Monday, October 30, 2006

Doggone Predictable

Kids and pets: they’re pretty much an inevitable. It could be a golden retriever or a gold fish, but at some point, your child is going to ask for a pet. Most likely you will buy one, and you may be fooled into believing that your kid will take on the lion’s share of the caring and feeding for said pet. But really, mom (or dad) – the onus is all yours.

I am sure there are families who may strongly disagree with me, yet from my 22 years of experience, I have been the one who has cleaned up more pet poop, doled out more kibble and cleaned up more crates and cages and fish bowls than I ever thought imaginable.

Kenny and Blake had rabbits and Beta fighting fish and a likable, but hyper dog that we got from Adopt-a-Pet. The rabbits eventually died (not my fault; I was a good caretaker), ditto the fish. The dog, named Eli seemed like a good idea. We bought her ostensibly for Blake’s 10th birthday, and he was pretty consistent with feeding and the occasional dog-walk around the neighborhood. But it was I who would have to leave my office twice a day to check on her and she was so revved up that she would wind up dragging me across the yard on my stomach; I was three months pregnant at the time. After being our family pet for about four months – many stomach rides and chewed up drapes, chair legs and shoes later – we arranged for her to be re-adopted by a wealthy family who week ended in the Hamptons; Eli made out well.

Janet pleaded for a puppy just before turning 9, and so four years ago, Glory, a black lab, came into our family. While Janet has for the most part lived up to her promise to love, honor and feed Glory, she refused to clean up after the puppy’s accidents, which left that charming detail to yours truly. I can’t blame her for not following through; it’s gross. The training and the disciplining of Glory also fell on my shoulders, as does, of course, the majority of training and disciplining the children themselves.

This past Christmas, Jack was presented with a red fox lab that he named Joey. Here’s the insane part – getting a new puppy was my idea. I am a martyr! Yes, Jack feeds Joey, plays with Joey and tries to help me with various behavior commands, but I am still president of the poop-and-pee patrol, the only member of our family that spends at least six to seven hours looking after Glory and Joey.

For all my griping here, caring for a pet is an important ritual for a child; it kind of prepares one for being a parent. Letting your kid choose a name, snuggle with, play with, feed and help with any training of a pet gives a boost to their maturity, and in a way, their self-esteem. They are loved unconditionally and know that their pet is dependent upon them for love in return.

I have a close friend here in New Canaan with a virtual menagerie of pets, from the furry to the feathered. Her twin boys are well-versed in respecting and caring for the pets in their family zoo, and this respect and caring has been ingrained into their personalities. Their mom-- who like me works from home -- is responsible during the school day for the assortment of pets, and one would think that she has had her fill of animals and aviary- dwelling friends. But she too recently joined the puppy brigade!

Doggone it; like kids, moms can still be a sucker for a furry little face.

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