Choosing a pet for your child (Parenting review by KRISTIN ENKVETCHAKUL)
As a parent, you are under a constant barrage of pressure to do certain things with your kids. You are pressured to select at least one activity, if not ten activities, for your kids, which will promote self-esteem, social skills, and good health. You are also quietly pressured to provide some sort of pet at home. The household pet: the icon of a well-balanced family. Proclaimed to give a child a sense of responsibility and companionship, a pet is seen as an enriching, necessary component of your child’s formative years. It’s only a matter of time before a study emerges that suggests bank robbers and other criminals were not given pets as children, because everyone knows grant money for studies is fueled by some maniacal rich person’s desire to make parents feel guilty about something, as revenge for their own childhood’s shortcomings.
As you begin to cave into this pressure to provide a pet, however, you are faced with the enormous question of what pet to get. For your convenience, I have listed a few pet possibilities and graded them with my own biases.
Dog. Boasted as loyal, cheerful, and caring, a dog is commonly selected as the family pet. The urge to get a dog goes back to our primal heritage. After all, what animal was beside the first humans as they lobbed rocks at charging mastodon? It certainly wasn’t a cat. The cat was on the sideline, waiting to see who won. The dog and humans go way back, and we continue to pursue that ancient relationship today. However, before you go bounding off to the kennel to get a dog, consider this: Everyone likes to think about the positives of the dog- the “so happy to see you even though you were only in the bathroom for three minutes” attitude, the Frisbee play, the snuggles, but let’s talk for a moment about the less-than-positives: the walking the dog in the rain when you are at death’s door with the flu, the muddy paw prints, the robust, offending smell of wet doggie. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with dogs and love them. I’m just trying to say having a dog isn’t all dandelion fluff. Grade of a pet dog: B+
Cat. A cat is elegant, relatively easy to care for, and definitely something furry to snuggle with, assuming it will actually come to you. That a cat will use a litter box is appealing in that it eliminates the need to take them outside. While some cats are friendlier than others, however, it seems all cats exude, to at least some degree, the attitude of, “If you are going to die, please open a can of cat food first.” (With the “please” being optional.) Still, a cat is an appealing family pet as a way to have a living creature in the house that doesn’t require much care or attention. Grade for pet cat: B+
Horse. Every little girl wants a horse. While the benefits of horses for special needs kids are undeniable, think carefully before you buy a horse. A horse is a machine that converts your cash into pasture fertilizer at a shockingly efficient rate. Caring for a horse is even harder than caring for a dog. Caring for a horse means shoveling tennis-ball sized piles of bodily output and hefting hay bales, regardless of the weather. You can have this taken care of for you by boarding your horse somewhere, but that exponentially increases the machine’s money-to-manure converting rate. And if you think they convert at an impressive rate when they are healthy, wait until they are sick or injured. Grade for pet horse: C
Python: I have an axiom that states: “Never get a pet that can swallow the children whole.” I know there are those reptile enthusiasts out there. I just don’t know why they mix creatures that make a living in the wild by eating donkeys with their own offspring. Grade for pet python: D
Fish: Fish can be a good answer to the whole pet question, especially the venerated Beta fish for small children. However, you can’t hold a fish, pet a fish or ride a fish. The longevity, or perhaps more appropriately, shortgevity of fish can be a little disappointing. Many a tearful child has presided over long goodbyes before the final flush. On the positive, fish don’t require a lot of maintenance and care. Grade for fish as a pet: B
Sea Monkeys: Considering you can buy everything you need to get Sea Monkeys started for under ten bucks, that you never have to clean the tank, and they only need to be fed once a week, Sea Monkeys can be a great answer to the pet quandary. They are active and fun to watch. There is no sense of loss when one dies because there are so many, who can tell? Sure, like fish, you can’t ride, pet, or hold them, but they do teach an important lesson: Nothing’s perfect. Grade for Sea Monkeys as a pet: A
Whatever pet you choose for your children, I wish you the best of luck. I have to run- it’s time for the Sea Monkeys weekly feeding.