A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Why a six year old should not have his own pet

This is the third attempt to let my son have a couple of fish in his SpongeBob aquarium. First off let me say that we are nor fish-keeping novices. I have a large African cichlid tank in my front room with a specialty of those from Lake Tangyanika. We have a pond with several Koi. I have had been the guardian of an 125 gallon saltwater tank at a school where I taught and a South American community tank. I have learned many things from each tank I have kept:
1. Middle school students will pour Coke into a salt-water tank regardless (or perhaps especially because) of the fact that even a small salt-water fish costs fifty bucks. This caused interesting and catastrophic chemical reactions.
2. Plecostomus can crawl out of tanks and across the floor until they turn crispy. Pregnant self saw it, thought it was dead because it was dry to the touch, picked it up, and when it wriggled, screamed like a banshee and flung it onto a concrete floor because it spiked me. I finally got a shovel, scooped it up, and put it back in the tank where it slithered to the bottom and sulked at me for TWO WEEKS, which is pretty good sulking for something that looks like a prehistoric nightmare with a brain the size of a macadamia nut.
3. Do not put Advantage flea killing treatment on an elderly dog if there is the slightest chance that it can fall into your pond. Because, if you do, you will find that Advantage works by frying the nervous system of pests, and that fish that come in contact with even a few drops of Advantage in their pond water will basically have every neuron explode in their nervous systems.
4. Two year old Koi are too big to flush. They must be buried, if one wishes to avoid a painful call to the plumber. That means, if you have children, that you get out the Book of Common Prayer and read the Service for the Dead. In a serious voice.

But I digress. Back to my little fella and his aquarium....

The first time, Gary the Apple Snail turned out to be a bloodthirsty psychopath who wrapped himself around the Betta and turned him into disgusting goo-- and then he promptly died too. Explaining about the reality of the "Circle of Life" in explicit detail without a cute meerkat channneling Elton John is impossible, people. I mean, really, it's not like I bought him one of these:

The second time, someone had plugged in the heater and the air pump to the lightswitch. After not having the lights on for an entire December day, the poor little guppies were guppi-cicles. Oops.

This time, his sister came to tell me that he was carrying around one of the angelfish, and when I went to make sure the fish was back in the drink and still alive, I saw that someone had taken the fish food and turned the tank into something that looked like this:

Now, listen, I do not believe that any little beings should suffer unnecessarily. So I just spent fifteen minutes seining out the excess food with a net while the three little fish pressed themselves up against the glass and looked at me like this:

So this is it. I have confiscated the food, made sure the heater and pump is permanently on, and bought NO psycho snails.

But little pal, you are SO not getting a "hamstah."


At 3/4/06, 9:50 PM, Blogger educat said...

Is it too late to notice the hilarious juxtaposition of my thoughts on reading in your sidebar? I read you on Bloglines and don't often read you on the site.

And is this the best place to notice?

Either way, I am humbled.

At 3/4/06, 11:33 PM, Anonymous k said...

Ah,the critter biz.
Being the mom on the block who is always interested in critters, I offer...

~ the Praying Mantis brought to me by Ricky and John. I set her up in her own habitat and set the neighborhood kids to fetching her grasshoppers which resulted, while I was fixing dinner, in a call, 'You've got to see this Mrs. P. it's eating its guts out!!'

~ then they brought the her Praying Mantis a him Praying Mantis. They mated. And then she ate him. The boys were probably set back years in their pursuit of girls by that little incident.

~ Lady Praying Mantis laid an egg case and then she passed away. The next spring we decided to take it up to school to show it off. The thing hatched in the car on the ride to school. Infant Praying Mantis are very tiny and they crawled out of the habitat and all over my horrifed daughter...

At 3/5/06, 8:59 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

We've tried three or four times to give our daughter a goldfish, and no matter how slavishly we follow the cleaning a feeding instructions, they tend to die before the week is out.

This bodes ill for the possibility of larger pets.

At 3/5/06, 9:35 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, educat, if you would just readity read read read right here, you would know. And I still laugh when I read the post that came from. That and the one about knitting as an inducement to maintaining student virginity.

