Taking care of animals with lots of love

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 13, 2000

LAPLACE – You know you are in for something special even before you enter the Thomas house. On the front lawn of the neat, brick house onLemoyne Street are two swans carved out of the hedges. Near the sidewalkis another bush trimmed to look like a stork. Bright tropical fish made ofceramic and mounted on metal poles dot the lawn.

Ringing the doorbell, one hears a cacophony of dogs barking, bird calls and whistles.

When the door opens, the visitor is greeted by a brown standard poodle named Shadow, a black miniature poodle named Roxie and a placid but curious Rottweiler named Dancer.

While the dogs lick one hand, their owner Jutta Thomas grabs your other hand in a strong, warm handshake and welcomes you to her menagerie/house.

Thomas is carrying a small green iguana in one hand as she begins the tour of her house.

“His name is Grinch,” said Thomas. She puts a small Santa Claus hat on theiguana, and he does look remarkably like Dr. Suess’s Grinch.Trailed by the dogs and her son and daughter Michael and Dominuque, Thomas shows off her terrarium that contains a large, bumpy and horned dragon lizard and a white frog with orange markings. Scattered around theother rooms are several aquariums. In the kitchen, a ferret scampersaround on his leash looking ready to play.

“If you let him go, ” said Thomas, “he would go play with the dogs. He justloves the dogs.”In the living room, three large macaws stand on top of their cages looking regal and magnificent. Thomas gets one of the birds to climb on her armand she points out the rich purple, red and yellow feathers.

Back in the den, one sees two cockatoos and a green parrot looking curiously through the glass porch door. One of the cockatoos has raisedhis crown of white feathers and is screeching.

Out in the back yard, the sound gets louder as Thomas urges the parrot and cockatoos to dance for her. Behind the large walk-in cage is another cagewith two more cockatoos.

“Those are the babies of these two,” said Thomas.

Walking down a sidewalk encrusted with pieces of mirror, (Thomas built the sidewalks herself) one passes a fenced-off area with another Rottweiler. Thomas says he is a show dog and a prize winner. Over in acorner is a small cage containing a rabbit and a guinea pig.

When asked about how many pets she has, Thomas laughed and said, “I really don’t know how many I have. People give me animals and I take careof them.”At the back of the yard is another walk-in bird cage. Inside is a treefilled with about 15 cockatiels, a couple of white doves and a lone parakeet. On the ground struts a black-and-gray rooster. Going into the cage, a cloud of cockatiels swarms around and finally settles back in the tree branches.

Thomas points to a small birdhouse off to the side and said there are four cockatiel eggs in there about ready to hatch.

Thomas is a transplant from outside Frankfurt, Germany and has lived in the United States for seven years with her family. Her love of animalsbegan at a young age when she started to raise and train Rottweiler dogs.

“It was my husband who grew up with no animals,” said Thomas. “When wefirst married, he was scared of the dogs, but now he loves them all.”Dominique and Michael seem to share Thomas’ passion for animals.

Dominique brings parts of the menagerie to her class at LaPlace Elementary for class projects. She is also starting her own collectionwith a box turtle and an aquarium in her room.

Michael, who also goes to LaPlace Elementary said simply, “It’s an interesting way to live.”His mother has made Michael the animal catcher and he is in charge of capturing any of the pets that get out of their cages.

Both children also help Thomas with the feeding and cleaning. Judging bythe lack of smell and the cleanliness of the house, they do a superb job.

“It is a full-time job to keep it clean,” admits Thomas, “but I love it.” Sheleans close and says in a low voice, “Anyway, sometimes animals can be better than people.”The Thomas house is a showplace in the neighborhood. Thomas says thatthe neighborhood children and even the parents are always coming over to see the animals and play with them.

Walking back from the cockatiel cage, one passes several ponds that Thomas also constructed. Stopping by the large cockatoo cage, she getsher green parrot Spike to dance and laugh. This prompts the other birds tostart singing and squawking.

The visitor notices that there is one animal missing from this zoo and asks about cats.

“No cats, ” said Thomas, “too many birds around. I don’t think they wouldget along.

One wonders if there is any other creatures that Thomas would like to own.

“Well, I would like to buy some monkeys next,” said Thomas.

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