Here’s PNDP assignment #7: to capture animals and their relationship to the humans around them.
Some pets are less popular than others. Most people are fine with having a cat or a dog, but would balk at the idea of sharing their space with a snake, lizard, or tarantula. I wanted to find out who wants the pets that gross everyone else, so I took a trip to Jabberwock Reptiles, a store in Winchester that sells what owner Stephen Ayer calls ‘exotic pets.’ Customers come here to buy crickets and mealworms for animals they already own, or to browse for a new friend in the drawers of snakes, cages of lizards and frogs, and vials of spiders. Nothing in particular unifies them — they varied in age, gender, and personal style as much as you’d expect for Winchester. It’s only when you meet Abi, Emily, and Tim, who work in the store, that you begin to understand the demographic that fuels the exotic pet industry. Who would willingly spend hours every week surrounded by animals most people find icky, feeding them bugs and squirting water into their tanks? Folks who are — and I mean this with the utmost respect in the world — a little weird. Abi, Emily, and Tim lean into the things about them that deviate from the norm, whether that be the way they dress, the books they read, or the type of pet they prefer.