Welcome to the family/RIP, Cookie
My daughter was adamant: she wanted a new sibling for Christmas, and failing that, a dog.
They say the key to effective parenting is consistency. Fittingly, I have been carefully consistent in my message that I am finished with having babies – if I smell that coconut body butter that you slather on your extended belly to avoid stretch marks one more time I can’t be responsible for my actions. As for the dog, I’m conveniently allergic to fur. I am, of course, lying through my teeth about this allergy, but it is the simplest and most effective way of quelling their pleas that surface biweekly. I sleep at night, despite this tiny white lie.
I have been resistant to bringing any pet into our home for obvious reasons, the inconclusive list including odors, noises, and upkeep. But there is another major problem: they die. As much as I want to avoid the trauma for my children, it is me who I am most worried about.
I have been there, and it’s not pretty. The day we brought our family’s puppy home ranks among the most incredulous of my childhood. We loved Buffy, despite the fact that she barked ferociously day or night if anyone stepped foot on our property. She was a beautiful sandy colored cocker spaniel, with freckles on her nose and bottomless eyes with the eyelashes so long and seductive they needed to be trimmed regularly. As much as she loved our large family, she passionately hated strangers or any other thing that moved, so walking her was an exercise in restraint, literally, and not for the faint of heart or weak in stature.
Buffy lived a long life, but her death hit me hard.
In the same way I can’t watch Animal Planet lest an antelope become an afternoon snack for a Cheetah, I can’t stand the thought of any pet under our care meeting its maker, be it gerbil, cat, hedgehog, frog or fish. Besides, I watched Finding Nemo; it is the ultimate nightmare for any fish to be resident in tank cared for by a nine year old girl. Yet I was feeling guilty for denying my child the pleasure of a pet, so I caved. We got her a fish tank for Christmas, with the promise she could pick out her fish on Boxing Day.
She was over the moon excited. She skipped into our house with her plastic bags containing her carefully chosen protege, three small fish that if cared for properly would double in size over the next year. She had already named them: Elmo, Ernie and Cookie (as in Monster). We were pet owners for all of five minutes when disaster struck: Cookie got caught in the fish net during the transfer into its new home. Cookie appeared to be traumatized, if not physically marred by this procedure; we weren’t sure (he?she?) would last the night.
We waited on edge for Cookie to make a comeback. “Cookie’s gone!” she shouted, which I immediately assumed meant he had been eaten by the other healthy fish in the tank, weakest link theory. Half an hour later she reported a Cookie sighting – “I see him! He’s floating on top of the water!” – which caused my husband and I to exchange wary glances; I knew this day would come, just not so quickly. But Cookie was indeed swimming on top of the water, although slowly and like Nemo, missing a fin.
The news report in the morning: Cookie lives. We narrowly dodged that bullet, now it becomes a waiting game. If I was a gambling girl, I would put my money on a funeral conducted toilet bowl-side before the New Year. Meanwhile, I will try to remain detached from Cookie, and hope my child fares better with pet mortality than I historically have.