We are a pet family. Which is to say that my husband Calvin loves pets. He has never met a furry, fuzzy creature that he doesn’t love/want to take care of. (He doesn’t like cats. I hate them. Cats were a sort of non-negotiable when our relationship began.) I, on the other hand, like/tolerate animals. The kids inherited his pet disposition, and I believe it’s good for kids to learn the experience of being responsible for a living creature besides themselves and learning to deal with death. (Although I’m the one who cries when they die.) So we have animals.
However, (and I want to say this delicately) our creatures refuse to die. It started with Luke’s parakeet Ralph. While they can be long-lived, most live about five years because they’ve been overbreed. But if you follow a very specific diet, etc., they can live longer. We tried the diet. But Ralph will not eat anything on the specific diet. He won’t eat minerals, and he won’t eat fruit or vegetables. He only likes cheap bird seed. And he is now 15 years old. There are unverified reports of parakeets living to 30 years old. That’s a long time, especially since the bird doesn’t even like me. (Click here for more about that.)
Then, there’s the hamster, Rumpelstiltskin, who’s lived way past his life expectancy. Matthew has renamed the hamster Khan (from Star Trek) because one day I hadn’t seen Rumpy and decided to check on him. After all, he’s very old. I found him curled up under bedding on his back with his little tongue hanging out of his mouth. (I teared up.) I watched him to make sure he wasn’t breathing. I didn’t see his little chest rising or falling.
My voice cracked when I told Matt that Rumpy had died. Matt checked on him and decided to bury him. A few hours later when we went to bury Rumpy/Khan, he was running his wheel. And Matt renamed him Khan after the Star Trek character who resurrects.
Finally, Matt’s guinea pig Jack got sick. He was sneezing, wheezing and not eating or drinking. Every site I checked said that GP don’t recover from respiratory infections. So, again I teared up but I prayed, and Jack recovered. Which is great. Sort of.
But now I’m beginning to be concerned. My kids are growing up and leaving home, but they’re leaving their creatures behind—“I’ll be too busy, Mom. Can you take care of them for me?” Currently, we have five pets. And I’m going to end up as one of the weird old ladies with a menagerie of furry companions. But I’m telling myself that it’s okay. At least, I’m not a cat lady.
|Charlie and Jack (Jack's in the back.)|
|Matthew and Jack|