07-15-2003, 10:28 AM
Rent-A-Cow Plan Opens for Cheese Lovers (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=3090431)
ZURICH (Reuters) - Lovers of Swiss cheese can now lease their own cow on an Alpine pasture to provide the personal touch that store-bought products just can't offer.
"We have around 25 interested parties," primarily city slickers from the Zurich area, said Helga Wyler, who runs a 50-head farm with her husband Paul in the Brienz area of the Bernese Oberland .
Attracted by an offer on the Internet, customers pay a fee of 380 Swiss francs ($275) per summer plus 40 Swiss cents for each liter of milk their beast produces.
Farmhands do the rest, but customers still have to work at least one day in the meadow to earn their cheese in the autumn. Each cow supplies enough milk to make 150-250 pounds) of cheese.
Swiss farmers often rent cows to restaurants with a yen for customized cheese, but private leasing clients are rare.
Instant Best Friend (for the Day)
By ANNA JANE GROSSMAN
JARED WASSERMAN'S parents aren't wild about his current crush. One recent morning as this long-lashed 5-year-old sat tugging on his big toe in the pristine den of his parent's duplex, he announced he had fallen in love. "I'd like to marry Rudy," he said.
It is an interesting choice; Rudy is male and can't talk. He is Jared's hamster. Jared and Rudy, however, have not moved in together yet. This is because the parents Wasserman like having their home pet-free.
"I've never been an animal person," said Jared's mother, Marla Wasserman. "I could do without the flies."
Rudy is part of a small population of pets in New York that can be leased or adopted part-time. He lives in a cage with Jared's name on it on East 91st Street at the Art Farm in the City, an indoor petting zoo and educational center that is home to 15 kinds of small creatures like millipedes and cockatiels, all of which can be rented yearly for $100 (for a tarantula or a frog) to $300 (for a chinchilla or rabbit, which require more upkeep). In general they live at the Art Farm and make occasional visits to their part-time owners' homes.
If a short-term adoption of a pet is what you're after, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among others, offers dogs and cats for this purpose; elsewhere in the city, rabbits and snakes and even ducks are available, often gratis, to part-time caretakers.
Pets in New York City are both privileged and pitied. While often pampered to the point of fetishization by their owners, they are also often more familiar with the feeling of sisal and concrete underfoot than gravel and grass. But even for animal lovers, city pets are usually more difficult to keep than their country cousins. There are the small apartments, the roommates, the building regulations, the allergies and the lack of outdoor spaces. So New Yorkers who cannot live without the footsteps of a millipede or the purr of a cat are turning to part-time solutions.
"My roommate is sort of so-so on the whole pet thing," said Abby Zidle, 35, an editor at Harlequin Books and a longtime cat lover, who said she has taken about five temporary cats in the course of the past few years from the A.S.P.C.A., usually for a month at a time, or until her roommate says enough.
"Cats get bored," she said. "You need to care for them a lot, and I think sometimes people don't recognize how involved it can get. Getting a pet for a shorter amount of time can therefore just be easier."
Although the A.S.P.C.A. said that animal fostering programs are available in nearly all of the 5,000 shelters it helps support around the country, the organization has found that the dense population of both people and stray animals in urban areas makes these programs far more popular in cities than elsewhere. Valentina Van Hise, a co-founder of the Art Farm, said that its part-time pet program is the only one she knows of; its sister facility on Long Island has no plans to offer part-time pets.
"It's something that appeals to people in the city because people are in smaller spaces with busier lives and parents are just like, 'I don't want to deal with having this thing in my home all the time,' " Ms. Van Hise said.
Sean Casey, the owner and founder of Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, has adopted out everything from wallabies to alligators and currently has cats, parakeets, hairless rats and a dozen other types of animals ready for adoption or part-time foster care. He said corn snakes and rat snakes are the ones people ask for the most. Cats and dogs tend to be the animals that are returned the fastest because they require more work and training than people expect.
Mr. Casey said he tries hard to screen out anyone who might take animals for dishonorable reasons, but he cannot always be sure someone is not just taking a puppy for a day or two in order to pick up women in the park. "I've turned away people who say they want a snake for a few days so they can freak out their roommates," he said. "Or one woman asked me for a bird temporarily because she felt her cat was bored and needed something to swat at."
