By Isabelle Southcott | isabelle@prliving.ca

Leonard is a large, white, beautiful cat. He snoozes peacefully on the hood of an aquarium filled with tropical fish while Tink and Stella sleep in boxes below. His sister Lucy lifts her head from the top of the kitchen cupboard to see what all the commotion is about but soon decides it’s not worth getting up for.

Besides being named after Leonard Cohen, Leonard’s claim to fame is the fact that he shares his home with 10 other cats, five dogs, five snakes, two rats and many many fish. And that’s just part of his family. There are also two adult humans; Tyler Pantalone and Melanie Kretzschmar, and two teenage girls.

When Tyler and Melanie got together two years ago, Melanie had six cats and Tyler had four cats and one snake.

“We had 10 cats between us and then we added another for good luck,” explains Melanie. Their lucky charm, Jiminy, a stray they found in the middle of a road during a storm, purrs in agreement. All their cats are indoor cats.

Next came Wyatt the dog who was adopted through the Arabian Saluki Centre of Canada; this organization rescues street dogs from the Middle East and adopts them out in Canada.

Three months later, they decided to leave Ontario and move to Powell River.  Tyler, who had lived in Sechelt at one time, had visited Powell River before and liked it. They purchased an old school bus and packed up their 11 cats, one dog, one snake and all their worldly possessions and drove across the country in five days. They arrived ten hours before the first day of school so Melanie’s daughters were able to start the new year on time.

The two adults, two girls and the animals lived in the bus for a few weeks.  It was challenging.

“Teenage girls don’t like camping,” said Melanie noting that there are pay showers at Willingdon. Before long, they found the perfect home and moved in.

Once they had their house and a fenced yard Tyler and Melanie adopted four more rescue dogs through the Arabian Saluki Centre of Canada. They now have: Wyatt, Lucky, Layla, Lola and Lilah. “We have an open door policy,” says Tyler.

That’s how he came to have a piranha. 

“He was brought into the store (Mother Nature, where Tyler works) accidentally so I took him home.”

Tyler’s snake Gris Gris will be at the Pet Expo on June 10, at the Thunderdome on Joyce Avenue, where he will be manning the “Face Your Fears” reptile tent.

He also has two ball pythons and a corn snake named Zelda that he recently adopted because she needed a home. There’s Vindi, a jungle carpet python, who is not a nice snake.

“He’s nasty,” says Melanie explaining that although Tyler likes snakes, she does not. “We have them in our home but I am not a fan.”

Upstairs, you’ll find a pair of rats snoozing in their hammocks.

The six aquariums of tropical fish are scattered throughout the house.

Although Tyler and Melanie have rescued many animals Tyler says animals rescued him.

After he dropped out of high school, Tyler got involved in drugs – and also got his first dog Panama.

“If not for my dogs, who knows, I could have been in a lot worse shape. Through the addiction there was depression,” he continued adding that the love his pets gave him always helped. Caring for animals gave Tyler the reason he needed to carry on. “I always looked after my pets no matter what,” he said.

Tyler and Melanie grew up in Ottawa and went to school together.

“We have been friends since Grade 8,” said Melanie. They maintained a close friendship even though their lives took different directions.

Melanie married, had two daughters, bought a house in the suburbs and got divorced.

Tyler’s heroin addiction lasted 20 years.

In May 2015, Tyler called Melanie from a treatment centre outside of Ottawa and he said he was clean. He said he’d wasted 20 years of his life; his addiction had run its course and he’d like to move out of the city and away from his old lifestyle. She had a basement rental suite so he moved in when treatment ended.

Tyler has now been clean for two years. 

These days, he works at Mother Nature. He’s known to many as the reptile and fish guy and many customers come into the store asking for advice.

“I don’t know everything,” he says quickly. “I’ve always loved all animals but in the late 1990s I got more interested in reptiles. I started learning about them and worked at a small reptile zoo in Ottawa. As soon as we moved here I applied at Mother Nature.”

Tyler also started the Facebook group, Powell River Fish Keepers.

Their Salukis are fed a raw food diet but the humans in the house are vegetarians, vegans and one forced vegetarian due to circumstances. “We don’t buy meat for ourselves but we do for our dogs,” says Melanie. “It takes a lot of time and money to properly care for all of our furbabies. It is a big commitment. Some people have boats or cabins; some people have fancy cars; we have furbabies and we love them.”

Salukis don’t like to sleep on the floor. They prefer the comfort of the couch for naps or the king-size bed with the twin add-on that they share with their humans. Despite the size of the bed, a five-dog night can be a little squishy! Thankfully, the cats, Leonard, Lucy, Little Kitty, Bubba, Stupid Stewie, Mouse, Tinkerbelle, Stella, Eddy, Sonora and Jiminy, don’t insist on sleeping in the bed.

A family who recently visited said: “Your home is a zoo, even a circus, but you guys make it work and make it fun.”

 

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