If you know Mabel at all, you’ll know that she’s wanted a pet for ever. She wants a dog, but has accepted, with some degree of maturity, that we are just not dog people and she’s not getting a dog until she’s old enough to move out and own it herself.
(Don’t hate on me for not being a dog person. I love dogs, I really do. I have opinions about what constitutes a proper dog (sheepdogs, retrievers) and what’s just ridiculous (chihuahuas, yorkies), but I’m nice to all dogs and they generally like me back. But I just can’t imagine having one as part of the family – probably because I didn’t grow up in a dog house, and because apparently I lack whatever gene my daughter has that makes that not matter.)
Dash wants a dog too, not to be outdone, but with him it’s more of a passing whim. With Mabel, it’s a vocation.
Anyway. Since she knows we’re not getting a dog, she opportunistically hops on whatever she thinks might be more likely. If she thought we’d get a lizard, or a turtle, or a budgerigar, she’d madly want one of those. (A while ago she nearly had me agreeing to a fish, out of desperation – and what on earth is the point of a fish? You can’t pet a fish.) Yesterday she saw a guinea pig on an episode of The Cat in the Hat and spent the next several hours chanting “guinea pig” at us in various tones from wheedling to demanding, culminating at bedtime when she sleepily told me that guineapig no sleepypig Daddypig. Indeed. I made an imaginary guinea pig with one hand and snuffled her neck with it. She called it Percy. Things were at a pretty pass.
This morning she had me googling guinea-pig care and habitats and looking up cages. I am, apparently, defenceless against her well-thought-out plans and also her incessant demands. Anyway, I found myself saying that we could maybe go to the animal shelter and see if they had any guinea pigs. I thought they probably wouldn’t, and that it would buy me some time. Or something. I don’t really know what my thought process was – mostly I was just agreeing with things to get her off my back.
This is often a problem I have in life and parenting.
Here’s the thing: we actually live in walking distance of our town’s animal shelter. This is a fact I have closely guarded from Mabel for several years now; all the more so since she learned to read and might some day notice it on the sign as we drove past. (If ever I need to drive up that way I usually accelerate wildly or try to point at something on the other side of the road.) She knows there is an animal shelter in town somewhere, and in the past we’ve vaguely discussed going to see the dogs and cats or whatever they have, but I’ve never gone through with it.
This morning I looked at their website, and oddly enough one of the few times they’re open to the public is Wednesday afternoons. The stars, apparently, were aligning. Four o’clock came and I’d done everything else I needed to do. The kids were fighting and I wanted to introduce a distraction. “Mabel, let’s go to the animal shelter,” I said, rashly. “We can walk there.”
Dash didn’t even want to come. See, no commitment. Fair-weather pet-wanter, that one.
The other reason I’d always resisted a trip to the animal shelter was because I was afraid I’d fall in love with a kitten and our no-pets stance would crumble where it stood. Cats, I can do. We got a kitten when I was ten – a skittish farm kitten that never really warmed to people much, but I loved her. I know how a cat belongs in a house.
So Mabel and I trotted down the hill and round the corner in the sultry afternoon heat and humidity to the animal shelter, where, I was careful to note beforehand, we would ONLY LOOK. There would be no choosing and bringing home of any animals. Not today, anyway.
People, they have ROOMS OF KITTENS at the animal shelter. Really. Two rooms of kittens and one of grown-up cats. There must have been a kittensplosion recently, because the first room had two big cages with six tiny tabbies in one and five tiny grey fuzzballs in the other, all squeaking and scrambling up on each other’s heads in an effort to be first to be petted. Plus sundry other cats of various ages in other cages. The second room had six marginally less tiny kittens roaming free and sleeping in a pile, who were not nearly as grumpy as I would have been when we woke them up to see if they wanted to play. The third room had some very friendly and well-fed elder statesmen of cats who were also happy to be petted. We had to do each room twice, Mabel insisted, first to say hello and then to say goodbye.
And of course she fell in love with a grey-and-white fuzzball, and I found myself quite taken with an elegant pale tabby kitten, and our walk home was filled with her exhortations that I should talk to Daddy very seriously about getting one. Or two. And I was … not unswayed, shall we say.
Dammit, I knew I should have stayed away. But on the plus side, she’s stopped talking about guinea pigs.