Most of the people who come to him simply want to have a pet for whom they will not have to completely rearrange their lives. He said 85 percent of his clients are single.
Singles have started exploring the Art Farm in the City's creatures as well. Ms. Van Hise said that one adult recently looked into renting a pet because her boyfriend wants a dog but she doesn't feel comfortable with animals. "She was thinking about getting a part-time chinchilla," Ms. Van Hise said, "so that she can learn to have animals around her."
Parents like the Wassermans can avail themselves of part-time pets to put their children's promises of care and upkeep to the test.
Although it might seem counterintuitive, the A.S.P.C.A.'s position is that children should not be responsible for a pet in the first place. "It's been pretty well documented that getting an animal isn't a good way to help kids learn to be responsible," said Gail Buchwald, vice president of the A.S.P.C.A. Cares program. "If a kid isn't cleaning his room, he's not going to then start taking care of a pet. These are living creatures that have real physical and psychological needs, so at the end of the day, parents need to consider themselves the primary care givers."
Ms. Van Hise, who was inspired to start part-time pets earlier this year after hearing too many children beg their parents to take animals from the petting zoo home, knows parents don't want the bother of pets, and for that reason the Art Farm staff does all the caretaking. They do let part-time pet owners help with chores when they visit.
Of course as soon as these unsavory tasks are not compulsory, they become alluring. "We think, 'Who would want to clean a cage?' " Ms. Van Hise said. "But the kids want to change the water and clean. They like taking care of the animals."
Six children have taken a part-time animal at the Art Farm since the animals started being rented four months ago; another six families are considering enrolling in the program in the fall.
So far the children have not lost interest and continue to visit about twice a week.
If anything, they get too attached. "Some kids don't like to see other kids playing with their animal," Ms. Van Hise said. "So we explain that it lives here, and other kids can play with it. Your name is on the cage, so it's yours, but you have to share."
Having an animal from the Art Farm is cheaper than owning one: a rabbit, chinchilla or guinea pig can cost $450 to $650 a year in food, shelter, cleaning and medical costs, not including the purchase price. (A bearded dragon can cost as much as $300.) At the Art Farm all medical, food and caging costs are covered.
Occasionally, when Ms. Van Hise feels especially comfortable with the part-time pet owners, she'll let them take the animal home for a short stay. Jared and his sister, Alison, who live on the Upper East Side, were allowed to bring Rudy home, at no extra charge.
After struggling to get the cage into a cab and getting home, lots of pictures were taken of Jared, in pajamas, cuddling Rudy on the kitchen floor. Jared even asked his mom if he could have a farmerlike red-checkered shirt and a pair of overalls like the Art Farm caretakers wear. He brought the pictures to school for show and tell, and gave one to his teacher as a gift.
Then two days later Rudy returned to Ms. Van Hise.
"I just kept thinking how they're part of the rodent family," Mrs. Wasserman said. "When I brought him back, Valentina said, 'You're welcome to keep him longer,' but I said 'No, it's time for him to come back here now.' "
08-14-2005, 04:02 PM
okay, first? i love jared. he sounds like the cutest little kid ever. he wants to marry his hamster! he gave a picture of his hamster to his teacher as a gift! how awesome is he?
jared's mom, on the other hand, i could do without.
"I've never been an animal person," said Jared's mother, Marla Wasserman. "I could do without the flies."ha! yeah, my cats walk around with one fly swarm each. they're like pigpen, but with flies.
i can't believe millipedes are an option. *shudder*
i thought it was a little bizarre that the article sort of made the ASPCA's foster program sound like it was a "part-time pet" program. i mean, yes, fosters are temporary, but it's different than renting an animal, and the author was a bit unclear about that until way into the article.
"Or one woman asked me for a bird temporarily because she felt her cat was bored and needed something to swat at."good lord.
very interesting article, and kind of a neat concept. the animals are being taken care of (sure sounds like it, anyway) and the kids get to "have a pet" without the animal being taken into a home that doesn't necessarily welcome him/her. if i could have adopted a ferret or a bunny when i was little (something i was always whining about and my mother would never let me do), i would have been all over something like this. :)
"I've turned away people who say they want a snake for a few days so they can freak out their roommates," he said.Oh lookit, I think I met that guy. :blank:
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