This week’s Parade Magazine featured an article by my friends Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori of the Pet Connection titled “Fish: The low-fuss pet.” The story bothered me a little bit, because even fish need care. And the Pet Connection writers would be the first to agree. Sometimes editors write the darndest headlines.
No you don’t have to walk a fish every day, but you can’t ignore them either. They need regular food; you must clean the tank or pond, check the chemical balance, and monitor the fishes’ health. The final sentence in the article was “you are not just keeping fish; you are keeping an ecosystem.”
“I’ll feed him, mommy”
Notice I said “you.” This does not mean the kids. You can supervise while they take care of the pets, but don’t expect them to handle the responsibility alone, or perfectly. Even teenagers forget about their pets when the hormones kick in and they start to date and party with their friends. I know, I was one once.
I hate to think of the neglected turtles, fish, hamsters, frogs, snakes and lizards that waste away in Juniors’ bedrooms all over the country. I feel guilty remembering my own menagerie. If it wasn’t for my dad, they all would have starved to death or died from lack of water.
For some reason it is easier to neglect small caged pets than a dog or cat, though they certainly suffer too. I don’t remember my parents EVER taking our cat to the vet when I was young. We just didn’t have the money, and if Mustard got in a fight and the wounds got infected, well, he’d get over it eventually. Until he didn’t. He died, and I was heartbroken.
Teach your children that all living things require food, water and clean surroundings. If you can’t afford to, or don’t have time to, maintain their health and habitat, don’t get a pet.
Photos above: Koi, leopard gecko, and red-eared slider (water turtle).
© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.