The Student News Site of South Lyon East High School

Beast News

The Student News Site of South Lyon East High School

Beast News

The Student News Site of South Lyon East High School

Beast News

A Pair of Personal Petting Zoos


By Emily Deeds

For many people, just taking care of a fish can be a struggle, but there are some among us that have the equivalent of a small petting zoo in their own home. Sophie Yeung and Abbi Hackbardt, two South Lyon East Seniors, are among this select group with soon to be six and 16 pets, respectively.

The Yeungs have a firm belief in companionship, not only between humans and their pets but also between the animals themselves. Because of this, there can’t be an ‘only pet.’ Each one needs a friend or they’ll get lonely, which is how the family ended up with so many animals.

This is rather ironic, considering the family’s choice to only have one kid. “Since I’m an only child, the animals make the house feel more full,” said Sophie.

The Yeungs also seem believe in the value of pairs. So far, they have a pair of black Labrador siblings that go everywhere together and two calico cats that look very similar, despite not being related.

“The thing is with Leo and Lacey, like, they’re siblings and look exactly the same, but Leo has to have special prescription food. I guess it makes it more expensive that way since we have to buy two types [of food],” said Sophie, who has the same problem with her two cats as well, the older Caramel has special food needs unlike the new kitten, Cookie.

Along with those is Sophie’s horse, Merlin, that she rides in competitions. “Half of [our pets] were surprises that my wife and Sophie just brought home one day,” said Wain Yeung, Sophie’s dad, with a laugh.

That being said, the Yeungs are no stranger to the costs of owning so many animals. After all, they already have a well-cared for horse and another on its way; Merlin’s relative was recently found and bought. Again, the tradition of pairs seems to apply even to their horses.

Even though Sophie wishes she could know what it’s like to be part of a bigger family, she never really had the time to miss anything since she’s been caring for pets instead of younger siblings her whole life.

In some ways, having so many pets but no siblings gave Sophie the best of both worlds: no siblings to deal with or push her around, but still plenty of companions.

Sophie’s dogs Leo and Lacey.

For the Hackbardts, the same can’t be said: it’s full of  a lot of kids and a lot of pets.

Animal enthusiast Abigail (Abbi) Hackbardt has four sisters, a mom, a stepdad, two step siblings, and enough animals to start her own pet store.

From the classic dog, to the more exotic chinchilla, the Hackbardts have all bases covered when it comes to animals.

The smallest animal in the horde is a dwarf hamster named Cindy, Abbi’s first pet of her own that she named after Cinderella. Then there are the four guinea pigs, two of which were bought by Abbi when her rodent obsession took full swing and a trip to the pet store ‘just to look’ became an adoption. “When you go to the store and see baby guinea pigs, it’s just too hard to resist,” Abbi admitted.

Next, there are eight chinchillas that scurry around their cage in the ‘animal room’ as it has been named. The chinchillas are unique to the rest of the pets because they are being bred for sale. Chinchilla breeding is side occupation and hobby of the Hackbardt girls’ stepfather, Tom.

According to the predictions of both Abbi and Kelli Hackbardt, Miss Crabby the chinchilla might be pregnant again, so some more baby chinchillas are on their way.

In a cage next to the chinchillas, two rabbits make their home. The older of the two, Napoleon Bunnyparte, was adopted by the oldest Hackbardt daughter, Amanda, and the other rabbit, Tim, was adopted by the third daughter, Lexie.

However, there’s no forgetting one of the newest additions to the family: Phoebe, an energetic rescue puppy with her own health needs the family tends to diligently. Surprisingly, while Phoebe may be at the top of the food chain in the household, she isn’t aggressive towards any of the other pets. She has even helped find escaped animals before. In return, all the rodents make noise when Phoebe has a seizure, which alerts her family that she needs comforting.

The abundance of animals at the Hackbardt house has become a staple for them and has even created some unique traditions. “At night we put on a movie or something and everyone holds an animal or two,” said family matriarch Kelli Hackbardt. With the seven people in the house, there’s more than enough animals to have one in each hand.

Unlike the Yeungs who can have so many pets because they only have one child, the Hackbardts are able to have so many pets because there are so many people to take care of them.

Abbi with her dog Phoebe, bunny Napoleon Bunnyparte, a chinchilla, and a guinea pig.

For both the Hackbardts and the Yeungs, the amassing of so many pets wasn’t initially planned. One thing led to another, and both families ended up with more pets than they expected. Neither can say they regret having so many; animals are an essential part of their lives that they can’t imagine letting go of.

The fact that both Abbi and Sophie are high school seniors, though, means that they are going to have to learn to live without their pets. Both girls will be going away to live at college and will miss the companionship and learned routines that come with having so many animals around all the time. “As many of them as there are and as crazy, I’m going to miss the chaos,” said Abbi, and Sophie agreed: “I’m going to miss them so much when I leave!”

As for the future, there will be no more in-home petting zoos for these girls. Neither wants to own quite as many pets as their family, but both still plan on having a few of their own one day.

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