Design & Style, Profile

Pets and their people: Reesa Atnikov

Who are you?

I am Reesa, and I am 28. I’m a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator and I work at the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

Have you always liked animals?

Always. I like animals more than I like people. Animals are a lot easier to deal with and are a lot nicer than a lot of people. I’ve liked them ever since I can remember. It’s always just been my thing.

What was your first pet?

When I was five my mom got me a teddy bear hamster named Fluffy for Christmas. She got the Habitrail plastic cages and it was all wrapped up and she kept it at the neighbour’s house til it was time. I was so excited.

Who are all of your pets now?

Elliot, is an Eastern box turtle. Hank is a ball python – he’s named after David Duchovny’s super sexy character on Californication. Ham is a goldfish, a feeder goldfish. He was destined to be food but I snagged him from my work. There’s Sprite, a 9-year-old cat, Chili, a one and a half year old cat, and Duke, another cat is 4-years-old. I also have five chickens, Audrey, Marilyn, Helena, Oprah, and Pigpen.

Where did you get your cats?

Sprite was from the Winnipeg Humane Society. I got her when she was one. Duke came from a shelter. He is Chad, my boyfriend’s cat. Chili came from my work.


Can you explain the names of your pets?

Sprite came with her name, from The Winnipeg Humane Society. I kind of thought it was silly, but I was looking at all of the cages and I saw a little tag and I said “Sprite?” and as soon as I said that she meowed and I was like “that’s it, you’re mine.” I wouldn’t put her down or let anyone else take her. Duke, Chad named her. Chili had so many names. One day I was eating a bag of Mexican Chili chips and I was like “we could name her Chili” and we agreed on that. Ham’s name, well we had two fish, Ham and Cheese and Cheese died. Hank has also had many names and for a good portion of his life he was just “my snake.” Elliot, I stole the name from a friend who had a pet named Elliot. I thought it suited him so I took it.

Where did you get Elliot?

A woman found him walking up her driveway and they called me at work.

What about Hank?

I was interested in getting a snake and I was 19 at the time. I was working at a pet supply store and we sold small animals like hamsters and budgies, and a guy that supplied us with hamsters, he was involved in reptiles, so I talked to him about it.

What does the snake eat?

He eats rat pups. They aren’t alive. I get them from the pet store. They are about $5 dollars each.

So, you live with your boyfriend – how does he feel about having all of these animals around?

The cats he’s definitely very fond of. He really likes the turtle, it really grew on him. I would say he’s fairly indifferent about the snake.

How are your friends and family with you having so many strange pets?

They are used to it. I’ve had lots of pets for my entire life and I’ve brought lots of things home. I think it would be weird if I didn’t have anything.

Do you have a favourite?

I don’t have a favourite, but I’ve had Sprite for 8 years. They’re all neat. The turtle is neat just because he’s a neat animal. The snake is neat because I’ve had him for a really long time and he’s been a reliable, very low maintenance pet. It’s been very interesting because people will come and he’s been a really neat educational tool for people. Most people don’t know a lot about snakes, and they think they’re super scared and then they see him and they want to touch him, and then hold him. It’s a different pet and everyone always has different questions.

How do you feel about animal breeders compared to animal rescues?

I prefer rescues but I can understand why someone may want a specific breed as far as temperament, and activity level. But, at the same time, there are just so many animals that need homes, so it’s tough to justify a need for breeders because a lot of the same traits can be found in shelter animals.


Are there any pets that you really want to have that you’ve never had?

I want to have a horse and a pony. Basically I want to have a hobby farm, so I want a goat and a cow, but I want little versions, like pygmy goats. I want to have small versions of animals that are supposed to be big and big versions of animals that are supposed to be small. So, I want a Flemish giant rabbit, and there are miniature cows and pygmy goats.


How do you feel when you go to someone’s house and they don’t have any animals?

Weird. I think it’s weird. It’s sad mostly. I think it’s really sad. But I don’t know a lot of people who don’t have pets.

Tell me about the impact animals have had on your life.

Animals have been such a huge part of my life, and they have had many positive impacts. They have taught me about patience, understanding, and forgiveness. They’ve taught me how it’s important to educate people on animal welfare. They’ve been the instigators of some really great friendships, and they’ve shown me different perspectives on life, both positive and negative. Finally, animals have inspired me to pursue a career in wildlife education.

The cat’s name is Sprite; the turtle’s name is Elliot; and the snake’s name is Hank.



Cindy Titus writes for the Spectator Tribune. Follow her on Twitter: @cindytitus

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