When we lost Hobbes, our Yorkshire Terrier in July of 2010..It had been really heart breaking for PNK, my triplet daughters. Richa was hardly 3 years of age then. She didn’t know what she had lost, or maybe she just plain didn’t know how to express it. P, N, and K, my triplet children, had set up a memorial for him and conducted prayers..They were visiting their grandparents in India when it happened and we hadn’t informed them until they returned...
Today, she very badly misses having a pet. She realizes that owning a pet would be the greatest thing that could happen to her. She had even mentioned that to Santa last winter but had left the marketing to her sisters which they obviously failed at.
For the last few weeks, she’d been bugging me about the Puppy. I tried convincing her that owning one would ground us. We wouldn’t be able to go to her favorite places. She had replied back saying she hated going on vacations..anyways.
“Why do we have to go on a vacation Mama?!”, she had questioned me.
“I love being home..I like to be home always..I do not like going on any vacation.”, she added emphatically.
So, the other day, I tried explaining to her what it meant to have a pet. It needed to be potty trained. It needed to be bathed, groomed, fed. It may scare some of her friends away. It would be like having another baby at home..and that meant sleepless nights because a Puppy would need its mommy and we would have to stay awake to entertain it..see that it doesn’t chew off her shoes or hurt itself. it would be peeing everywhere in the house as it wouldn’t be potty trained yet. That she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere during her summer break.That, it would be a very difficult commitment to take on.
Ofcourse…you can imagine how many promises she must have made to do the job all by herself. She didn’t even need her Didis to help her on that.
I reminded her that she would have to take it outside, to do its business.
“Who will walk it out..when you are at school..or at night?”, I asked her.
“WOn’t you be scared of walking it out at night?!”, I asked her.
“I could put on the lights and take him out to do his potty”, she insisted. This coming from a kid..who will not enter a room alone..who wants me with her even to pee in her own bathroom!! She is ready to get down the stairs at night..open the door and take her pet out to do his nature call?!
Realizing there was no way I could get her to think practically..I conceded.
“Ok Richa…”, I said. “I will get you a Puppy!”
“WOOOOWWWWW MAMA…did you just agree to that!”, she screamed in delight..unable to believe she had just heard me say that.
“Yeah..but, there is a condition”, I said.
“What is it..I can do anything”, … she said, jumping.
“You will have to behave real responsibly for 60 days”, I said..just changing the 30 I had in mind to 60..on that spur.
Her enthusiasm had gotten me nervous, you see! I was too scared to utter…”30 days”
“I will watch you for 60 days to see how responsible you can be..that you have it in you to do all you claim, you will”
“And that means..you need to clean up after yourself, complete your homework..without me having to remind you, no tantrums on taking a bath, you have to keep my space clean..all your stuff belongs to your room, you’ll have to eat by yourself……….”, I continued with a list trying to sneak in every little bit I could to take advantage of the situation.
She jumped with delight…
“Yes!..Yes!..I can do all that”, she exclaimed.
For almost a week, from then..it was a sight to watch Richa at work. I felt guilty reminding her of the things she forgot to attend to. She made my bed..finished her homework without a sigh, made sure that she didn’t annoy her sisters, ate her food without a tantrum. She was an epitome of what an easy kid would be like.
Slowly..I had to start reminding her of the many things … she was not doing..reminding her that she is in the 60 day evaluative period. Threatening her..that she may have to forgo her puppy if she refused.
Soon, she realized that she had agreed to more than she could handle. She stopped talking about the puppy.
One day sitting at the breakfast table, she mentioned having a rabbit for a pet…N saved the day for me…that morning.
“Richa..do you know how bad that smells. Do you know how much it poops and it does it in its own place. Mrs G has a Gerbel and she changes its bedding everyday, still the room stinks like crazy!”, she said.
This left Richa speechless…her sisters, who themselves are craving to have a pet…had spoken against the idea. There went her idea of having a Rabbit or a Gerbil for a pet, into the drain.
Today, she came to me and said..
“Mama…you know Caterpillars make great pets. You don’t need to do anything..you just need to place it in a pile of leaves and watch it feed on them…and turn into a butterfly”.
That moment I just wanted to HUG her tight. She was ready to settle for a caterpillar for a pet. I could totally totally understand her. I was in her shoes as a child. We would pick up any orphaned baby animal from the street and bring them home, to rescue it..save it. We had a baby goat once, a rabbit, a street puppy dog, a baby squirrel rescued from a crow…We had brought home a lot of them…and had our hearts broken every time the pet died. The baby goat got killed by a pack of street dogs and the rabbit killed by a cat…the puppy didn’t survive its own condition.
Eventually, I did grow up with a Doberman for my pet and what…2 generations of it. So, I can totally understand this desire of my children to have a pet. I know it is great. That unconditional love, getting licked on the face, that happy welcome you get when you come home, playing fetch with them, training them to do tricks. In fact, we had gotten Hobbes, our Yorkshire Terrier and a Rabbit within a couple of years of getting married. I had trained Hobbes to do tricks with a Clicker. and was thrilled it had worked. I had a library of books at home..on their care and training. That was until my kids came..Well…who knew I’d have 3 of them at once!!, right?! After that..Hobbes was on his own.
Today..as I evaluate my situation.. I am not in a position to commit to mothering another living creature....So, my children..I don’t know for how long…I am going resist, but resist I must.
“Where can you find these caterpillars, Richa?”, I asked her
“You will find them in Caterpillar shops Mama..Thousands of them. Why don’t you search for them on the internet?”, she suggests.
And I showed the results of the search to her..
They were pictures of people wearing shirts and caps named “CAT”…Images of huge yellow machinery too, with the same letters…..leaving her to these words..
“Google is so wrong Mama!..How can these be caterpillars?!!”