Friday, December 7, 2012

Welcome to the Zoo

Sophie, the newest member of my "zoo"
I was going through a file box of assorted writing I've done over the years (looking for a story outline I had misplaced) and found the following old article that I never  posted. The kids involved are all grown, so it brought back some memories and smiles. Thought I'd share it now.

Is This the Zoo?

I've often wondered how normal families select their pets.  Do they have a conference at the dinner table to get a consensus of what is wanted then head to the pet store armed with that information? Do they keep looking until they find the special pet that meets their criteria?

I suppose that's a fair idea of what happens in most families. As for our family...well, our pets just seem to happen.  We own a goldfish, a cockatiel, a dog and a cat. None of them were planned or even expected, for that matter.

The goldfish came first.  About four years ago, a local discount store gave away a free goldfish to every child who visited the place during their Kids' Week promotion. What can a parent do? Unless your name is Scrooge, you can't say no when a child gives you that please-can-I-keep-it look. At least, I can't.  So, Whale, our pet goldfish, joined the clan. By the way, that "free" goldfish cost nearly $50 by the time I bought an aquarium, gravel, filter, and food.

Sookie, our albino cockatiel, was almost as much of a "deal." About a year after Whale joined the family, I was sewing a dress for my daughter late one night and had the TV on for background noise. It was tuned to a local PBS station that happened to be running it's annual fundraiser auction.  Many unusual items were up for bid, and I found my attention drawn to the broadcast. Lo and behold! A baby cockatiel -- hand tamed no less -- was offered.  It was ate; I was tired. At least that's the excuse I give for what happened. Before my better judgement kicked in, I'd picked up the phone to join the fun. I placed a paltry $10 bid. Imagine my surprise when, an hour later, I was announced as the winner (turns out, I was the only bid). We picked up Sookie at the pet shop the next day.  With her cage, vitamins, food (three different varieties), and cage toys, my $10 bird became a $150 investment.

Do you think I learned my lesson? Guess again!

It was only a few weeks later when my oldest son talked me into visiting the pet shop at the mall.  I agreed on one condition: nothing that barked, crawled, swam, flew, hopped, or meowed would leave the shop with us. I was firm, I was tough. All that resolve melted when the clerk put a bundle of squirming puppy in my arms.  A wiggly bundle of fur that immediately crawled up my front to shower me with puppy kisses.  Raggs (short for Marti's Royal Ragamuffin) is a pedigreed Bichon Frise.  I won't mention how much he set me back.

Okay, now we had a fish, bird and puppy (after all, every kid needs a dog), and we were content. 

Things went fine until just before Christmas the following year. A co-worker mentioned that a stray kitten had shown up at their place. They'd posted a "Lost and Found" ad, put up notices in the supermarket, and canvassed the neighborhood, but could not locate the owner. They were happy to keep the kitten, a playful little tabby, but discovered, after a month, their only child was allergic to cats. The family was deeply upset at the thought of taking the kitten to the pound.

To make a long story short, Frisky moved in with us. The first day, she clawed the dog and chased him away from his food dish. The second day, she tried to "go fishing" in the aquarium.  The third day, she decided the bird might be a wonderful "fast food" snack.
However, we adjusted.

Raggs learned to stand his ground at mealtime; we bought a cat-proof lid for Whale's aquarium; and Sookie, who had always had the run of the house, taught Frisky the true meaning of "pecking order."

Things quickly settled down to normal, and I really didn't think anything about it until last night.  One of my friends came to visit and brought along her four-year-old niece. The little girl had a wonderful time playing with all our pets. When she put on her sweater to leave at the end of our visit, she looked at me and solemnly asked: "Can I come and visit your zoo again, please?"

Zoo?  Hmmmm...I wonder if I can charge admission?

~ Stephanie

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