’s eye and we would both tear up, knowing how much these kids matter to us and how much Pet World matters to them.

Last week offered us a much needed time of reprieve, restoration, and renewed purpose.

I cannot thank parents enough for sharing their kids with us, especially this particular summer when we probably need them more than they need us. Sharing a week with all those muddy little kids, laughing, climbing, learning, and embracing nature gives us more inspiration than anything else in this world.