Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life and Death: The New Pet Saga

It has been a month of high drama in our corner of the prairie this past month. We've gone from the highest highs to the lowest lows... sometimes in a span of only 10 hours.

I'll begin at the beginning. With me. As the new year began, I had some sort of mental break wherein I convinced myself that this was the year to voluntarily bring another living being into our household. Not a baby. A part of the animal kingdom.

For the first month of the year the thought of a pet hovered there in the cloudy regions of my grey matter. Then it happened. The News-Gazette ran a picture of puppies needing adoption at the local humane society.

That's all it took.

I visited. And although all the puppies had been adopted, I found a beautiful little Corgi-Jack Russell mix at the Vermilion County Animal Shelter. She was mild and quiet. I talked to my husband, and we decided to bring her home. I went to the pet store to get a carrier and leash. And when I returned to pick up my little bundle, I was told she had been adopted only 10 minutes before.

I was crushed.

Tears falling (it was so embarrassing), I returned to the pet store to give back the items I'd bought. In the meantime, my husband got us dinner reservations and movie tickets for a surprise evening out as a family. It was a good distraction; I hadn't counted on feeling so sad at not bringing home our dog.

After a few days, I felt myself again. But the pet-talk continued with my husband, and we decided to discuss it with the kids. When we asked them whether they would like a puppy or a kitten, their answer shocked us.

Neither. They wanted fish.

So, for the past two weeks, we've been setting up our tank. We let the kids make the choices on gravel and plants and a tank background. They did the setup. We waited a few days and bought fish -- 2 glowfish and 4 guppies.

We carefully brought them home and transferred them to the tank. There were smiles aplenty. It was high times in the Kelly home.

Until morning, that is, when we found all 6 fish belly-up.

Then, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. My first-grader, especially, was hard-hit by the loss of the fish. (In fact, he tearfully explained to his teachers that it was my husband's fault for not turning on the airstone.)

So, we started from scratch, washing everything carefully and re-conditioning our tank with the help of a book rather than the thin pamphlet that had arrived with our tank. And, we learned a few things. We allowed more time for the water to be ready. We chose hardier fish. We made sure not to let the kids bond with the fish at the store, making the first purchases ourselves. We talked to the kids about cycling the tank, being clear with them that the fish may not survive the chemical changes a new tank goes through.

Still, this morning, at the end of our first night with 3 Longfin Zebra Danios in the tank, the kids were up before their alarm clock. The first question out of their mouths? "Are they still alive?" Thankfully, we could answer, "Yes." And the stairwell rang with the thunder of children's feet as they ran downstairs to look.

We turned on the light and let the children watch the first feeding. It was a thrill to see the kids so fascinated. By the end of the morning, they had found a name for our smallest Danio -- Sam.

And so begins our journey into pet-ownership... Wish us luck.

(I think we'll need it.)

- Midwest Mom