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There's a new driving force in the battle against pet overpopulation: Arizona's new "pet-friendly" license plates are now available.
 
Give this bird a cracker: Chance takes Pet Idol title
By Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona
3/19/2006 12:00:00 AM
By Jane Erikson
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.19.2006

Chance - a breathtakingly handsome blue-and-gold macaw who shares his Rita Ranch home with two humans who adore him - is the winner of the Arizona Daily Star's first Pet Idol contest.

Chance beat out 663 other idolized pets, from whom 10 finalists were selected through two rounds of reader balloting. Other finalists were a mule named Kate and a sock puppet - the contest rules were not stringent - named Super Fuzz, along with three dogs and four cats who will probably demand a recount.

Air Force retirees Dan and Joy Despins were thrilled that voters recognized what a special bird Chance is.

"We were amazed. We were really happy," Dan said Friday.

Chance said nothing, not even his standard "I love you" and "Give me a cracker - NOW." He preferred instead to wave hello to the visitors taking his picture and asking a bunch of questions.

The bird was 3 when the couple adopted him in 1992. The Despins were stationed at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, south of Miami. His first family named him Chance, because baby macaws have an iffy survival rate. When the first family transferred to Panama, the Despins took him in.

Now 17, Chance lives a life any pet would envy.

He starts each day with a raw nut or two - his favorites are cashews and almonds - followed by a bowl of fresh fruit. Melon tops his list. Throughout the day, he enjoys servings of seeds, more nuts and parrot pellets.

He has a 5-foot-tall cage and a homemade jungle gym that occupy what would have been the Despins' dining area. The cage and gym are filled with hanging toys, and more hang toys hang from a perch on the back porch, where Chance can enjoy fresh air while the Despins enjoy their morning coffee.

The toys can be used to bring humans to attention, as Chance demonstrated Friday. He used his thick black beak to pull a rope with bells from the roof of his cage, tossing it on the floor.

Suddenly all eyes were on Chance - as well they should be.

His back, wings and tail are covered in midnight and turquoise blue. His breast, legs and underneath his wings are orange-gold. His neck and forehead are vivid green. His face is white marked with zebra stripes. His eyes are pale yellow.

Chance could live to be 50 or older, said Michael Samuels, a Tucson veterinarian who has many birds and reptiles as patients.

"Macaws are beautiful birds but they're a big commitment," Samuels said. "They can be noisy and messy and they require a lot of love. It takes a very special person to be committed to a bird like this."

A total of 7,625 ballots were cast in the Pet Idol contest, each worth 50 votes, for a 381,250 vote total, said Janet Wood, manager of the Newspapers in Education program at Tucson Newspapers, the business arm of the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen.

Readers had the option of mailing in $15 with each ballot, and enough did to raise $19,829.59 for Newspapers in Education, a program that encourages children to read and be aware of current events, and Spay and Neuter Solutions Inc., a local group working to reduce the numbers of homeless pets.


For more information about Powers' organization, go to www.spayandneutersolutions.org or call (520) 247-6469.