From Dooalot to Doolittle
A Brief Summary
It was during the courting period of my ex-wife in 1993 that l first stumbled across what would as a business concept come to be one of the most fascinating and rewarding careers of my life. My long term dream of working with animals travelled from being a pipe dream to an income earning reality.
She [ex-wife] had in her bedroom a small glass tank filled with shavings, and within was a pair of Mongolian Gerbils and a litter of pups. I fell in love with the species instantly. A love that would stay with me for many, many years and even today where upon l have no gerbils at all, l still adore that particular species of rodent.
By 1994, l was breeding gerbils and had fifty pairs, and at the time supplying small pet shops around my local areas. The one thing that l had noticed was lacking however was colour variation in the species. The gerbil clubs had more colour availability, however the pet market was lacking, and so l opted and decided in one breath that l would dedicate my time to colour breeding this beautiful species.
In 1994, the only colours available to the household market were agouti [natural], white [albino], black and argente [off peach], and yet the clubs had a vast range of colouring variation, broken and pied available. After spending for the time a good amount of money, l purchased 30 pairs of broken, coloured and pied stocks for around £500. This would signal my entry into the colour market, but also really start my adventures into animals.
In 1995, a mere 18 months after contemplating starting this as a money making venture, l was running a large outbuilding and was working full time on my business. Between that year and 2000, l had 1800 breeding pairs of gerbils, 1000 breeding pairs of mice and 500 breeding pairs of rats. In addition to those which were my main stocks l ran 400 breeding Syrian hamsters, and around 200 pairs of assorted dwarf hamster species. 400 rabbits and around 1000 guinea pigs and l boasted a massive breeding colony of chipmunks in both natural and albino colour strains.
In 1995 with a business name of Piedipers Ark [a mixture of the Pied Piper and Noah’s ark], l also won the contract for supplying 33 of the then Pet City stores, currently these stores are known as Pets at Home. By 2000, l had started to specialise more and started work with more exotic rodents so had many different species of rats, mice, gerbil, jirds, hamster, jerboas, degu and chipmunks.
In 2001 l moved to an even larger premise which allowed me to specialise in the exotic rodent ranges further as well as open up a range of imports from Europe to supply the huge demand for small exotic species. By the end of that year l was classed as a large full scale commercial breeder of rodents both common place and exotic.
In the 8 years of breeding gerbils l had developed many more strains of colours, broken marked and pied strains  commercially that could then be supplied to private breeders, collections and specialist stores. I was supplying to a client base of around 300 individuals.
In March 2002, one single call changed the very nature of my business and started me on some of the most exciting times of my profession career as a supplier of small exotic species. I was asked by one of my clients if l could source out a pair of common marmosets. I had never even looked at the primate market before then, after all l was purely known as small rodent breeder and supplier. However, l am never one from backing down from a challenge and this was a challenge.
In the space of two weeks using my existing client base l had sourced the marmosets but in so doing had officially opened up my doors to a whole range of unusual requests for a very exciting range of exotics from the same client base that l never knew they kept in the first place. It was astonishing what l discovered!
Within 3 months l was receiving sometimes 15 – 35 calls a day with requests to source out many different livestock species for the client base which was expanding by the week as indeed were the requests. It wasn’t long before l had a compiled a list of what clients wanted, what clients had and what the gap was in the middle.
Which was a quality consulting service dealing specifically in brokerage with exotic species.
In 2004, l was working sometimes 20 hours a day, not sleeping, constantly on the buzz trying to fill gaps. I had a 600 page website dedicated to Piedipers Ark which had been created using dial up, and anyone who remembers dial up will know what a feat 600 pages was to create back then! I was doing too much, and was becoming known as Mr Dooalot!
I had to make some pretty firm decisions that year, it wasn’t hard in some respects l had been in quite a few scrapes when dealing with some of the species. July saw me absolutely mullered by my male racoon, l had had a tussle in the spring with my coatimundis, and been spiked by the crested porcupines, bitten by an ocelot, never mind being sliced and diced by a brush tailed possum, and bitten through the nose by a nasty ferret! The list of accidents l had with animals was fast becoming a catalogue of comical capers that could fill a book.
However ultimately the problem deep down was that l was just doing too much, l was burning the candle at both ends and becoming overly tired. As much as l loved the mainstay lines of my business, the species l had started out with; l knew that if l wanted to proceed further with the brokerage, l would have to quit the actual physical hands on day job.
In December of 2004, that decision was made for me by my now ex-wife who basically said that if l did not dedicate more time to the marriage we would divorce! What triggered her? Well funny story, basically l said l wanted to go broadband as the site was crippling me financially and it was cheaper going BB, for her that was obviously the last straw.
So from January 2005, l started to break down my beloved business so as to spend ‘’’quality time’’’ with my ‘’’wife’’’. Whilst it was hard as a decision, it really was the most logical decision to make in consideration. So l sold off all my stocks and exotic pets to begin working the consultancy from home.
In the summer of 2005, the business TSKA Exotics was born. The old website was dismantled and the new website was created using BB. I worked from home and over the next five years until 2010 l worked that business.
We were the only ones in the UK like it, l ran a very smooth operation, with a very strong vetting system covering mostly ‘furry’ species as l didn’t have experience with reptiles, avian or aquatic, but l knew people who did.
When the business closed down in 2010, l had a strong 1000+ client base that covered the UK, Europe and Asia, with clients in the States. In the closing days as a business we had on our books somewhere in the region of 900 species available with a range of perhaps 1800 – from rodents to marsupials to primates, from large cat species to bats to deer and from rhino to even Ligers! I soon became known in nickname form as Mr Doolittle.
It was an awesome experience, and one l still miss terribly, but in truth, as much as l love animals, my politics have changed – whilst l still believe in private keepers, l only believe in them IF they can dedicate the right amount of space to species microenvironments. I became known in the UK for one of the most reliable sources of primates, and yet now l don’t believe private keepers should ever have primates.
Over the years of running my business l came into contact with hoarders or those who having been turned down by me as unacceptable keepers for being sold and keeping exotics had been sold species by those who only ever saw the green in their pocket, and there are a lot of those still active.
I am not blowing my own trumpet, but l know that when l ran the business, l did it right, l loved the animals more than l loved the people and so when l viewed and reviewed prospective buyers l scrutinised them hard. If they were not up to scratch, my advice was go to Toys R Us!
TSKA Exotics still floats around in cyber space although the links are slowly disappearing now, but this is one of the lists l offered to my client base in April 2009.
TSKA Exotics are a Consultancy serving private keepers in the United Kingdom.
We keep none of the animals advertised on our premises; we purely advertise and consult for our client base.
Currently we have on our books the following available as an example range:
Please take note that some of the species advertised will require DWAL and PL
Bat Eared Foxes
Asian Short Clawed Otters
Black Capped Capuchins
Black & White Lemurs
Black Tailed Marmosets
Cotton Eared Marmosets
Various species Macaques
North American Porcupine
Indian Crested Porcupines
Prehensile Tailed Porcupines
Southern Flying Squirrels