For an eternity now my children have been asking for a pet.
Originally, I tried fobbing them off with the powder puff cloud of fruit flies that systematically appear all through summer, each time I open the bin.
Then I pointed out the
creepy useful spiders in the cellar (they’re the only weapon that we have against those rejected fruit flies).
But heads shook. Tuts were tutted. And the words, “Mum, you’re so funny!” incredibly failed to arrive.
I took a deep breath and put my thinking cap on.
What type of pet would I most like to take care of? After all, despite there being six of us (not including the flies and the spiders, with them there are way more than six) in this house. I would end up being the predominant carer.
I sighed. And thought, I’ve got enough on my plate with those four monkeys…
… On telling this to the children though, they just tutted some more.
I’ll be honest. I do think pets are good for children. They teach them about life and death. Letting go. About taking care of another who doesn’t necessarily behave in just the way you expected them to. About being responsible.
And that being my belief, we have, of course, had pets in the past. A rescued cat, who sadly only survived a couple of years. A hamster, some fish and an amazingly, talented-at-escaping rabbit, when I lived with my first husband.
Since my second marriage, we’ve also had a hamster and some small fish. But all the fish have since died. And the hamster had his funeral, with guests.
Unfortunately for them, some good friends arrived from Scotland on the very afternoon the hamster ‘passed’. Meaning none of the gifts they brought with them, could weaken the wailing and weeping. Only a full on hamster funeral could do that. Which involved the precious pet being laid to rest on a bed of hand-drawn artwork, in a small box, with a specially knitted scarf to keep it warm. A procession to a far-enough away tree. And a little blessing included: tears, song, hugs and declarations of love.
I would have been somewhat more touched if they’d not been avoiding the hamster for some months beforehand. Because one of the children had been so badly bitten, she had come down with a terrible infection and been backwards and forwards to various emergency doctors, requiring urgent treatment.
To be honest, I think we’ve worn the hamster t-shirt.
So hamster out, let’s look again at fish.
The problem with fish is they eat each other. Fact.
This is even more disturbing to a sensitive ADHD possibly autistic child.
Fish also don’t cope well with generous mummies who think they look hungry again (it’s that unblinking, staring eye/opening shutting mouth thing, that does it).
If you feed them again – they die.
And if they’re small enough, they have a tendency to hover around the filter in their dead state, unnoticed, then get stuck behind the said filter. They’re only seen by small people when they start to look like a squashed grey slug and that bothers the small people, somewhat.
So fish out – what about another cat?
My second husband is allergic to cats. Really allergic. Coming into contact with a solitary hair is enough to have me running for anti-histamine. He can’t run himself anymore as he can barely breathe.
So the furball is out.
Next comes my probable favourite. The dog. I’ve never had a dog but I’ve always been drawn to them and I think if I made the connection with a particular one, I am the type that would fall head-over-heels in love.
As we’ve never had a dog before, we had to do our research and we learned that so as to be a responsible dog owner, we’d have to sell a body part to medical science in order to pay for it. Now if that body part were say, an arm, I suspect we would have difficulty keeping control of the dog on the compulsory dog training course we’d have to take. I think the course is a good idea, but the cost?
If I instead sold my leg, I would not be able to walk the dog twice a day in all weathers and if my husband sold his head, he would no longer earn enough to pay the required yearly taxes for dog ownership.
And the money we’d have left in the bank after purchasing the desired animal, would no longer cover the costs of erecting a fence around our garden, to protect our new family member from the speeding cars racing down our street.
On the bright side, I didn’t really fancy the ‘scooping of poop’ part and my husband and four-year-old are slightly afraid of dogs.
So dog out – what’s next?
A tortoise. They are kind of cool. But do you know that they live for, like, a zillion years? And they do not like to be cuddled? I think what we really need here is a cuddly pet. Something to stroke, that will de-stress a hormonal teenager and calm a young man who finds life challenging.
So tortoise out – what about a guinea pig?
Research started. I sought advice from pet shop workers, the Internet and books. I approached the children and saw delighted, convinced faces and they informed their friends, neighbours and relations and a man with a dog, as he crossed the road.
A guinea pig. Affordable. Cute. Stroke-able. Friendly. Can’t get stuck behind a filter. Rarely bites. Sorted…
… Or not. It turns out that I’m rather allergic to hay and hay is absolutely necessary for a guinea pig’s nutrition.
Sorrowful, I talked to a friendly pet shop worker/pet lover and she told me the ideal pet for us is a rat. She assured me another escape artist rabbit, is not really the best pet for us as it’s very likely that my husband, being so highly allergic to cats, will also be allergic to bunnies.
I have two problems with rats. One is I’m more than slightly spooked by their tails. And the second is living at the river, I spend half of my time shutting doors in an effort to keep rats (and flies – but I’ve obviously failed there) out.
Purchasing one would be something of a turnaround!