Thursday, July 19, 2012


I am not a pet person.  Other than a couple days of goldfish here and there, I never had a pet when I was a kid.  My husband also made it through childhood with nary a pet.  (Two only children with no pets.  Yes, I'm sure there's much to discuss there, but we'll save that for another day.)

Since my son was very little, he has loved all things nature and animals.  For his second birthday, we gave him a blue betta fish that he named Bluefish.

Bluefish was my kind of pet--requiring minimal care.  Even for a betta, that fish required little effort.  It survived, and thrived, for years with infrequent feeding and bowl cleaning by me.  When we moved from Chicago to Rhode Island, Bluefish drove across the country with the kids and me (I drove, Bluefish rode).  He survived quite a while after that until, of course, he didn't.

That was a sad day.  I'll spare you the gory details, but it wasn't pretty.  After having bonded with the fish on our cross country trip, I was surprisingly sad to see him meet his demise and didn't know how the kids would take it.  I flushed the little guy while the kids were at school and gently broke the news to them when they got home.  After a three-second pause, my five-year-old son said, "Can we get a lizard now?" and for weeks my two-year-old daughter told everyone she encountered, "Mommy flushed Bluefish down the toilet!"

We did not get a lizard or any of the other multitude of critters they requested.  Rather quickly, however, I caved and purchased a new fish.  Since then we have had in succession Peacock, Dragon Princess, and now Blitzen.  That was all I was willing to undertake despite frequent pleas for a dog, cat, snake, lizard, or any other non-fish, because by now they are thoroughly underwhelmed by the fish.  I can't blame them, but that's its allure to me;  an underwhelming pet is my kind of pet.

Back in April, on an unseasonably sunny warm day, I took the kids, their nets, and a five-gallon bucket to a local pond.  When we had stopped at the pond to look for frogs and turtles, they had spotted tadpoles and wanted to try to catch some.  We had a free afternoon and the weather was splendid, so we ran home, put on rain boots, got their gear, and returned to the pond.

I thought they'd stay interested for 20 minutes.  We were there two hours.

They caught a lot of tadpoles.  If I had to guess, I'd say there were in excess of seventy in our bucket by the time I called it a day.

I planned to release them all.  The children had other ideas.  After several rounds of negotiation, I agreed that we could take three very small tadpoles home.  I remembered an unused tank I'd seen in a friend's garage, and she gladly loaned it to us.  I never committed to how long we would keep the tadpoles, but the kids were pretty committed.  They named them Tad, Roger and Samantha.

Tad didn't make it and is buried under the geraniums, but the other two tadpoles have provided quite the opportunity for scientific observation.  Roger is now a frog, while three months and six days after capture, Samantha is a froglet with a tail and back legs.

For the last three weeks, Roger and Samantha have been sleeping over at our friends' home while we were in and out on vacation (the same friend who loaned the tank, she's a keeper).  We brought them and Blitzen home today and cleaned their tanks, which is when I took the above photo.

Watching the tadpoles turn into frogs has been tremendously interesting, even for us adults, but it is time to release them back into the pond from which we seized them.  We are leaving again soon for another trip, and asking our friends to frog sit and hauling the tank back and forth across town is more than I wish to undertake.  The frogs are not sufficiently underwhelming to me, so they must go.  I am the one who feeds them, and I have to force the kids to help me clean the tank.  During today's tank cleaning, Roger nearly escaped, and I got a piece of glass wedged into my palm from a chip in the tank I did not know was there.  Added together, it means our days as tadpole and frog owners are coming to a close.

The kids are not going to be happy about this.  There will be much clamoring about how helpful they intend to be.  While I believe them to be sincere, I also know they will not follow through.  I'm willing to bet that, once they know I'm not changing my mind, they ask to catch more tadpoles when we go to the pond to release these little guys.  Not going to happen.  This is about as pet-friendly as I get, and I'm ready to manage only a betta fish again.  I can't even guarantee that he'll be replaced when he goes to meet his predecessors down the toilet.  What can I say?  I don't do pets.  If that makes me lacking in the parenting department, I'll bake some extra cookies to compensate.

Farewell, Roger and Samantha.  It's been nice knowing you.

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