Ex­otic birds, other odd pets stand out in At­lanta neigh­bor­hood

Oakhurst cou­ple known for hous­ing un­com­mon brood

GA Voice - - Pets -

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

It all started with a dog. Back in the ’90s, Craig Hawkins and his part­ner, David Sam­ple, moved into their home in Oakhurst, where at the time there were wild dogs run­ning around the neigh­bor­hood. A group of them had pup­pies. Hawkins, 50, and Sam­ple, 51, res­cued two and kept one, which has since passed away.

And then around 2005 be­gan “the other stuff” as Hawkins de­scribes it. “The other stuff” now in­cludes a cat, two dogs, a bunny, three chick­ens, a ma­caw, a squir­rel and two pea­cocks.

“This is mostly David’s do­ing, which is … fine,” laughs Hawkins as he gives a tour of the var­i­ous crea­tures scat­tered about their stylish home and yard.

The first to greet vis­i­tors from the front porch is Sea­mus the squir­rel. Hawkins and Sam­ple were walk­ing past the East Lake MARTA sta­tion one day last year and she was cling­ing to a fence, barely mov­ing and look­ing like she was close to dy­ing.

They took her off the fence and put her in a tree they had seen a squir­rel’s nest in, hop­ing she would move in. After lunch they came back by and she hadn’t moved, so they brought her home and nursed her back to health by feed­ing her puppy for­mula out of a sy­ringe.

They thought she was a boy; hence, Sea­mus, who in her spare time likes to hang out in the trees in the front yard.

“She’ll be in a tree and we’ll go out there and call her and she’ll come down,” says Hawkins. “She’s com­pletely tame.”

Inside the house there’s the cat, Ichi, and the two Aus­tralian shep­herds, Ozzie and Trixie, who are very cute. But it gets re­ally in­ter­est­ing in the back­yard.

Mario the ma­caw is a beau­ti­ful, head- bob­bing, blue-tailed bird who greets all with a chip­per “Hello.” He’s got an ex­ten­sive vo­cab­u­lary, can iden­tify ap­ples by taste and fre­quently barks out “I want a nut” be­cause he knows he’ll get a Brazil nut. He can even feed the other an­i­mals.

“He’ll call the dogs and throw food out on the ground,” Hawkins ex­plains.

The bunny, named Lady, is a friendly lit­tle fur ball in a cage who had a health scare re­cently but has gained back lost weight and is on the mend. And roam­ing the grounds in a pack are three chick­ens, who pro­vide eggs for the cou­ple when Ozzie isn’t steal­ing them.

But the main attractions are the two pea­cocks, which the cou­ple have had for seven years. The male, Sora, has a stun­ning plume and his part­ner is the fe­male Kyree, who at press time was calmly sit­ting on an egg, wait­ing for it to hatch any day.

When it does, the Hawkins-Sam­ple clan will add yet another rare, friendly mem­ber to the brood.

Craig Hawkins, hold­ing Mario the ma­caw, lives with his part­ner as well as Sora and Kyree, the popular pea­cocks, a bunny, a squir­rel, some chick­ens, a cat and two dogs. (Pho­tos by Pa­trick Saun­ders)

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