Gardener and writer Debbie Webber recounts moments from her chaotic, noisy and busy life as the mother of five children ranging in ages from three up to thirteen in our regular column, The Fab Five....
It had to happen sooner or later: one of the younger children has been mounting a campaign for a pet.
I feel weary just thinking about it, but there's no getting away from the fact that the idea of pet owning has started to raise its cute and cuddly head once more thanks to a cute and cuddly child.
It's not as if we haven't been here, done that and got the tee-shirt. There were the chickens raised from chicks, who destroyed the garden and who eventually got carted off by a fox one night.
Then there's the cat who had to go on anti-depressants in a bid to get her to stop using the upstairs as an -- albeit convenient but disgusting -- litter tray, and the rabbits who delighted the neighbours by visiting their garden, often.
We even have a dog who thinks nothing of hogging a whole sofa and rifling through bins but who is scared of the cat, who has undergone a personality change and rules the downstairs (much to the dog's dismay).
At one time we had a sign which read "Please shut the gate -- free range chickens, rabbits and children."
Now some of the five children are hurtling towards adolescence (and one who has even arrived at this strange, grunty, land) I had put the idea of pet ownership behind us.
Well, apart from the cat, dog and hamster. Did I mention the hamster? The one that we're fostering and who escaped after someone, we're not mentioning names but they're four-years-old, left the cage door open.
She has denied it, but the evidence points in her direction. Luckily, the story had a happy ending when Hubby strolled into the utility room, where her cage is kept, for another anxious check and there she was looking a bit dazed (and easy to catch) in the middle of the floor, wondering no doubt where the bars were.
Now the four-year-old, who is fond of the resident rodent, is loudly requesting a pet of her own.
To this end she found a caterpillar which was housed in an ice-cream tub duly punctured and furnished luxuriously with twigs, sticks and a wide variety of greens. It even came to playgroup with her, where apparently it was squeezed within an inch of its life, named Leafy and was got out for regular cuddles.
Until that is one of her older sisters decided it was more humane to release it back into the wild. Cue tears and pleadings from the little one for a pet of her own.
I can feel myself wavering.
After all, as a friend is fond of pointing out, she doesn't care if this is the fourth time I'll have been through this. Pets do teach children responsibility and death. I'm not sure we need to learn about death just yet after going through the trauma of watching the eldest break his heart over a poorly guinea pig a few years ago.
Feeding, cleaning, watering duties will also revert to my responsibility. I know this from experience so might as well factor it into the equation now.
There's also the important question of what pet? That is quite a question. I'm wondering if she'll be satisfied with a virtual pet. Or if in a few weeks time we'll be searching rescue homes for a lonely rabbit.....
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