I woke up the other day to a sneezing cat. He sneezed twice, then glared at me until I said ‘bless you.’ I did, then promptly fed and watered him. I stood there and watched till he told me I could go about my business. Days like this, I wonder how I reached this point in my life. Young Strength wasn’t always a slave to all things threatening and feline.
There was a time when I had a bit of a backbone, when I didn’t even care about furry creatures. And then there was another time when all I wanted was an animal – a dog, not a cat – but I was blocked at every turn by my animal-hating family. This isn’t a post about the guppies, the goldfish, and birds that all served as poor substitutes as a pet. No, this is about the pets they tried to pass of to me as pets. This is about the rock, and the alien in a jar.
The first time I approached Mom about a pet, I was a young little thing. We were living with my grandmom and my mom made all kinds of promises about how our lives would be different when she and Dad married and we'd move away. So I asked if I could have a dog. Her repsonse was to get me a pet rock. Yes, a rock. It even came in a carrying case and instructions on how to handle it. It was rather insulting, but I was enamored in a way that only a first grader can be. I gave my pet rock a bath. I took my pet rock to school for Show and Tell. I took my pet rock on walks. And then …. Well, I guess I lost interest in it (it never got a name). Either that or my cousin/nemesis found a way to break it/kill it (which is the way most things in my life went back then).
After the rock, there was the alien. I was a regular visitor to a nearby science geek store and after realizing Mom and Dad weren’t trying to get me a dog, or a chemistry set, I picked out a pet alien. Picture a can of chicken noodle soup. Now imagine pouring the soup out, putting a penny inside to make a noise and sealing the can again. And there you have my pet Alien in a Jar.
The instructions were simple. I had to keep it at room temperature, that was easy enough. For food, all I had to do was set it about 10 feet away from me and it would feed on my brain waves. There were two rules I needed to abide by – don’t shake the can too much (that would anger the alien) and never, ever, open the can (that would unleash an alien onto the earth!) . My last memory of that alien was my cousin/nemesis getting a hold of it and shaking it furiously as I chased him around the house, desperately trying to save my pet, and the universe. Perhaps that made the parentals worry about my psyche. Did I get a dog after that? Nope. Next came a tragic spiral of goldfish, guppies and parakeets.
About eight years ago, I was feeling the 'I'm Growns and decided to make some moves on what my life would be like with a dog. And after all that research, I opted for a cat instead. The animal and I have our ups and downs. I love him to death; he patiently tolerates me. I guess I owe my sanity to him, cuz I surely would've wound up in a straitjacket if I kept that pet Rock or Alien in a jar. I'm so glad things changed!