To Pet or Not To Pet?

By Jennifer Caddell

My mom loved animals, which meant it was easy for me to have a few pets of my own. First it was a stray orange tabby kitten that I named Bobcat.  I found him when I was three and of course my mom couldn’t tell me ‘no’.  Bobcat lived for sixteen years.  He was mostly an outdoor cat, and a great pet.  He’d stop by the house around feeding time, and occasionally I’d let him sleep on my bed, which meant he slept on my pillow while biting my head. 

I also had two goldfish named Top Hat and Goldie. I cleaned their bowl for five years before they finally died.  Later I tried my hand with a rat.  Her name was Ardie and she was quite a deal.  For the price of one rat, I ended up with seven.  The babies were cute, so I kept one and named her Gizmo.  Although Ardie was a sweet rat, I think she must have run with the lab rat crowd because Gizmo was completely bonkers and never sat still for longer than two seconds.  The two of them lasted for two years and although I was sad when the last one bit the cheese, I was also happy to finally have a quiet room at night. 

Once I turned sixteen, I had other dreams besides owning my own car.  I also wanted a horse.  So I worked at a job to help pay for my car and the board and care of a gray Arabian mare. The horse was four years old and never broken.  Imagine for a moment – an inexperienced rider and an inexperienced hot-headed horse.  Yep.  I learned how to fall, but I also learned how to manage a large pet.  While most 16 year-olds living in San Diego were headed to Mexico for some underage drinking on the weekends, I was working my fanny off to pay for the upkeep of a horse, and any free-time I had was spent with her.  It was a great experience for a teen, but it was an experience that couldn’t last; the day came for me sell her when I needed to go away to college. 

I sold her to a nice couple, but I believe that started the downfall of my pet ownership days. Since my husband and I were married, we have tried fish, (that died within two months), a cat, (we only had for a year due to hubby’s allergies) a puppy, (she lasted a week. Surprise! I have pet allergies now!), and two chickens that only lasted a year after consuming almost my entire backyard.

With that kind of track record, it looks as though our pet days are over.  This is sad.  It is especially sad for our children since they haven’t had the experiences I had when I was a child.  While other children share pictures of their pet cat or dog to the classroom, my children share pictures of their pet bamboo plant that sits calmly on their dresser and a little plastic container filled with pill bugs. My eldest child often says, “A pet is a recipe for a healthy family.”  I receive daily data about the benefits of pet ownership, complete with cute crayon pictures.  But then I think of all the traveling and vacations we take, and I just shake my head.  Of course, those big blue eyes looking hopeful are very hard to resist.

Ok, perhaps we can try a fish.

Jennifer Caddell lives in the green wonderland of the Pacific Northwest with her fabulous husband, two adorable children, and three pill bugs. She enjoys writing science fiction, and dabbles in short stories in any genre.

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