“A house is not a home without a pet.” ~ Anonymous
Children love pets. I think it’s something to nurture, to look after and to own, something that’s alive (hopefully for a while) and will give them unrequited love, even when they have stolen their Lego and bitten their limbs.
In reality, a child will NEVER look after a pet. They will play with it half heartedly, and then allow their parents to do all the hard work of cleaning and feeding and general essential care. Giving it a treat? Sure. Scooping its poop? Not a chance!
My dad decided it was a good idea to get us girls a pet when we were a child. I have always been slightly insane when It comes to fluffy things (even now you’ll hear me in my Worzel Gummidge voice going “its sooooooo FWWWUFFY!!!” when I see a cat / a rat / a unicorn) so I was excited. I was six(ish) my sister was four(ish) when our pet turned up. Having always wanted a kitten I was at least expecting a rabbit, or a hamster, or something fluffy. What did we get?
Two decades on I’m still not entirely sure of my dad’s logic behind said bird, but needless to say, two young girls had a bird, that we couldn’t cuddle or pet. But we could look at it! Which we did. A lot. Bird was named Binky, short for Binky Bonky (a firm argument as to why you should never let a child name a pet. A friend of ours named her kittens Poppy and Lovely; her mum had to go and shout “Lovely!!!” in the street when calling the wayward cat in for food) and he was taught to say “Hello” and “Who’s a pretty boy? (stage pause) Binky!!” which he rocked out, show style, at every opportunity. He would sit on the picture frames and poo down the glass, and often would make a bid for freedom by flying full pelt into the sliding glass doors. He also liked to wander up your leg and nibble at the hairs, and once ate half of my Drina the Ballerina book and my Paddington Bear wicker chair before my mum noticed and chased him off, damage done. His nickname was “damn bird” and I wasn’t exactly his biggest fan, especially when he stole my prize possessions and munched on them. I wanted a Guinea Pig!
And then my uncle shouted at him, and he turned savage. My dad was bitten on the bit between his nostrils (ouch) and opening the cage to put food in was like dancing in front of a crowd lobbing knives. No one’s favourite job and therefore general bird maintenance became allocated to dad.
One day, the bird disappeared.
MUM HAD GIVEN HIM AWAY!! My sister was absolutely devastated (“I was the only one who loved him. You gave away my baby, I will never forgive you!” she said in her dramatic way) but the rest of us were just relieved. And thus was the end of Binky Bonky.
My sister never got over the sadness of losing a pet, and decided to get fish. The first three died. Sad times. The next three died. Followed by the next nine. I made a joke in the shop once about how my sisters tank was the place fish go to die (tough crowd, the staff didn’t look best pleased) and bought her a crab which jumped the tank in a suicidal move. It had obviously heard rumour of what happened in that tank. Please note that all fish had to have a burial ceremony and a lolly stick grave stone in the garden; Dad was running out of flower beds and patience for the impromptu cemetery, plus it attracted a lot of cats to the garden. The tank saga ended when she had managed to keep six little fishies alive for a period of time, and one had babies. Excited, she let the babies out into open water too early, and one of the fish ate them all. To add insult to injury the tank heater broke a few days later, and she returned home one afternoon to find the end scene of a war film; a dozen little fish boiled in their own home, floating on the surface lie corpses on the tide. The tank now lives in dads attic ready for when Little Bean decides to become and angel of mercy once again.
My cousin Karli had chinchillas that she loved very much. Two in fact. Turns out chinchilla one was male and chinchilla 2 was female. They had baby chinchillas! And then one day she came down to feed them, and daddy chinchilla had seemingly lost his temper about the cleanliness of the cage and whether his dinner was ready on time, gone mad and eaten all his babies and mummy chinchilla. He thus became nicknamed Hannibal.
There are some occasions where children do not love their pets. Our Lilly lives in relative harmony with Amber, the boxer dog who is old and a bit smelly. Lil generally ignores her, other than when she shouts “Amber smells. SHE FARTED!!” to anyone who will listen. Amber’s face silently tells of the indignation of being an old lady-dog and living with an opinionated three year old.
I’ll leave you with this, it’s not always kids that choose bad names for their pets. First-boyfriend used to work with a slightly mental girl who had two cats, named Furry and Purry. And as far as I know, her mental health was not impaired.