Now k, there is no way that a story about a praying mantis can come to any good. But thanks for reminding me that insects are out. And did I mention snakes? Now, I LIKE snakes, as long as they are not poisonous. They eat rodents. We had a big king snake in our backyard for a while, and he was beautiful. However, I do not think that snakes are good pet material, especially in a house with small children and a husband who keeps the thermostat set on 65 in the winter. One snail ate one fish. What types of Elton John singing would we have to do if we were having to feed wee timourous cowering beasties to reptiles once or twice a week? No, I think not.

And NYC, you know that goldfish are the pigeons of the fish world-- they produce copious amounts of poo that then fouls the water, causing a spike in ammonia and other deadly-to-goldfish toxins. Ya gotta cycle the tank with a few nice guppies or platys, like the ones with the Mickey-Mouse shape on their tails, which hang out in cute little schools-- so perfect for the house of a teacher.

At 3/5/06, 12:06 PM, Anonymous k said...

A Snake Story (and true!)

One fine day I was hauling a full basket of laundry down the stairs to laundry room when I saw, what looked like, a young rattlesnake slither down the hallway on his way to the family room. It had a spade shaped head, was about 15 inches long, a thick body and had a smile on its face, I swear. I stopped on the stairs, screamed something akin to bloody murder and hurled the laundry basket at it. Then I ran up the stairs and grabbed the phone.
I called my neighbor, sent my three young children to her house and she sent her husband to my house armed with a golf club. We searched the scattered laundry, we searched the family room, we searched every room downstairs. The snake was nowhere to be found.
I called the police.
They suggested I call my husband.
I called my husband home from work. He upended every piece of furniture in the family room, moved bookshelves, duct taped doors closed, went through every toy bucket. No snake.
We sent the family beagle into the room, she sniffed, she investigated, she ate up stray animal crackers, she chewed up a dirty sock. No snake.
I called a snake fancier's club in town. They suggested a damp piece of burlap on the floor during the night and then approach with caution the next morning. Caution, eh? So we went to the fabric store, bought real burlap, soaked it, laid it out all night, approached it with extreme caution the next day. No snake.
I went to the pet store, bought a sacrificial gerbil, put it in a glass aquarium, trained the video camera on it, filmed the poor thing all night. Watched 12 hours of bored gerbil on video tape at fast speed the next morning. No snake. Felt sorry for the gerbil. Bought it $50 worth of fancy gerbil habitat and gerbil treats and gave the gerbil to the kid down the street.
Where the damn snake sent we've never found out. No snake, no shed snake skin, no dried up snake corpse. The children are all teenagers now and one of them has his rock band practice in that family room. I think we can safely declare that the snake is gone.

At 3/5/06, 2:20 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

I'd suggest electronic or stuffed pets for now. You won't have PETA lauching protests outside your house should anything happen to THOSE kind of pets :-)

At 3/5/06, 5:49 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

The "I want a pet" stage will pass soon enough and you will have your memories. Believe me...you will cherish your "pet" memories though they can be frustrating now.

At 3/5/06, 6:24 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Holy crap! The kids have enough electronic gizmos and the grammas and godmoms have covered the stuffed variety.

I like the snake story. Y'know that king snake? Came to a bad end. The next door neighbor was a lady whose husband had left. She came shrieking over one day saying that there was a copperhead under her A/C unit. So, former Camp Fire Camp Counselor that I was, I put on the boots and got the hoe and went over in the gloaming twilight. Squirted cold water under the A/C unit; out came snake, gave it a mighty chop to a chorus of hysterical screams from neighbor and daughter along with mincing hopping and jumping-- to find out it was not copperhead, but the king snake. I. was. sick. But I put it out of its misery and then explained to the neighbor lady that this was a GOOD snake and was black with yellow markings, whereas a copperhead was brown with other brown markings.

At 3/5/06, 6:25 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

And I do treasure the pet stage, but I wish fewer pets ended up pushing up daisies....


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