“Mom, when can we get another dog?” my 13 year-old son asked me yesterday.
I looked around at the piles of cat fur waiting to be vaccuumed, at the unscooped cat litter boxes, at the hamsters waiting to be fed, and at the Beta fish, who swam in lazy circles around his tank, which needed a change of water.
“Um…never?” I said. Not that I don’t love dogs. Well-trained dogs are great companions, and our family really misses our Golden Retriever, whom we lost a few months ago. But I do not miss the expense of owning a large dog. Or the monthly baths. Or the constant poop scooping in the backyard. Or being yanked down the sidewalk on our walks (because as sweet as she was, we never did train her well on a leash). Pets can be a lovely addition to a household. They are fun to play with, nice to snuggle and pet, and can provide a much healthier and more active lifestyle than sitting around playing World of Warcraft for hours on end. But let’s face it, they also require a great deal of responsibility.
I spent most of my childhood in the hills of the Bay Area, with a yard full of pets. At one point, our family owned ten hens, two rabbits, a duck, a goose, a cat with several kittens, two dogs, and one gorgeous blue parakeet, named Hope, who belonged only to me. Honestly, I have no idea how we managed to care for so many animals. Both of my parents worked full time, and we children were busy with school, Scouts, and sports. But somehow, the animals survived. That is, until our pet wolf, Muppet, killed several chickens and the goose. Oh, and my parents killed the rest of the animals and served them for dinner (which I did not know until recently). Okay, well, not the dogs or cats. Or the parakeet. I don’t think.
I think I had a point here somewhere.
Oh yes, responsibility.
Well, now that the kids are a little older, it is becoming easier to care for pets. We all take turns feeding and grooming our two cats, and scooping litter boxes. The beta fish belongs to my 8 year-old son, who never forgets to feed it twice a day. And the two hamsters are the pride and joy of my 11 year-old daughter, who now has three colorful cages full of hamster toys and plastic tubes. In fact, the whole family is pretty enamored by the hamsters, who are tiny and cute and very entertaining, although the Syrian hamster is quite the escape artist. We have had to reinforce his cage in several places with duct tape. I have considered creating a Twitter account just to chronicle the tales of Gumdrop the Runaway Hamster (in 140 characters or less). However, I discovered that Twitter already has a slew of hamsters tweeting from behind bars, including the intellectual and amusing ramblings of Edward the Hamster.
Still, as much joy as pets bring our family, I think that it is important to have limits. Despite my own happy childhood petting-zoo memories, will never become the suburban farm family of the neighborhood. The truth is, I really just don’t like cleaning up so much poo.
“I think we’re finished with dogs for the time being,” I told my son. “If you really want another pet, you can always collect a new one on World of Warcraft.” There! No poo. No fur. No cages or tanks to clean. Thank goodness for videogames.