I liked dogs. My friends had dogs, my extended family had dogs, but I never had a dog. I remember visiting my aunt’s family. They had a black lab. That dog and I had a deep connection. I would spend afternoons wandering around their farm with the dog. I was sure the dog could read my mind. It would follow me; I would gaze deeply into its eyes to communicate. It would listen. Like I said, we had a deep connection.
I asked my parents for a dog. They said, “No.”
“Are you willing to clean up its poop?”
“Take it for walks every day?” My family is rather active, so I didn’t see why this would be an issue.
“Pay for the vet bills?”
It was a losing battle before I even began, but still I wouldn’t let go of my dream of having a dog. My best friend had a dog and a cat! I was only asking for a dog.
In due course, family friends came to visit and kept their dog in our backyard. At last, I was able to show my parents just what good care I would take of my future dog. I walked the dog constantly and played fetch with it. In the two days the friends were visiting, I developed a deep connection with their dog: I would close my eyes while walking and it would lead my safely along the side walk. My parents didn’t seem to care about my dog whispering abilities. Before long, the family friends left taking their dog with them, but leaving dog poop all over the back yard. This was my parents’ true test for me: would I clean up the poop without complaining.
“But, Oregano isn’t my dog. If she was, I would have no problem cleaning up the poop.”
This argumentation failed to convince my parents and out I went to clean up the poop. “At least,” I thought, “I should get a dog after I’m done.”
When I came back in my parents asked, “Do you still want a dog?”
Despite the fact that I had very much disliked picking up dog poop, I put on my biggest smile and said, “Yes.”
For some reason, I still didn’t get a dog, but my parents did get a poop free yard.
In time, we did compromise and I was allowed to get some goldfish. The only condition was that I had to clean the fish bowl every second day. “Of course,” I said, “not a problem.”
Shortly after Christmas, my dad took me to the store and I pointed to a completely orange goldfish and a white one with red by its eyes. I couldn’t have been happier coming home with those goldfish, unless of course, I had been coming home with a dog.
I started taking care of my goldfish with vigour. I would feed them, watch them, talk to them, and even clean the fish bowl every second day.
It wasn’t long before my fish enthusiasm started to dwindle. I got bored.
“They don’t do anything.” I told my mom. “I can’t even play with them.”
That wasn’t completely true, they did do some things. The white one with the red by the eyes tried to eat the orange one and slowly succeeded. First it was a missing eye, then a fin that kept getting bites taken out of it. I called the white one “Bully.” The name “Bully” stuck, but I kept changing the name of the orange one. To this day, I can’t remember its name. Poor little guy getting bullied all day and then, to top it all off, her owner can’t even remember her name.
As my boredom increased, I stopped cleaning the bowl. My mom would remind me, “You promised that YOU would clean the bowl.” This prompt occasionally bore fruit and I would keep up my end of the deal.
Eventually, enough of the orange one got eaten and enough of her food stolen by Bully that she passed away. I took her out and flushed her down the toilet. Apparently, I hadn’t gotten too attached. I hadn’t even tried to gaze deeply into the fish’s eyes to develop a deep connection like I had with dogs. Bully was tough though, he wasn’t going to die for a while.
Before summer came, Bully passed peacefully in his bowl all alone, as I’m sure he would have liked. He too was flushed.
To be honest, I was rather relieved that they died. As a child, many things quickly lost their luster for me when I discovered the work and effort that I needed to invest. I’m glad my parents knew this about me as my enthusiasm for pets quickly transformed into indifference by experiencing the monotony of caring for them. My indifference culminated to the point of using a toilet bowl for burial procedures.
As you can probably guess, my lack of fulfilling my end of the deal with caring for fish didn’t bode well for getting any larger animal. I didn’t bother asking for a dog again or, for that matter, any other pet. Besides, I reasoned, I could always have the benefits of going over to my friends’ houses and playing with their dogs without having to clean up after them.