While I was growing up, my folks didn’t allow typical pets at their house. I might be slightly emotionally scarred from the lack of animal exposure that my life needed back in the fourth grade.
The main reason my parents put the kibosh on pets was that my brother, Uncle Fun, had severe allergies. We weren’t left with many options when it came to finding an animal that he could be around without an injection of epinephrine. Around animals, his asthma would kick in to high gear and send him huffing into a ventilator for several hours, so as a general rule, pets were out. Uncle Fun couldn’t breathe around dust, grass, pollen, mushrooms, Pakistani leather, girls, lawnmowers, oriental carpets or anything that walked. I don’t know much, but I do know this;
All the good pets can walk.
After begging and pleading to share my room with any form of domesticated creature, my mom reluctantly agreed to let me have a goldfish. The excitement was tangible. I scraped up my dollars and coins and mom loaded me into our old, square, 1984 Honda Civic and off we went down to the local pet store.
A glass bowl was purchased along with some blue gravel, a green fish net and some food that looked like flakes of dried scabs. I chose a fat, silver goldfish, gave him (her?) a name and off we went toward home. My very first pet! How I loved that useless silver fish. For about three days I watched that goldfish swim around its glass bowl. I “oohed” and “ahhed” every time it did anything that indicated a modicum of intelligence. “See how smart Sparkles is?” I asked Uncle Fun, “Sparkles knows how to eat fish-food scabs! Isn’t that smart? And watch how he sucks up that blue rock and spits it out because he realizes it’s not food. Isn’t that brilliant?” Uncle Fun stood in my room, nodded with a look of feigned amusement and puffed his inhaler.
For five months I cared for that anchovy until one morning I woke up to him doing the backstroke atop the bowl. My spirit was crushed and I padded off to school after going through a ceremonial flushing to send Sparkles off to the Great Fish Tank in the sky. My fishbowl was empty and so was my heart. The rain fell, the birds stopped chirping and oven baked fish-sticks lost their appeal.
I learned a very important lesson as a kid. Goldish are fun, but you don’t want to pet them. Being the caregiver of a mini aquarium just wasn’t in the cards for me, and after blowing through several replacement fish, I gave them up all together.
Petless I remained, until one year on a partly cloudy afternoon, I found a small brown lizard at the park with my friends. Refusing to part with it, I hid it in a shoebox and snuck it into the back of my parent’s car. There’s nothing more thrilling to a kid than a secret lizard pet. I hid him in his box deep in the bowels of my parent’s crowded basement. Everything went well until the very next morning when I discovered him missing. The little brown lizard was nowhere to be found. Despite my accusations, neither my mom or dad would fess up to finding it and releasing it into the wild.
Which means that a 23 year old lizard is still living rent-free inside my parent’s hoarded basement. I would bet money on a 400 pound Gila monster chillaxin’ inside their air-ducts, eating pizza and watching old VHS tapes loaded with M*A*S*H episodes. Without a doubt, that reptile is guarding piles of broken junk and picking his yellow lizard teeth with the bones of dead rodents.
By now, I would have made Uncle Fun go down to our folk’s basement to flush-out the elusive monster…
But he can’t.
Because he’s also highly allergic to piles of useless crap.
All this to say that when my little kids asked me recently for pet fish and lizards, my answer was a strong NO. My track record isn’t great and I don’t need anything else around here that poops. I won’t be buying fish unless they come battered and golden. And the idea of a free-loading lizard loose in my home makes me want to punch a gopher and breathe into a bag.
The kids have assured me that they’d never put a leash on a goldfish or let a giant lizard live rent free in the garage, and I’d like to believe them.
But if they don’t stop whining for pets, I’m sending them down to play “Monster Quest” in grandpa’s basement.