PET: a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility
I am a bundle of recessive genes. I have straight, red hair. I have nearsighted, blue eyes. I have no affection for pets of any kind.
When I was young I received a fish tank. It was fun for a while. But then, I wanted to reconfigure the furniture in my room and the fish tank didn’t have a home in my new vision. So, I flushed the little guys down the toilet. Problem solved.
My father would not allow us to get a dog, so on the first Father’s Day after his departure my brother brought home an energetic black lab puppy who loved to chew and dig. After every screwdriver handle in our house had been chewed, we bought the dog a one-way airline ticket to California to live with my dog-loving aunt. I don’t remember any tears.
Then, we inherited a cat from a friend who worked at the local fire station. The cat’s name was Aidcar and her cry sounded eerily like a siren. I remember my mom calling me in college to tell me that she had to put Aidcar down at the vet. The decision made sense to me. The cat was old and sick. I was surprised to hear my mom sniffling on the other end of the phone.
I’m not cruel to animals – I’ve never picked the wings off an insect, used a magnifying glass to fry an ant or kicked a puppy – I just don’t particularly like them. The feed and care of something in exchange for slobber, poop and loyalty is just not a bargain that appeals to me. I enjoyed having chickens for a while, but those were more like livestock than pets. I fed them and they fed me. The exchange made sense. And, when the poop to egg ratio inverted, I found them a new home on Criagslist.
So, when Son said he wanted a pet, I cringed. I put it off as long as possible. I told him to make a list of all the pets he was interested in. Then, I had him read a book about each pet on the list. He navigated all my delay tactics and settled on wanting a fish. Easy enough.
For Christmas, we bought Son and Daughter fish bowls and recently took them to the pet store to get Bettas. Things went well for a couple of weeks. But, this weekend, we found Daughter’s fish dead.
With all the emotional intelligence of a non-pet-lover, I hollered, “Hey, Daughter. Come look at this. Your fish died.” I thought she’d be curious, as I was, about why the fish was dead at the bottom of the bowl instead of floating at the top like expected.
Husband, standing next to me, swung to stare at me with his mouth agape.
“What?” I asked.
He opened his mouth to try to explain to his heartless wife just how inappropriate her reaction was, but before he could get the words out I began to understand my error. The wailing from the other room reminded me that I’m the exception to the rule. The wailing continued long enough for me to feel truly terrible. While I am missing the pet love gene, I do love my kids and hate to cause them pain. In fact, I love them so much that when I asked Daughter what would make her feel better and she said, “A cat” I gave it serious consideration for almost two whole minutes.