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Woodstock's 'Animal Crossing' says goodbye - for now

by: MERRY MACKINNON - An apprehensive cat: Jackson, the housecat at Animal Crossing, has sensed that somethings up - ever since the pet stores owners were told theyd have to close their doors and find a new location. Many times a day, a dog or cat owner walks out of Animal Crossing cradling a 10-pound bag of pet food.

For the past ten years, Joanne Ellis has owned the pet store at 4633 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard. She has stocked the shelves with quality pet food that she says keeps her customers’ pets healthier. It helps that her vendors closely track pet food recalls. “We haven’t had any recalls on any of the products we carry,” Ellis says.

But by January 15, customers will have to choose another merchant for their pet food – not to mention the dog grooming, lizards, rats, and guinea pigs.

Ellis, who co-owns the store with her daughter Desiree, is not sure why the owners of Lutz Tavern next door, who own the building in which Animal Crossing is located, asked them to leave. She said it's either because Lutz wants to expand – or perhaps because Animal Crossing has had a problem with mice.

“Everybody in the neighborhood has had mice,” Ellis comments. “It’s not a big shocker.”

Ellis said the exterminators hired by Lutz wanted to use a brand-name “but very toxic” product to kill the mice. “And we didn't want that,” she concedes.

Ever since she got the bad news, over a month ago, Ellis has been searching for a new 2,000-square-foot location for her store. But, so far, the storefronts she's looked at in Woodstock have been too small. “We love our neighborhood. We love our customers,” Ellis says. “We hope they follow us.”

During the pets store’s history, people’s tastes in pets have changed and, to accommodate that, Animal Crossing has been offering fewer exotics, like reptiles, and switched to more traditional pets.

“People are leaning towards cats and dogs, but also love the rats and guinea pigs,” Ellis observes.

Dog grooming has also been a big draw, though cats are no longer included in that service. "Because of ‘cat scratch fever’, we won’t groom cats,” Ellis reveals.

Meanwhile, the store’s cats Stella and Jackson, who apparently aren’t the best of mouse catchers, seem to know something’s up. They either hide on top of the boxes of fish aquariums, or they nervously pace. As a kitten, Jackson, who is now ten years old, was put through the manhandling test to see whether he would be a well-behaved, “no hissing, scratching, or biting” store cat. “He passed the test,” Ellis smiles.

Currently, long time friends and loyal customers of Jackson and her store are also keeping an eye out for a new location to house Animal Crossing.