Does everyone remember their first pet? Mine was a bulging-eyed goldfish named “Popeye.” I won him in a contest at school when I was 6, and my teacher dropped him off at my house in a Tupperware container. Sure, he went the way of all goldfish (I am sorry to announce after only about a week; yes, I’m afraid Popeye was overindulged on my watch; but it was just so fun watching him eat. And eat. And EAT!).
Now I have a six year old of my own, and he has been begging for a pet for as long as he has been able to talk, with all the usual assurances: “I promise I’ll feed it/walk it/clean up after it.” This from a kid that balks at being asked to take his own shoes to his room or put his cereal bowl in the sink.
But we moved recently, and I promised him that if he was good, I would get him a pet. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s only six, and moving is tough, and he has had a pretty good attitude. So I decided I would some time.
Then about a week ago we were all out on a walk, and were approached by this big orange cat named “Teeger.” In uncharacteristic feline fashion, Teeger seemed to love kids, especially my six year old. Teeger would chase them and pounce on them and tolerate their over-enthusiastic hugs. When it was time to go, Teeger decided he wasn’t ready to stop playing, so started following us home. And I was instantly transported back to my own childhood days. Only this time, I was the one having to say “I’m sorry, buddy. But we can’t keep him. He has his own family, and they would be very sad if he didn’t come home.” And he was the one crying real, six-year-old tears.
It broke my heart. So this week we bought him a beta fish named “Swimmy.” Not a cat, but a start. We are keeping a close eye on his care (and especially his feeding). But my son is so excited, it makes me happy all the way through. Here’s hoping that Swimmy lives a very long and happy life (or that PetSmart has another beta fish bearing a passable resemblance to Swimmy, should the need arise).