Monday, December 6, 2010
The pleading began at about age four. “Mommy, can we get a dog?” “Mommy, I NEED a dog!” “Mommy, everybody has a dog but me.” “Mommy, if I don’t get a dog, I’ll never move out of the house and will spend the rest of my days lying on the couch watching mindless reality shows and drinking all of your Diet Cokes.”
The boy does know my hot buttons.
Here’s the no-go on a dog:
a) I had already gone through the torture of potty training a human. Would I really go through that for an animal? Just the thought of cleaning up poop again…
b) I’m a single mom trying to make ends meet, and dogs can be expensive.
c) I already had someone in the house pleading for food, attention and play time. For the love of God, why would I try to add another needy soul?
So, the best pet ever for your child? Fish.
Stay with me here. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill goldfish (although those can bring joy for a week or so). I’m talking about investing in a real-life 10-gallon tank with the little motorized water-churning thingy and gettin’ yourself some real fish.
Check out these advantages:
1. No potty training or cleaning up poop. Enough said.
2. Fish are cheap. When my son was young, we could make a whole afternoon outing out of selecting a new $2 fish.
*Warning: Let Grandma buy the ceramic volcano, mill (you gotta have the mill) and pirate for decorating your tank. They are not cheap.
*Secondary warning: When you buy said volcano and mill, keep in mind that your fish will hide in them leading to a less than stellar fish viewing experience.
3. Fish are low maintenance. Seriously. You just need to change out 20 percent of the water once a month.
*Warning: Don’t go all serious fish owner. I tried it once, proudly taking a sample of my tank water to the pet store to be tested. When the test was done, the pet store tester guy looked at me with great seriousness and slight panic and told me I must buy some stupid gravel vacuum and get home immediately to clean the bottom of my tank before great death and destruction took place.
4. Fish can live a long time. My son and I threw caution to the wind a few years ago and bought an upside down catfish (he seriously swims upside down) that they said would probably grow too big for our tank. Well, heck, ours usually died about every six months, so we weren’t concerned. We have fish regularly, mysteriously disappear. So, when we hadn’t seen the upside down catfish in a few months, we figured the Tetra or Molly might have gotten a little too hungry. As I was changing out water one day, that catfish stormed out of the top of the mill (see the warning about the less than stellar fish viewing experience) and charged at the side of the tank. No joke, that thing had grown to five times its size. It was very Jurassic Park.
Full disclosure here: I did eventually get my son a dog when he was eight, and the dog has honestly brought a lot more joy than the fish ever did. I still faithfully change out 20 percent of the water every month. The See-Through Tetra recently went missing but that dang upside down catfish still haunts the top of the mill.
Laura Johnson is a single mom and freelance communicator who lives in East Dallas with her 11-year-old son, dog, hamster and three fish.