Personal Pets

Dragons and chickens may not be for everyone, but these loving owners have found interesting companions in their unique family pets.


Name: Rio
Breed: Sun Conure

Vibrantly colorful, loyal and loves water (especially showers). Seeking companion for 40 years or more.

Sun conures are one-person animals, says Michael Bielinski, of Cary. They latch onto a favorite caretaker and will be companions for life.

That’s exactly what happened when Michael and Cheryl Bielinski and their son, Brent, welcomed Rio into their home more than 10 years ago. Brent and baby Rio became fast friends, watching TV and taking showers together and sharing a bedroom.

Rio is the second sun conure the Bielinskis have owned. The first was given to them by a patient of Michael’s (he’s a dentist). When that one died, they quickly decided to get another.

“Brent raised him from a baby,” said Bielinski. “We even have his original egg.” Bielinski credits his son’s calm and patient temperament for pairing so well with the bird, whose species is known to be attention-demanding if neglected.

“Birds, in general, are very social,” said Bielinski. “They’ll get depressed if you don’t give them enough attention.”

Rio says a handful of phrases, will cuddle under the covers in bed, and give kisses. He is “cage trained” so he won’t go to the bathroom outside of his cage.

“I was never a bird person, but I’ve gotten so used to having one around, I’d probably need a replacement if we lost Rio,” said Bielinski.


Names: Daisy and Dallas
Breed: Plymouth Barred Rock and Easter Egger Hens

Soft, intelligent and spoiled. Love corn on the cob and tomatoes. Will lay about one egg each per day.

Doting mother Joely Pentlow readily admits her chickens are pets.“ The eggs are just a bonus,” she said.

Hens Daisy and Dallas enjoy all the comforts a chicken could dream of: a luxuryindoor/outdoor coop, treats such as corn and tomatoes, protection from predators and even the occasional chance to roam the Pentlows’ backyard.

Joely and her husband, David, first kept hens while living in England. Joely wanted a pet to love and care for, and chickens were the only thing they both could agree on, she said.

The couple relocated to Raleigh and knew they wanted hens to be part of their lives here too. David, an engineer, built their custom coop, which they’ve lovingly dubbed “Cluckingham Palace.”

“Chickens make wonderful pets,” Pentlow said. “They have their own personalities and are very intelligent. They are a great addition to every family.”

Daisy and Dallas follow Pentlow around the yard and even sit on her shoulder.

While backyard chickens are a great way to connect with and live off the land, she cautions those who may be interested in eggs alone.

“They need time and attention and veterinary treatment,” she said, like any pet. And many far
outlive their egg-laying years.

“I love having them around,” she said. “Watching them makes me feel nice and relaxed.”


Name: Kahl Drogo
Breed: Bearded Dragon

Low-maintenance lizard loves mustard greens and warm sun. Crickets beware.

Names: Johnny Walker, Bud, Bärenjäger, Peter
Breed: Goldfish, Pleco

Prefer a clean tank, but up for occasional road trip. Impressed by gifts of blanched zucchini and oatmeal.

Alyssa Noonan is known by friends and family as a pet whisperer. She owns four fish, one bearded dragon, two cats and a dog with her husband, Andrew.

She also fosters cats and dogs for Franklin County and has been known to stop in traffic to help stray animals in the road.

“Everybody comes to me with their animal problems. I’m that crazy animal person,” Noonan joked.

Her most unbelievable animal tale may be that of her goldfish, which she won in the Vermont State Fair ring toss six years ago. Noonan received the 2-inch-long fish in a plastic bag, as is customary of fair fish, and has nurtured them with loving care, and ever- expanding tanks, to nearly 12 inches long.

The fish even survived a 24-hour road trip from Vermont to North Carolina, thanks to a battery-powered makeshift cooler tank that Noonan contrived for her move down the East Coast.

The bearded dragon, Kahl Drogo, is one of the family’s newest additions. “He’s technically my husband’s.

Andy wanted his own pet — one that was easier to care for, but still an exotic pet,” Noonan said.

Bearded dragons are native to desert climates, so the Noonans built him a habitat with a heat lamp above and a heating pad underneath a slate tile to mimic his natural environment.

“Make sure you research everything and can accommodate all of their needs,” Noonan advises about welcoming any new pet into a home.

The Noonans have no plans to add additional pets to their crew of eight, but as a foster
“mom” Noonan can share her love of animals.

“I work in a corporate office and fostering animals helps me feel content,” she said. “You can’t save every animal, but if I don’t try, I won’t save any.”

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