Observations: Plano Pets

As one of the longtime vendors at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference shows in Arlington, I’d looked forward to visiting Plano Pets (in Plano, Texas, naturally enough) for a while. Always avoid procrastination whenever you can, my friends: by the time I finally got out that way, it was in time for a big moving sale. Even then, it was definitely worth the trip.

For those unfamiliar with Plano Pets’s reputation, this is a classic pet shop in the old sense. Yes, the old locale carried items for dogs, cats, and various small mammals, but their two big draws were the fish and reptile selections. By the time I got out there, they were pretty well-cleared, but oh, you could see what once was.

That’s not the important part. The important part is two-fold, in two lessons on how to do business. Speaking both as someone who gets a lot of odd requests for plants, and someone who worked at a shopping mall pet shop in the mid-1980s, I’m putting together a similar list to this one and displaying it prominently the moment the Triffid Ranch opens a retail space.

Plano Pets mission statement

And the other lesson? Say hello to “Fred”.

Fred the Tegu

For those unfamiliar with reptiles, Fred is a black-and-white tegu, the Argentine equivalent to a monitor lizard. When I first started keeping exotic reptiles in the 1980s, I was told over and over “You don’t want a tegu. It’s not that they get big; it’s that they never get tame, and they’re always vicious.” Nobody sent Fred that memo, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s one big scaly cat. He likes being held and he loves being pet, and I haven’t met a lizard that so enjoyed having his ears scritched since my late savannah monitor Afsan.

Fred, in many ways, demonstrates a very valuable point about Plano Pets. Fred’s keeper, and his father, regularly come back to the store to let everyone know how well he’s doing. In fact, about once per month, weather permitting, they bring in Fred as well, partly to say hello, and partly to let other customers know that the foul reputation tegus have for being aggressive isn’t valid any more. (It used to be true back in the Eighties, when all of the available stock in tegus was wild-caught, and the survivors making it to US pet shops were traumatized beyond belief. These days, with both an exceptional captive breeding population and improved knowledge on their habits in the wild, that perception is about as cliched as the perception of orchids being tough to raise.) In the meantime, Fred’s public appearances mean that he’s in a controlled environment, where herpetophobes can look without any worries of his getting too close. (My mother is morbidly afraid of snakes, and I understand now all too well that the last way to get someone over a phobia is to force the issue. This was taken to a specific point the afternoon this photo was taken, as one spectator had no problems with her daughters saying hello to Fred, but she herself couldn’t get past her phobia of lizards to enter the store.)

As of now, Plano Pets’s new location is still up in the air, but the crew has hopes of making an announcement soon. Until them, with Fred as an example, previous Triffid Ranch customers are more than welcome to send in photos of their plants. In fact, with the owners’ permission, I’d like to start posting a regular listing, just to show that carnivorous plants aren’t that difficult to raise, either.

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