Posted by: laughs4dads | May 12, 2010

How Much Is That Puppy (Goldfish, Hamster, Frog, Rabbit, Kitten, Etc.) in the Window? Part II: The First Pet

In my last post, I related the tale of my daughter’s initial encounters with the animal kingdom.

Given Casey’s unbounded love of animals, it seemed almost cruel to deprive her of a pet, even though she was not yet old enough to know that a pet was, indeed, an option of childhood.  Barbara and I had been discussing this for about a week.  It seemed to me that all the good reasons for a child having a pet, like that it teaches him or her responsibility, would be wasted on someone so young.  I mean, a kid who had not yet managed to move an entire spoonful of food from a bowl into her mouth could not very well be trusted to feed a dog every day.  And besides, Casey already had hundreds of stuffed animals that she circulated widely enough so that our first activity after bedtime was always wandering from room to room collecting a zoo’s worth of creatures and depositing them in large baskets in the living room, ready for disbursement the next day.

I added to those arguments the fact that a pet would tie us down more.  At the moment, we were occasionally able to get someone to stay with Casey for a weekend.  I figured that if we needed someone to stay with Casey and an animal of some sort, it would unreasonably decrease our odds of ever being alone again.

Barbara finally agreed with me and, in one of the rare instances since we’ve been married, I felt the thrill of victory.  Until one rainy Saturday morning, when Casey had the sniffles, and we were faced with the prospect of amusing a cranky baby all day.  So I blurted out, “Hey, I know.  Why don’t we go buy Casey a pet?”

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Anyway, we then had to decide what kind of pet.  If Casey had her druthers, it probably would have been a cow.  Fortunately, we did not allow Casey to have any druthers until she was well into her teenaged years.

A few possibilities were eliminated early.  I’m allergic to cats.  I refused to have the hassle of walking a dog on cold winter nights, or even warm summer afternoons.  I had once wanted a monkey, but, at the time, Barbara had opted for a child instead.

We talked about the various available rodents, like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs, but, in the end, we decided on a fish.  A fish was good, I argued, because it wasn’t really an animal.  It was sort of a cheap, disposable experiment that we could keep for a week or so and then flush down the toilet.

We put the proposition to Casey.  “Would you like a fish?”  we asked her, and she jumped up and down enthusiastically enough so that we knew she had understood the gist of our query and didn’t think we were asking what she wanted for lunch.

So off we went to the pet store.

They had about a half dozen tanks filled with all kinds of fish.  “Where are the goldfish?” we asked.

“These are all goldfish,” the salesman replied.

I was confused.  These were all different colors.  “You mean goldfish aren’t necessarily gold?”

“Right.  That’s the generic term.  Goldfish are really small carp.”

I steered Casey toward a tank of gold goldfish.  What can I say?  I’m a traditionalist.  “Pick one out, honey,” I said.

She stared at them awhile and pointed to a group of fifty or so.  I did the same thing and said, “That one,” to the salesman.

He shrugged and put a net into the tank, nabbing a fish at random.  “You need an aquarium?” he asked.

“No,” I said.  “We need a bowl.  A goldfish bowl.  A cheap goldfish bowl.”

We bought the fish, a bowl, some food, a plastic plant, gravel and dechlorinating drops and escaped for under twenty bucks.  In the car, Casey insisted on holding the plastic bag that contained the fish.  By the time we got home, the fish seemed only mildly traumatized, even though Casey had dropped it twice.  We dumped everything into the bowl and Casey stared at the fish, which now seemed nearly catatonic.  I figured we’d be lucky if it lived through the day.

“What should we name the fish?” Barb asked.  “Should we name it Ernie?”

“No,” said Casey.



“Mr. Fish?”


This went on for a half hour.  In the end, Casey said yes to “Pretzel,” although we weren’t sure if she was responding to its desirability as a moniker or to the fact that she wanted one.

Friday: Uncle Gary Makes an Appearance



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