What Type of Pet is Best for Your Family?
Our family dog passed away last spring, and our elderly goldfish met his maker shortly thereafter. This past year has been the first extended period of petlessness in my life. (Yes, the spell check flagged “petlessness,” but I’m going with it anyway.)
My boys don’t seem overly concerned about the petlessness of our family. They don’t beg for a dog every time they see a Purina commercial on television, and they don’t make any melodramatic promises about feeding and taking care of a puppy if we could only get one, pretty, pretty please. They haven’t asked to go to the pet store or to the county fair to get a replacement fish.
Part of me is enjoying this little break from the daily pet chores. (We all know who actually feeds and cleans up after the dog – good ol’ Dad.) Still, another part of me thinks it may just be time for a new pet. A family does need a pet, right? What kind of a dad would I be if I denied my boys the companionship of a furry, feathered or scaly creature?
We always had a dog when I was growing up – and, at various times, fish, guinea pigs and hermit crabs. And I can tell you a story about each one of those special animals. In fact, as I size up what type of pet might be best for our family now, I’ll tell you a little bit about the pets of my past.
Dogs – Sorry cat owners, dogs are the classic American family pet. Our first dog when I was a kid was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Lucky. Built of 120 pounds of pure muscle. When I tell people my childhood dog lived in a wooden doghouse the back yard and was outside in rain, sleet, and snow, they say, “Aw, how mean.” Well, that dog was not made for the indoors. My mom once tried to pull him inside the house one day , and he cut toenail tracks in the wood floor while straining to stay outside.
Pro: Dogs are super fun. They’ll go with you on a walk, fetch a ball and eat any spoiled meat – no matter how foul and nasty – from your refrigerator. Loyal to a fault, they’ll guard your house while you are at work.
Con: Loyal to a fault, they may shred your house to pieces while you are at work in a fit of separation anxiety.
Cats – I never owned a cat in my life, so I’m probably biased. But I do have to say this: When you look in a dog’s eyes, you can tell if it’s friendly or mean. When you look into a cat’s eyes, you have no idea. To me, that’s a little scary.
Pro: Cats go to bathroom in the same little litter box every time. That sure beats hunting for dog poop in every corner of the yard.
Con: My wife is allergic to cats, so that’s that.
Fish – My boys loved watching their dearly departed goldfish, Grady, swim in his tank.
Pro: Feeding fish flakes is a task the kids can handle.
Con: If you introduce a few new fish to the tank, and you’re not careful, one of the fish will eat all of the other fish.
Birds – These feathered creatures are totally fascinating, especially macaws.
Pro: Because we don’t want to spend $1,000 for a creature that very well may outlive us, we’d probably be looking at parakeets. My wife had parakeets as a kid and says she taught the birds a few words. That’s pretty neat.
Con: My sons teaching a bird a few choice words may not be so neat.
Guinea pigs – I never owned hamsters, gerbils, mice or rats, but I’m guessing they’re all furry and smell like cedar chips.
Pro: Cute? Yes. Adorable? Absolutely.
Con: Durable? Not so much. My childhood guinea pig, Sugar, was my pride and joy. But one afternoon our cousins were visiting from out of town, and when I went to check on my sweet baby, I noticed her “sleeping” on her side with a lollipop stick protruding from her mouth. The same lollipop stick my young cousin had been sucking on earlier in the day.
Hermit crabs – When I was a kid, we’d visit my grandparents in Ocean City, M.D, every summer. The highlight of the trip for me was the eight-hour ride back home with the hermit crab I had bought for $1.99 at the surf shop.
Pro: Totally easy to take care of.
Con: Short shell-f life.
So, there you have it. Six great animals, all with pros and cons. Now, I just have to decide which is right for our family. Of course, an ant farm doesn’t sound too bad either.
Brian Kantz will never, ever, ever forgive his cousin for murdering sweet little Sugar. Just kidding. Time heals all wounds. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.