Southold, where the prairie dogs roam

Southold, Prairie dogs,
GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Nitro, a curious prairie dog, peeks from her cage to inspect the camera.

Their names are Nitro and Methane, but they aren’t drag racers.

They’re a pair of unique pets: two black-tailed prairie dogs that have called Donna and Rob Jester’s Southold home their own for 2 1/2 years now.

And the Jesters say they couldn’t be happier to have the two female prairie dogs in their lives.

“When we come home, they bark to greet us,” said Ms. Jester, who works at Tyler’s Automotive in Mattituck, describing the homecoming ritual. “They stand up on their hind legs and throw their heads back when they do it.”

Mr. Jester, an airplane engine mechanic by trade, likened the daily exchange of squeaks to a parked car’s alarm setting off another car alarm nearby.

“They set one another off,” he said. “They can go back and forth like that five and six times.”

When the Jesters approach the rodents’ cages to pet them, the prairie dogs bare their teeth, but it’s not a malicious gesture — it’s friendly.

“She opens her mouth like that when I pet her because that’s how they greet each other in the wild,” Ms. Jester explained. “It’s like a kiss.”

She added that because prairie dogs are extremely social, the couple keeps them in cages in the living room where the two will be sure to spend the maximum amount of time with their human caregivers.

“They’re so social that if we had them upstairs in our bedroom, where they could hear us not giving them attention, they could actually get sick and literally die from lack of affection,” she said.

This is also the reason the couple is careful to keep their prairie dogs in pairs.

So far, the Jesters have had three sets.

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