Fish, Et Cetera
You know those rear window stickers with the little stick figure brother, the stick figure sister, the stick figure mommy, the stick figure daddy (or sometimes the other stick figure mommy), and the stick figure dog? We don't have those stickers, and I doubt that we ever will. We are now a multi-species family that goes beyond the imaginations of the window sticker producers.
It started out with a dead cat. Lucy had been a part of our family since three months after we got married, long before human children were on the radar. She was petite and delicate, with long silky fur that never lost its kitten softness. She was a lovely mix of tan and grey and white, with perfect little white feet and enormous pale green eyes. She was so pretty you just couldn't help but pick her up, which was when you found out that she was in fact a horrid little wretch. She liked my husband, and barely tolerated everyone else. I am convinced that she thought she was a lion, and that it was only the fear of indigestion that kept her from eating me whole. Lucy never forgave me for bringing Mary and Peter into her domain, but when she finally died at the age of twelve, they mourned her sincerely.
It was a while before we were ready to bring another pet into the home. Katie the Cat was, shall we say, not a good fit. It transpired that the good people at the humane society had not been quite as successful as they claimed at housetraining her, and that she had originally arrived there due to her penchant for wetting on anything that would hold still. If it had just been the pee on the carpet (in every room of the house), the couch, the box full of clothes to give away, the bedspread on my bed, the sheets (after I took the bedspread off), the mattress pad (after I took the sheets off), and the mattress (after I took the mattress pad off -- she was fast, I'll give her that), well, that would have been one thing. But when it turned out that I was violently allergic to her liquid offerings, Katie found a new home, and we were pet-free again.
We asked the kids what they wanted for a pet, and they had some interesting suggestions. Mary said, "I want a fish!" Peter said, "I want a piranha!" Mary countered, "I want a puffer fish, and I'd name it Puffy!" Peter raised the ante: "I want a puffer fish too, and I'd name it ... um ... Puffier!" We said, "How about GOLDFISH."
Just so you know, it doesn't work to keep feeder goldfish in a bowl without a water filter and an aerator. Now that you know this, you don't have to try it seven times in a row, and that will save you the theological complexities of conversations with six-year-olds about the afterlife of goldfish. (The right answer, by the way, is "Yes." Even if you don't believe in God, heaven, or an eternal soul. All fish go to heaven by way of the toilet, end of story.)
Eventually, a betta fish named Wavy found a home in Mary's room, with nice blue rocks, a fake plant, a little light, and (lesson learned) an aerator. Wavy was joined in short order by Frogger the Frog and Rosie the Shrimp. (Did you know you could buy live shrimp at Wal-Mart? Apparently you can.) You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you? You would be wrong.
Now, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, because if you read in tomorrow's "Weird News" websites about some deranged woman trying to mail an overly friendly pit bull to the outback of Australia in a large box with holes poked in the top, I don't want to leave a paper trail. So I'll just tell you some random interesting facts and hopefully avoid arrest.
It turns out that a perpetually grinning chocolate-brown dog with a penchant for licking people's knees is also capable of doing upwards of a thousand dollars' worth of damage to a home. Sarah can dig holes into decking, scratch off chunks of siding, bite off whole pieces of doorframe, chew through leashes, disembowel stuffed animals, destroy bedding, ravage carpet, and chew the heels off of cute new sandals that had only been worn once (not that I'm bitter). She can dig so many holes under the fence that you get to meet nearly every neighbor on your street and a few from the next block over, thanks to the opening gambit of "I think we have your dog." She can bash her head against a weak board until she actually goes through the fence, helping you meet even more neighbors. She can flatly ignore all efforts at housetraining, resulting in odorous little gifts in every single carpeted room in the house, plus a few closets, a laundry pile or two, and a scrapbooking project laid out on the floor for organizing. (Just so you know, in a showdown between dog pee and scrapbook materials, dog pee wins.)
I'm sure we'll get it all worked out at some point, and if I mail her anywhere, it will be to my sister in California because her dogs would put the fear of God into mine in about three seconds flat. But I tell you ... that piranha is starting to sound pretty good.