Besides wildlife, Goodman cares for a 20-year-old pet cat and two pit bull mixes. "They're outgoing, they're clown-like," she says of the breed. "They tend to have nice personalities."
Goodman, a Peninsula Humane Society volunteer, is as good to wildlife as she is to her own pets—even creepy wildlife. When tarantulas perambulate across their property, occasionally coming into the house and often falling in the pool, Goodman rescues them using shoeboxes and pool scoops. "They are important for the environment," she says.
Tarantulas may not appeal as pets, but other odd creatures do, including Cynder, a spiky-faced, lazy, but surprisingly affectionate bearded dragon. The lizard, native to Australia, is constant companion to 17-year-old Connor Phillips, who takes her about perched on his shoulder.
"It's very cool to have a lizard in the house," says Connor, who admits his interest in reptiles has a lot to do with the legendary Godzilla. Cynder lives in the Phillips' Concord Eichler. "You get to hold her like a puppy, and treat her like one. She's just a great pet."
Even a lizard, it turns out, appreciates modern living. "She enjoys sitting in the sun with the natural light hitting the carpet," Connor's mother, Carmel Phillips, says. "The house lends itself to that."
But Cynder does not get to laze in the backyard, which is near several wilderness parks. Local birds, including kestrels and Cooper's hawks, often fly overhead. "I think she would look like a pretty good snack if I were a raptor," Carmel says.
Backyards can indeed pose dangers, and not just for bearded dragons. Coyotes have been known to grab cats and small dogs from yards throughout California, and skunks are an ever-present danger. In the Ranchos, a Long Beach neighborhood of homes by Cliff May and Chris Choate, Merritt Johnson's dog Rusty has been skunked seven times in the yard. "He hasn't learned yet," she says.
Merritt calls her dog so often, her macaw, Fo, has started doing it too. The bird, who gets all "chatty and perked up" when sunlight pours through the house, has taken to barking in imitation of Rusty. And when Rusty barks, "The bird will go 'Rusty!' "
The ample sunlight in most modern homes appeals mightily to many pets. "All of the pets enjoy the sun spots," says Margaret Chester, who shares a Concord Eichler with Carol Cooper, two cats, and a dog.
"Oh, yes, and let's not forget the radiant heat," she says. "The cats find the hot spots in the winter and just lay down. And on the hot summer days, the tiles are nice and cool."
Atriums are also popular with pets. Many owners arrange their fish tanks along the atrium's window walls, including Cooper, who says they add a colorful touch to the entry. Cooper and Chester also appreciate the atrium's use as a refuge for one of their cats, a rescued animal that was de-clawed by a previous owner.
"She cannot be left outdoors without supervision," Chester says. "The atrium is a perfect place for her to get fresh air and sun on nice days."
In San Rafael's Marinwood, Susan Parkinson and family keep their puppy's bed in the atrium. "We cover it in the winter and open it up in the summer, and use low-cost sun shades when very hot," she says. Besides two children and Buster, Susan and her husband supervise two cats and a bird.
Bringing animals into any home comes with challenges. Dogs shed. "There could be problems if you have a dark breed that sheds on a perfect white Roche sofa," says Lynn Drake, whose schnauzer, she brags, keeps his fur to himself. Cats claw.
And chickens dig.
Wes and Ida Hackett, who live in a Streng home in Davis, keep their chickens in a backyard coop and let them run across a goodly portion of the yard. Wild One, Rag Mop, Snowball, Copper Penny, and Henrietta are beauties, and are much loved by the Hacketts, their children, and grandchildren.
"They're really pretty when they're parading around the garden," Wes says. "They are fun to have around, especially when you're entertaining people because they're entertaining," he says.