I’ve been open—bordering on overly-dramatic—about our decision to add a pet to our family. The past two weeks have prompted several thoughtful conversations with friends, both recollections of first pets and reflections on current companions.
Fond remembrances have been marred by the occasional tale of woe: the fish that died three days later, the puppy that ate through drywall. But all were shared not as deterrents but lessons. We won’t start with a goldfish in a plastic bag, nor will we lock a puppy in the laundry room. Got it.
The unmistakable theme to almost every conversation was, “I can’t imagine life without a [insert beloved animal here].” Yes, there was talk about the hair, the live food, the, well, poop. But it was nothing compared to the companionship and love and kisses.
If you’re a pet owner, you know.
I, mind you, have been on the sidelines. And a lifetime of being on the sidelines has made me a little skittish. My reaction is to turn to research—it could be worse, right?
The deal between my son and me is to choose a small, not-terribly-labor-intensive first pet; so far, we’re focusing on a male betta fish. I’ve weeded through sources aplenty online, and learned what I can about this fish’s preferred habitat, favorite foods and what it likes to do on Friday nights (OK, I kid about the last one, although we do intend to keep our fish happy).
Just as importantly, I’ve learned what a betta doesn’t like: other bettas, excessive cold or heat, or life in a vase with a plant. I’ll admit what initially sounded like an easy undertaking is proving slightly more involved, what with finding the perfect-sized tank with filter, heater and lid (bettas, apparently, are jumpers). I’ve been pouring over online offerings of myriad gravels (substrates—who knew?) and artificial plants.
I’ve also read countless pet owner testimonials that finding wise, responsible pet store staff is the most important factor in choosing a healthy fish and keeping him healthy. So it’s a shopping we will go—no spur-of-the-moment purchases for us! We’ll be scoping out the cleanliness of tanks and not returning to stores that suggest the aforementioned vase-with-plant arrangement (or don’t suggest anything at all).
I have a feeling that initially returning home empty-handed will be difficult. I’m not the only one eager to relax watching our new friend swim about. Hopefully preparing a tank will keep us busy. Good things come to those who wait!