Kittens and turtles and fish, oh my!
Growing up, I didn’t have many pets.
In fact, the only pets I had were kept in the same tank. They were all fish or frogs…eventually turtles. The frogs were little tiny ones that got beaten up by the Fruit Loop fish. It was really depressing to watch them cowering in the corner while a bright blue fish charged at them over and over.
Every few months we would go to the fish store and pick out some more fish to replace the ones that had gotten sucked to the filter or trapped in the toy treasure chest. I learned not to grow attached to the fish, since they didn’t last long. They were also pretty hard to tell apart, though we tended to name most of them anyway.
After a while, my parents decided we weren’t going to be buying any more fish, so we should just enjoy the ones we had while they lasted. Slowly they died off one by one until there was one left.
We hadn’t named him yet, since he was among a few that looked a lot like him, so now that he was on his own it seemed appropriate to give him a name.
My brother and I had very different opinions on what his name should be. I thought he looked like a Fred. It was a perfect respectable name, and I was a fan of alliteration when it came to naming animals (I had a stuffed cat named Katie the Kitty and a stuffed Lobster named Louie) so Fred the Fish suited me just fine. My brother wanted to name him after his favorite cartoon character, but I told him Sponge-Bob was no name for a fish. We argued for a bit, and then we came to a compromise.
We were an informal household, so he usually just went by Fred-Bob.
I grew rather attached to Fred-Bob. Whenever I felt my mother wasn’t listening to me or was being unreasonable, I would use Fred-Bob as a sounding board. “I know Fred-Bob. I don’t understand why I can’t have a snack either. You’re the only one who understands me.”
I rather enjoyed it.
Fred-Bob stuck around for an unreasonably long time for a fish, but eventually he went to a watery place in the sky. The giant empty fish tank was depressing, so one Easter my mom surprised my brother and I with little turtles. She was afraid they wouldn’t make it through the night, so she gave them to us the night before Easter.
It’s like she never read anything about turtles before in her life. Those suckers live forever.
Anyway, there were two of them – I named mine Angel (I don’t even know where I got that one.) and my brother’s was Franklin (I do know where that one came from.). We watched them over the weeks as they grew and we learned that they had very different personalities. Angel was timid and shy while Franklin was pretty much batshit crazy.
Whenever we fed them (which we had to use tweezers to do so we didn’t lose a finger), Franklin would spaz out and flail around and climb all up and over poor Angel.
Eventually Angel stopped eating. Or even opening her mouth. We suspect Franklin’s flailing injured her in some way. One day I came home from school and she was still and lifeless. I ran up to my room and cried, cursing Franklin’s name. We buried her in a Tupperware container in the thin strip of yard beside our house. We put a rock and a plastic turtle to mark her tiny little grave.
I believe it’s true what they say: Only the good die young. Franklin has since persevered. He’s at least twice the size he was when we got him. Still as feisty and annoying as ever. We’re not really on speaking terms.
Other than those water-loving creatures, I never had a pet. Therefore, I would have emotional attachments to other animals. Like Fluffy the Squirrel who liked to attack anything we put on the back porch. Or Diamond, the beautiful black lab that the neighbors kept tied to the fence that separated our front yards. I’m fairly certain that, up until they finally found a better home for her, I was the only one who gave her any attention. She would get excited to see me after school and I would say goodbye to her every time I left the house. It really felt like she was mine.
Then there was Hope. One day I returned from a particularly tiring, stressful day at school. I was in a rather unpleasant mood until I was met on the front porch by an adorable tiny grey kitten. She looked up at me with her big lost kitten eyes and meowed. Despite being deathly allergic to cats, I couldn’t help but bend down and pet this little sweetheart. She instantly turned my day around and I stayed outside with her for a good fifteen minutes before going inside. In the meantime, I had decided to name her Hope. I asked my mother if I could bring her down some milk but she wouldn’t let me and said that she had to find her way home and if I started feeding her, she wouldn’t want to leave. This was a solid point, so I didn’t bring her anything and was a little sad that it would be my only encounter with the pretty little kitty.
However, the next morning, she was still there. She nuzzled my legs while I locked the front door and started following me down the path. I begged her to stay on the porch because I had to cross the street to get to my car. Though I wasn’t sure how far out of my front yard she’d wander, I made sure there were no cars in sight at all before I darted across the street. Sure enough, she followed, and it took every bit of will power I had not to take her into my car with me and bring her to school. When I did get in my car I started it and waited until I could see her on the sidewalk before pulling away, so as not to smoosh my new friend.
She was there again when I came home and I was now annoyed at her owners for not finding her yet. She must not have traveled too far from home, since she chose our porch over any other porches to hang out on. I had been keeping my eyes open for lost kitten signs, but none appeared. However, I was also secretly glad she was still there. She made me unreasonably happy just by seeming happy to see me.
Eventually she wasn’t there when I got to my porch. I don’t know if she found a new porch that belonged to people who wouldn’t die if they adopted her or if she eventually found her way back home. I like to think she found her way home and that she had just stopped by for a bit to cheer me up.
And cheer me up she did.
So that’s the extent of my pet-having growing up. My strongest attachments were to a fish and to animals who weren’t even mine. Or imaginary animals. Or stuffed ones.
Maybe someday I’ll have a pet of my very own. One that will love me back. Fish are fun, but they don’t show their affection very well.
I kind of want a bunny.
Or a lamb.