What a week. I think it’s fair to say we all fell to our lowest points last week. The grieving process is not easy as so many of you know too well.
Currently, we are not allowed to do anything with the Pet World building since it does not belong to us and insurance companies apparently have many things to sort out. Seeing it just sit there, empty, with nothing happening, no life at all, is eating away at all of us – so much so that many of us can scarcely stand to drive by. I can’t fathom what takes so long to work through but I assure you, once we are given the green light, we’ll get that place back up and running as soon as humanly possible. There is a slight chance that the building will not be repaired in a reasonable enough time, which, to us, is 90 days but certainly no more than 180 days. In that case, it is possible Pet World will permanently relocate into a space that is ready now. We should have final word on that situation within a week.
The loss of the boarding pets continues to be the most difficult to deal with. It took days to retrieve records only to discover water damage to contact info, communication has been slow and painful since social media does not seem like the appropriate format and we couldn’t reach everyone in a timely fashion, and our management team – the sole caregivers of boarding pets - have struggled with what they want to say as much as I have. Five boarding families experienced pet loss from the fire. That’s only five letters to write, we realize, but it feels like five hundred. What do we say? I’m sorry for your loss, here is a refund for your boarding fees? Let us know what we can do? How in the world can we find adequate words? Nothing we can say or do will make these pet losses better and, quite frankly, we simply didn’t know what to do, and still don’t. The worst situation was a family who was still on vacation. We didn’t even know if they had heard about the fire and couldn’t imagine what they’d be coming home to. We felt like it would have been insensitive to post anything public until we had communicated with everyone privately through whatever channel we could use. Letters have been written and rewritten and I’ve watched our managers struggle with these particular losses more than anything else. I can’t imagine how awful this must be for our boarding families and I’m not sure we’ll ever have closure on this. Even though families have been unbelievably kind and understanding, most offering us condolences as if our loss was greater – which it was not – the boarding loss is the main reason we considered not reopening Pet World at all and the primary driving force behind our requests for increased fire safety for all animal facilities who house unattended pets at any time.
So the question is whether or not we will board animals again. On the one hand, we know that you need us. Dogs and cats can board almost anywhere but the less than typical pets have few options. You are telling us that after we rebuild we will be the safest place in town to board exotics since most places do not have sprinkler systems and we will. I even received one email from a mom explaining that since her house does not have a high tech fire safety system she feels like her pets would be safer with us than in her own home while she is away. We know better than anyone how to care for exotics and have a specialized team in place to handle it. For all these reasons the answer should be yes. But to be completely honest it is just too soon to decide. I’m sorry. We will work hard toward a yes decision but for now I can’t say for sure. In the meantime, all I can recommend is to find a friend you trust or check with a professional and ask the necessary questions that will give you the assurance you need.
Birthday parties and summer camps have been the next most difficult step. Laugh Out Loud Family Zone immediately stepped up and offered use of their facility to relocate pending birthday parties. That was a huge relief. Since then we’ve sent cancellation letter after cancellation letter, hoping the refund checks don’t somehow cheapen our apologies. We all know this has nothing to do with money but insurance covers those refunds and the truth is, families need those funds to make other arrangements. While we appreciate parents’ offers to not cash refund checks, I promise we would all feel much better if they did.
Because four of our five camps take place primarily on site, we had to cancel everything but Wilderness Camp. Kids wear their Pet World shirts and spend an hour before we open taking care of the animals much like employees. Free time is spent with pets of choice. Even though we take field trips, the Critter Camp & Animal Camp experience just can’t be duplicated without Pet World. One very good thing, though, is that each Friday these camps take field trips to the tortoise farm. This past Friday, we extended an open invitation to last week’s Critter Camp families to join us for the field trip their kids would have taken. For two beautiful hours we got to share the tortoise farm, feed the tortoises, and even watch some kids complete their first crossing of the locally famous tree bridge. We are looking forward to the next two Fridays more than we can say.
More good news - we’ve confirmed our temporary location. The former Hume Music space did not work out, however, this morning we got the keys to what used to be CPS, Copy-Print-Ship, between Bikram Yoga and the laundromat. It is only 25% of the space we need so we can’t relocate there long-term but for a temporary location it will work just fine. In this space we will offer exotic nail trims, wing trims, feeder fish, feeder crickets, water tests, aquarium water, basic food and supplies, and weekly special orders for anything you need. You will also be able to consult with Pet World management staff seven days a week. Our hours will be the same, Mon-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm. StoryTime Live and Feature Creature will resume on Saturdays and Sundays.
Except for a very limited selection of fish, we will not have daily pets for sale in this temporary location. The fire prevention system in place is the same old out of date system most places have and, as you can imagine, we can never again even think about operating a real pet store with live pets unless we have the latest in fire safety – especially sprinklers. That said, there will be some animals available on a regular basis to play with and adopt and we can special order some specific pets as they become available. Most orders should be filled within a week. Also, employees will bring pets to work for you to enjoy when you visit then they’ll take them home each night. It will not be the Pet World you are accustomed to, but we’ll do our best to take good care of you and make your shopping experience special.
The best news of the day is the return of the Kitten Pit. There is a large, open space in the front of this temporary location near the windows and the front door. We are working with the shelter right now to set up the kitten adoption schedule. Hours may be slightly limited because the kittens will only stay at Pet World while we are open but you’ll have plenty of access to them. We apologize if our current "no unattended animals while we're closed" policy seems too over the top protective but we ask you to please bear with us and understand our personal need to work our way back one step at a time.
The city commission assured us they will do anything they can to expedite our reopening process and I am heading there today to request our occupancy permit for the temporary location. They have been kind and concerned, keeping up on our progress, offering a much needed feeling of support on a local government level. If all goes well, we could open the temporary location as soon as June 17. Fingers crossed.
We'll keep you all updated and thank you for your patience and continued support.