My sister got, for probably no reason, a fish tank a fish from her now ex-boyfriend some time ago. Such is her level of ownership, responsibility, and dedication she put them in the most-used room of any house so as to shirk some of the duties associated with them. Yes, she left them in the bathroom. They were at a very unsettling position: Directly across from the toilet …
Anyway, I lamented the fact that she had got more pets. Let me tell you the story of our house and pets. Before I was born, my parents brought home a cat. We loved this cat, and it lived up to the January after my 19th birthday – roughly 20 years. Before this, while my sister was a wee child, she had asked and received guinea pigs. Of course, at that age, my sister was intentionally given no responsibility for them, other than tasks she would do to herself – brush their hair.
They all died (because of the bowling club behind us and the pesticides that they began to use to kill the grass along our fence), and from then my sister pleaded for a dog. I never supported her in this endeavour – our cat was enough, and should be. However, my sister begged for years. And finally my parents caved.
First they brought her hermit crabs. My mother ended up doing all the work with them. Cleaning and what have you.
Next they brought her a bird. It lived for quite some time, and guess who did the cleaning and the feeding? My mother or I. I got roped in because often my mother was too busy, and I knew that my sister would not do whatever needed doing with her own initiative, and not wanting to be thought of as someone who doesn’t care (about animals*) I would do bird-related tasks.
Finally, we got a dog. And who ended up doing the work associated with the dog? Either my mother or I. My mother was the one who supported my sister in getting the dog, so it served her right to listen to her. But why I ever agreed to do things …
Feeding, walking, bathing, brushing, cleaning up, and ‘letting out’ all fell to either my mother or I, depending on our schedules.
When my sister started going out with her ex-boyfriend, she must have said to him that she wanted a rabbit, because one day I came home, was taking a drink at the back door and saw these two rabbits run away from me. There were two. Why two? Because one would be bored and lonely if it were by itself. I was told this in a common sense kind of way.
The best example of who did, and now, takes care of them is as follows. When my parents went overseas for a month, it was stated to us in no uncertain terms that we would clean up after ourselves and help each other out as best we could. We would also share the work. One of these jobs was to feed the rabbits, let them out in the morning and bring them in at night – apparently they would be too cold at night. I got them in 28 times, fed them more than that. My sister, in her only effort to get them in or feed them (I like to think this is her attempt to get them in, though an attempt to feed them is not out of the question), managed to let one of the rabbits out of the backyard and into the streets. I managed to herd it back in. Who else would have?
Eventually that same rabbit got out again and wandered off down the street. It’s gone now, and I like to think that it’s running a rabbit mafia.
My sister’s ex-boyfriend got into breeding birds. One day my sister would have said “I would like a bird”. Seeings as how our last bird had died, hey presto! We had a new one. And guess what? Either I or mother feed it, take it out its cage, play with it, entertain it, and clean out the cage. No surprises really.
Then we got these fish. I had finally had enough, and made it known that I didn’t trust my sister to do her share. I probably didn’t even finish the sentence before I was cleaning filters and testing water.
Ok, all this complaining. Where is it headed? Well, as I said: Two of the fish died. I have ever only wanted our cat while it was alive, and after it died, I never asked for another pet. But when I saw one of the fish floating around dead, and the other one dying right there in front of me, no matter what I had said about not wanting them in the past had disappeared and I was sad.
The same went for the guinea pigs. And the first bird. And the hermit crabs. And the rabbit that ran away. I really felt sorry for and sad about all of them. This might come as a surprise to many people (see the note below), but it’s quite true. I was extremely upset when our cat died (it had been around before I was born – quite a ‘solid’ thing in my life), but I never said a bad word about her. I expect I’ll be as upset when our dog dies. I don’t understand how I could be so anti all these pets we have/had for so long, resent having to do the work associated with them, but then be sad when they die. I’m not upset that I get upset, it provides quite a real and affirmative moment in my life – a life that doesn’t really have many emotional moments. But it’s just strange, is all.
* ‘For animals’ is key there. I can safely say that I would pull from a burning building all of my pets before I pulled out a lot of people. I really don’t like people. I like animals. Not people. People suck.