From the Farm:
Published in the Casper Journal November 1, 2011
Last month we inherited a rooster, two cats and three goats (all within a few days of having a new baby). The rooster was promptly named “Bar-B-Que” by the children. We didn’t tell him about his name, but have thoroughly enjoyed his happy crowing each morning, the perfect touch to any farm. The cats (still kittens) will hopefully soon be trained in their duties - mousing — a great help as the cold weather sets in. And the goats? Their cute, furry antics and friendly bleating from the pasture have won our hearts over. Perhaps they’re the “perfect pet” we’ve been searching for.
I’m from a large family, and my parents raised children, not pets. No cat. No dog. I was never introduced to the task of caring for animals. However, wanting to be good parents, my husband and I eventually gave in to our own children’s pleading for a pet.
The first pet we agreed to was a fish. After a day of selling lemonade, my three oldest children had money in their pockets, and soon we had a fish bowl with a pretty “kissy” fish inside of it. The fish was the center of attention for the first hour or two of joining our family. She (or he) was fed often, perhaps too much, as feeding is the only activity one can really engage in with a fish. After a week, the fun wore off, summer ended, and the children went back to school. “Feed the fish” was one job marked very blackly on someone’s morning chore chart, yet it was often forgotten. Not wanting to fix meals with a hungry fish watching me, I often gave in and fed Kissy. Feeding wasn’t as much of a nuisance as the fact that Kissy would sometimes “flip” out of her fish bowl onto the floor. Although I eat fish, I don’t touch them, yet several times I found myself chasing a loose, flipping fish across the linoleum to carry her back to safety. When we went on vacation a few months later, I was secretly thrilled when Kissy died under our neighbor’s care.
Despite our sad fish tale, when our boys became excited about raising gerbils, we agreed to try some new pets. However, this time we required that the children read several library books about gerbils before we purchased the animals. Once the boys had studied up on their new hobby, we all made the exciting trip to the pet store. Inside, the store associate positively assured us that we were only purchasing male gerbils, and by evening we were all watching the cute, furry things run happily through their tunnels. The gerbils were friendlier than fish, and aside from making lots of noise during sleeping hours and successfully chewing up the bedroom curtains, they seemed relatively harmless.
One day, after a month of gerbil peace, my youngest called, “There’s a bug in the gerbil cage!” Everyone hurried to look. A strange, naked looking creature with a huge head was burrowed into the sawdust. Next to it was another, and another, and another. “Those aren’t bugs,” I ventured. “They look more like baby gerbils.”
“Oh!” offered my excited daughter. “The library book said that gerbils can reproduce every 28 days!” My eyes popped out. Someone had failed to fill me in on that detail. “But how did we get a girl and a boy gerbil?” asked my son. I’m sure the overly-eager store associate couldn’t answer that question.
The next few weeks were definitely interesting as we not only cared for the new babies, but welcomed two more batches of gerbils into our growing family. After the third litter, I had had enough. One afternoon, we took the cage and all of the inmates to an “exotic” pet store. “We’ll gladly take the gerbils,” one associate smiled. We followed him to the back of the store where he placed our cage among a menagerie of snake aquariums. I stifled a gasp as the children waved goodbye.
It’s been a few years since our fish and gerbil pets. In the meantime, we’ve also tried hermit crabs and a desert tortoise (both as cuddly and exciting as fish.) The children are older now, and we gave in again. My daughter received a goat for her birthday. Of course, one goat deserves another, and my son purchased the twin goat so they wouldn’t be “lonely.” Now they’re prancing around in our pasture, watched by the rooster and kittens.
I’m not sure exactly what the next few months will bring. However, this time, we have a deal: I feed people inside the house (including the baby) and the children must feed the animals outside. In addition, I’ve done my own research. Goats are cuddlier than fish, they sleep when it’s dark, and they do NOT reproduce at gerbil speed. I can only hope for the best.