Don’t call PETA – I’m a perfectly pet-capable parent
My oldest son started asking for a dog shortly after birth. Considering that my husband’s lungs shut down at the mention of a dog, I thought actually owning one might be a bad idea.I was able to deter Nick for a while by simply having more children. When he pestered me for a dog I simply said, “Here. Hold the baby.” That worked for a good many years until he started pestering me to have more children instead of having a dog and I was once again forced to reconsider the whole pet issue.Knowing that my husband’s strong preference was to breathe, I steered Nick away from the dog idea. We tried goldfish first, but they died within a week. Ditto the tadpoles. We baby-sat Flopsy the bunny and she died not long after her safe return. We took in two lizards from the third grade classroom who didn’t live to see the end of the school year. I began to seriously question our pet capabilities, but my son persevered, bringing home flyers from the humane society with cuddly Saint Bernards and malamutes and Labradors. My husband took one look at these photos, grabbed his chest and asked for an inhaler.By age 10, Nick had enlisted the support of his siblings and it was a full-on assault complete with comparisons to other kids who have, like, a zillion pets, and condemnations that we were animal-haters. Finally, there were tears. We caved.We are now the proud owners of two (I hate to admit this) adorable little guinea pigs named Biscuit and Ginger. And it took me exactly one week to break Biscuit’s leg.Now, before you go calling PETA, let me explain that a guinea pig’s leg bone is roughly the size of a toothpick, and the “humane” cages they recommend have a trap that looks like a simple door but surreptitiously hides a clamp which will, on a whim, slam shut on the toothpick leg.For your information, most veterinarians don’t see a lot of guinea pigs, much less one with a fractured toothpick leg, but a tongue depressor works great as a splint, especially when covered in fluorescent pink gauze and it’ll only set you back $150. (A new guinea pig, my free-breathing husband pointed out, is a mere 20 bucks.)My friends harassed me mercilessly as Biscuit hopped around her cage with her tiny pink cast sticking out at an uncomfortable angle. My husband keeps reminding me that in some countries they would eat Biscuit like chicken.In my house, whenever we’ve made a mistake we do what’s called a “make-up.” My make-up, I decided, would be to clean the cage for a while, which turns out to be an unfortunate decision on my part since in my kids’ minds “a while” translates to “forever.” I’ve tried to explain to anyone who will listen that plenty of animals live with just three legs, but it just elicits scowls from my children. I’m banned from holding either guinea pig now.All in all, having a pet has turned out great and my kids are sure to benefit from it. I’d love to expound on the virtues of pet responsibility and commitment, but I’ve got to run. Their cage needs cleaning. Charla Belinski teaches Redirecting Children’s Behavior and is a freelance writer. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent. Contact Charla at Belinskis@comcast.net.Charla Belinski teaches Redirecting Children’s Behavior and is a freelance writer. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent. Contact Charla at Belinskis@comcast.net.
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