Pets. We’ve never really done pets. See, my wife’s not an animal lover.
When I was growing up, there were always animals; in Sumatra we often looked after Orang-Utans or Siamangs or Gibbons to help out WWF friends. We had rabbits and guinea pigs and birds and cats and god knows what else. In Brazil we had a dog who came back to UK with us. We had chickens, too, and the occasional sloth or armadillo that might have wandered into the clearing and needed some help getting back into the forest. There were all the unwanted critters too – the spiders and snakes and bugs.
Not here, though. Uh-uh. No way.
But children . . . y’know how persistent they can be. It was a ‘no’ to the dog (are you gonna walk it in the rain, pay for the vet bills and scoop its turds?) and it was even ‘no’ to the hamster but, well, the children finally went for the last option. ‘What about fish?’
Ah fish. Well, you can’t say ‘no’ to everything can you? And they have to learn how to take care of something, right?
Well, all I can say is, it’s a bloody good job we didn’t go for the puppy, ’cause they’d be sending someone round to take us away. If we went through puppies at the rate we’ve gone through fish . . .
So we bought a tank for – What? It costs HOW MUCH?! And then there’s the filter and the heater and the gravel and the plants and the ornaments – gotta have ornaments, right? And then we let it cycle for a week before having the water checked and being officially allowed to take some guppies home. Very pretty they were too.
And we sat back and relaxed and watched the lovely colourful fish swim around and cluster at the top of the tank and slow down and sink and . . . wait. Are they supposed to lie at the bottom upside down with their tiny mouths open? Within 48 hrs four of the five were dead. I’m guessing that 20% survival rate is not good.
As caring parents, we were worried the children would be upset. They had given the fish names and everything. Named them after Marvel’s Avengers, in fact, and Hulk was the first to die.
But you know what? Their only concern was who was going to get to flush them down the toilet.
What kind of monsters have we created?