Feb 3, 2010
05:23 PM

Kids and Pets

Kids and Pets

Photo: Bev Lloyd-Roberts

We’ve had a lot of pets, and they’re my doing. There would be no animals here if my wife was on her own; she couldn’t take care of them—she can’t suck algae water to save her life or pick up poop if she was paid for it; even remembering food and water would be a stretch.

But she hooked up with Dr. Dolittle. So we have pets. I think they’re good for kids.

My spouse expected it. I’d worked in a pet store during high school; a job most teens would dump after two months because it wasn’t worth the minimum wage, but I cleaned cages for three years. I was totally more willing to stick my head into a cage full of flying, screeching, defecating budgerigars than work food service.

But my pet shop experience has given our kids an unfortunate out when it comes to pet care—they long ago discovered that no matter how much they say they’ll take care of a critter, whether lying like a log or seething with sincerity, I’ll do it in the end because I can’t stand seeing a guinea pig wallow in its own waste, and can do the job ten times better in half the time.

Over the last eighteen years we’ve had different kinds of pets: 

Siamese Fighting Fish 
mice (one who died of cancer and two who injured each other mortally in a mixed martial arts free for all)
a cockatiel
1 parakeet caught in a park
1 long-lived leopard gecko named Sweetie interred in our freezer while awaiting a final resting place
guinea pigs
I’d never been a fan of guinea pigs. I likened them to those multi-hued puff-balls on “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of Star Trek—they squealed, they pooped, they bred. But then our daughter met Cocoa…

newts—this is where sucking algae comes in—nothing says loving like the willingness to siphon fetid aquarium water to save your son’s ailing newt
1 bearded dragon 
2 medicinal leeches
Yes, like in the middle-ages. Handy for keeping the blood flowing when reattaching body parts. We fed them raw hamburger. They were cool.

Hundreds of Australian leaf insects, which began as a packet of eggs purchased by my wife on a whim for one dollar. These pets weren’t my fault. The eggs hatched into hundreds of tiny stick-like insects who grew into hulking four-inch mutants needing a constant supply of blackberry vines. The seemingly innocuous males would burst into flight during cage cleanings, and even I scream when four-inch bugs are flying around and the air is buzzing with wings. 

poison dart frogs
Pacific Chorus Frogs—before they were identified as an endangered species, honest!
1 really UGLY albino African Clawed Frog—it looked like a bloated dead thing and ate worms. The kids loved it.

Our kids are REALLY aware of the circle of life.

Right now we have 1 Siamese Fighting Fish and 2 dogs, one white puff-ball puppy and one ten-year-old Labrador who hasn’t grown up. It’s less that he’s still immature, but that he just doesn’t care. He’s an old man. He knows we’re not really going to do anything drastic if he steals food off the table or knocks someone out of the doorway when he wants to go first.

I have learned something after eighteen years, three pets plus three kids are plenty.


Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)

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