I could lie and tell you I don’t love animals. I could lie and tell you that my allergies are so abysmal that the dander and hair of animals will render me just short of being comatose. I could lie and tell you that I don’t have pets because I live in NYC and have no time (although that’s a damn good reason). But truthfully, my “no-petness” started way before that…
If you knew my mother, you’d know that she is a woman of strong convictions. She changes from “outside clothes” to “inside clothes” the moment she gets home. After she cooks a meal she has to clean the entire kitchen before she eats the meal (and she has to reheat her dinner because of it). Oh, and she doesn’t do pets.
The only way to get my mother to change her ideals is to bombard her with the change. I don’t just mean by talking about it, I mean by showing up with everything that could make the change possible (including a moving speech about why not changing would be impossible) and ramrodding it into her once peaceful life. By grade 3, I realized the trick, and began to plot ways to add pets to our family. What harm could a chinchilla, a ferret, a rat, a bunny, a cat, a fish, and a partridge in a pear tree really do? I used the Trojan Horse approach on a cold day in the late 1990s.
The Boys & Girls Club I attended had the Big & Little Sisters program* and one day we went on a trip to the mall.* My “big sister” was apparently training to be a largely absent parent because she always missed our trips. Because of this, I got saddled with my actual big sister’s “Big Sister.” This might be confusing, but rest assured it adds very little to the story…
So because I was being adopted by my actual big sister’s “Big Sister,” I had less supervision. At some point I convinced everyone to go into the pet store* just so I could look at the bunnies. Once the group was distracted by the abundance of fluffy adorableness, I made my move: I spent $1.25 and got 5 goldfish and some water in a cellophane bag. The deed was done.
I held the plastic bag of disenchanted goldies on the jarring bus ride back to the Boys and Girls Club. I’m not saying this was the case, but it seemed like the bus driver hit every bump (and maybe even a few people) on the way back to the club because I may or may not have dropped the bag on the sticky floor and it may have stickily rolled a few times under another seat. Goldfish are beautifully resilient bastards, and while their trip probably seemed like that last part of Oregon Trail, they all successfully forded the river and made it back to the coat room at the club.
I called my mother on the dial-9 front desk phone to let her know that we’d need an aquarium of some sort suited to hold at the very least (always leave room for more pets) 5 goldfish. She surprisingly didn’t sound angry, and later collected my sister, myself, and the cellophane bag.
Apparently Mary-Kate & Ashley were
full of shit misleading in their mystery series videos. It would seem that feeding fish a lot of food—repeatedly—for hours is never a good idea. For one, you limit the amount of oxygen they can access by clouding their water with fish flakes. For two, fish will eat themselves to death. The next morning when my sister and I went downstairs for breakfast, we were dismayed to find no fish in the fish tank. One of us actually suggested that they may be sleeping under the colorful rocks that lined their home. No no. They had died and my mother ended up having to flush them.
Since then, I have not had the best luck with pets. To be fair, it was never my fault:
Bunbun (Rabbit): Allegedly committed suicide by repeatedly jumping in his cage to his death.
About 100 more fish: Died of old age or from that space heater incident in 2003.
Alphie Beta (Beta Fish): Died because our joint custody arrangement would not last the summer break from school and the toilet was the only viable option. Kind of wishing my terrible relaxed hair had died that May, too.
Clearly I am not cut out to have pets. I mean, I think at this stage I could handle a fish or a rabbit, but I really don’t want to. I am far too busy and far too lazy in my remaining time to clean up after something simply because it is cute (and yes, I am pushing back having kids for a very long time). Loose pet hair is one of my biggest pet peeves, and even fish tanks start to smell if you let them. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy OPP (other peoples’ pets).
*Big and Little Sisters is an awesome program. I feel like the two “big sisters” I had really helped me steer into a slightly less awkward adolescence.
*Why the hell was the mall considered a field trip? I pretend that we couldn’t make the zoo happen so this was the next best option, but really? THE MALL?! Not only could no one afford to buy anything with their modest 3rd grade incomes of NOTHING, but this was even before they had a play area or a baby gap or anything for us to do…
*Florence Mall, what the hell happened to the pet store? Granted, having it next to the food court created some supremely rancid smells, but now how am I gonna pet bunnies when I come home for visits?