Animals, even exotic ones, are the delight of our house


Some families have animals. And some families are like miniature children’s zoos, with so many animals, it’s like a vet’s office has decided to transplant inside the house.

At the moment I have three children and two dogs. When I was a child, our household almost always had three dogs and a cat, which is surprising since my mother was a single mother.

We had goldfish. We had turtles, which my sister “saved” from the lake and ended up living for over a decade until my sister and I were both grown up. Mom decided at that point that it was time for the turtles to “go back to the wild” and they were released again.

In elementary school, a cafeteria worker had kittens and brought them to school to donate, and I kind of convinced the lady that my mom said it was okay. Granted, I had to hide said kitten in my backpack while a babysitter walked me home, and only then confessed to my mom that I had brought home a cat – and wasn’t- not CUTE?

Unfortunately, the plan did not work. The babysitter became aware that there was muffled meowing coming from her backseat, and my mother had a harsh conversation with the cafeteria employee. The cat quickly returned.

But there were other pets. When I moved to college, I missed our pets so much.

While I was living in the freshman dormitory, I bought two parakeets from the mall pet store and snuck them into my 14th floor dorm. But they were quickly discovered due to the twittering, so I had to take them home to my mom. Which would have worked well, except that she took a two-week vacation this semester in Kenya and turned the thermostat down to save money.

The birds, unfortunately, froze.

So I decided to buy the biggest $ 30 goldfish I could afford, a gigantic baseball-sized fish that actually only lived 24 hours. Someone suggested that I send it back for a refund, but we decided to bury it instead, as it was just too big to flush the toilet.

And then there was the newt, which went to the same aquarium on the shelf above my desk. One night I came home to find the newt had come out of the glass tank and slipped onto my math textbook. He survived, but not after my first year, as far as I can remember. RIP, Triton.

And then finally there was Lilly, the chocolate cocker spaniel that I had during my last year in college. She was like my first child, my furry baby, the companion who saw me until the end of my studies and my graduate studies, through grief and new love, through the start of my career and the beginning of my marriage, through the births of my three children. I’ve had it for 13 years.

I am a companion. And so when my 12 year old daughter started asking for her own pet, it was a need that I was well aware of. It was a desire I couldn’t necessarily say no to. But somehow she chose a pet that I never, EVER imagined having – a tree frog.

I tried to be the responsible parent and told her that she should fundraise to have the frog. She would have to pay for the terrarium and the plants, the heat lamp and the food for the frogs. She should do extensive research on what it takes to keep a frog alive. And she did, proudly informing me that tree frogs can live up to 15 years. And I proudly replied that she had better make sure she takes her frog with her when she goes to college.

My daughter sold elastic bracelets to her friends at summer school and volunteered to water the plants and walk the dog next door. And somehow she saved up enough for everything except the frog was out of stock. And so, four months after starting his “frog” mission, his terrarium sat on his bedside table, fully stocked and ready, but no frog.

The frog will come, I tell him. We just have to wait.

And then, last weekend, as I was picking her up from a Boy Scouting event, my daughter jumped into the car excitedly, putting an empty water bottle in my face.

“SEE!” she said to me, accidentally shaking the bottle in her excitement.

I watched. And in the bottle was the smallest tree frog she found.

“I have my FROG! She cried.

And now, in addition to our family of five and our two exuberant boxers, we are now an amphibian family. Welcome, “Buddy” the frog. I’m not sure you’ll last 15 years, we’ll do our best.

But if I know anything, it’s that my daughter didn’t fall too far from the tree. My inner child is excited for her – as long as this frog doesn’t come off.

Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Contact her at [email protected]

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