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Pet Freaks expands into the exotic

Photo by Brian Hansel Addison Crocker lets her pet ball python rest around her neck. The snake will grow to a length of five feet. Pythons are considered great pets for mouse control.1 / 4
Photo by Brian Hansel A clown fish feeds off coral in the salt water fish tank at Pet Freaks.2 / 4
Pet Freak's co-owner John Jensen has a lovebird that rides around on his shoulder. Jensen has had the bird since it was a chick.3 / 4
Co-owner Keri Jacobson grooms a "customer."4 / 4

The people at Pet Freaks are good at eliciting feedback from their customers. It is not unusual to hear a scream in the Wadena pet shop. The stock has a lot to do with that. It moves.

"Matey" is a lovebird that co-owner John Jensen hand-fed from the time it was a chick. The bird flies about the shop freely and occasionally rides on Jensen's shoulder.

But not everything flies around Pet Freaks. Some of it crawls.

One lady customer had a big surprise when what she took to be a "lawn ornament" next to her suddenly started to move.

The ornament was actually "Bulldozer" - a Sulcata tortoise that will grow to be the size of a small Volkswagen and live for 150 years.

In one glass cage you can find a small black king snake eating Romaine lettuce. Next door is a ball python. They grow to be five feet long and are good mousers. Continuing down the block you run into a bearded lizard - a small tan reptile that lives in the desert.

The downtown Wadena business started up three years ago. Jensen's partner is Keri Jacobson. The business expanded in May and now has separate fish and reptile rooms.

Pets like Dozer and Matey make Pet Freaks a special place - especially to kids - but there are many other attractions as well.

Jensen gets a kick out of kids who see a brightly-colored clown fish swimming in the 125-gallon saltwater tank. They holler "Nemo!" mistaking it for a popular character in a Pixar movie. In the same tank, Blue Chromies dart around, and a yellow Tang floats in the living coral. The room is full of fish tanks - one containing a big orange Oscar swimming in a tank by itself. Why? Oscars eat everything.

Some pet owners use Pet Freaks as a market because they sell some rather unusual food.

"We have one lady that buys 9-10 mice from us at a time because she has a really, really big snake," employee Addison Crocker said.

Crocker is a Wadena-Deer Creek sophomore who got a job at Pet Freaks the old-fashioned way -- she grabbed a broom and went to work. Once just a very interested customer, Crocker now works at Pet Freaks through the CEP program and fills a multitude of roles. She cleans cages and tanks and feeds snakes, lizards and fish. Her commitment to the pets is shared by the others.

"The health of our animals is our No. 1 concern," Jensen said.

Jensen oversees the shop with Crocker's help while Jacobson grooms dogs with the help of Jean Schoon. Jacobson wanted to be a veterinarian at one time, but she was told that there was more of a need for groomers. For the last 18 years, she has been following that advice. Her reputation has spread, and she now grooms dogs from Pequot Lakes, Brainerd and St. Cloud.