Uncommon Interview: The Stone Family

By Rachel Brumbaugh

Just across the street from Bartlett Dining Commons lives one of the biggest families in Hyde Park. Robert and Cynthia Stone, along with their four children and grandfather, are owners of a Hyde Park pet-sitting service that currently has over 100 pets of nearly 20 varieties under its roof.

Chicago Maroon: What is your relationship to the U of C?

Cynthia Stone: Mom and Dad are alumni of the University (College, Business School, Law School, and Department of Political Science), and the oldest of the four kids will be a first-year in the College in fall.

CM: How many pets do you have, and what types?

CS: We own two dogs (a Yorkeepoo and an English Cocker), seven cats—yes, way too many, but we couldn’t bear to give up two kittens who were born recently—two rabbits, three parakeets, seven hamsters, three turtles—a snapper, a box, and a slider—and 30 to 40 guppies (it’s hard to count them, and they multiply about every four days). In the past, we’ve owned three ferrets, 36 white mice, 15 goldfish, guinea pigs, hermit crabs, frogs, and wild squirrels.

CM: When and why did you decide to start a pet-sitting business? Is the whole family involved?

CS: We started the business in March of 2006. We thought it would be a good way for the kids to learn how to run a little business and make some extra money to support their very expensive habit of fencing (the sport). It seemed to be a natural for them. Yes, everybody in the family is involved, even our grandpa. There always seem to be enough people and pets to go around.

CM: What has been your oddest or funniest pet-sitting experience?

CS: Sorry, but we can’t limit it to just one. We cared for a 25-pound tomcat named Marie. Then we had two mini, pink-ribboned, jewel-collared Yorkie puppies who we were told were “perfectly behaved.” As soon as their owner ran off, they promptly “piddled” everywhere and yapped incessantly if they weren’t held. That was a tough week, but we all survived. We got their business through Craigslist, and we swore after that that we’d stick to Hyde Parkers only. They’re more “normal.”

CM: If you could be another animal, what would it be?

CS: We all voted on this one. The winner: a yellow-bellied sapsucker, or a mudskipper, or a moray eel, or a tapeworm. The lawyer in the family says, “I’d like to be human.”