“Dad, Ethan and I want to get baby chicks to raise,” my daughter said as our paths crossed a few weeks back.
The weather had been cold so I hadn’t even realized that we had reached that time of year again. In farm supply and pet stores around the country the smell of pine and fowl grew stronger as the cute little seasonal offerings kept warm in huddled masses beneath the glow of their heat lamps. A collective “AAAAAHHHHH” is heard by each passing group and not to many parents escape the, ‘Can I have one?!?!? Can I have one?!?!?’ Even my daughter who is almost eighteen and a few weeks shy of graduation couldn’t resist the cuteness factor.
I, on the other hand, had learned my lesson years ago.
“Don’t you remember the bunny incident of 2001?” I replied swiftly.
In 2001 we had fallen prey to the wicked one two punch of an adorable black bunny and two, even more adorable kids pleading for it. My wife says we discussed the purchase but I swear I was at work, just like I was every time something went wrong when the kids were younger.
“But that was Meric’s fault and I am much older now,” she replied trying to muster the cuteness of a five year old the best she could.
“We are not going to repeat that ugly mess, not on my watch,” I quipped back.
We only had the cute little bunny for a couple days when I received a frantic call from my wife while I was at work… like I mentioned, this kind of stuff always happened when I was at work, but that is a story for another day.
“The rabbit…. Meric….. Only alone for a couple minutes….” my wife squeaked out between sobs.
After calming her down I gathered that she had left Meric alone with the Rodney for a couple minutes while she unloaded the dishwasher. Meric was almost three at that point and in the 125th percentile for both height and weight. Couple that with the fact that he had about the same temperament as Bam Bam from the Flinstones and it was clear that the rabbit never really had a chance.
The next day we went to the vet to have Rodney checked out. His leg was fractured, I’ll spare you the details but even my untrained eye could see that. He was in a lot of pain and the leg was beyond repair, so $120 vet bill later, we were without a rabbit and with two very sad kids.
My own childhood experience should have spared me this adult anguish but life’s lessons are often lost with age. When I was seven and my brother was probably around four we simply had to have ducks one Easter. We waited until my father was at work and then we pounced.
“We have some old fence by the shed, so we wouldn’t have to buy anything…” I built my case.
“And we will feed and water them every day,” my brother said looking up with his huge glassy eyes.
She was like butter in our hands. Easter morning the baby ducks arrived like magic.
We named them Hewey and Dewey. The first week or so the four of us were inseparable…. and then they started to molt. You can look it up but this is basically the trans-formative process when a cute little baby duck becomes the ugly duckling of nursery rhymes. This was compounded by the fact that like many toddlers, both Hewey and Dewey were bitters. It also didn’t help that ducks produce more bodily waste than a full grown human. Luckily my mom knew someone that had a farm. She assured us that they had all kinds of animals, a virtual Noah’s ark right there in rural Missouri.
Sounds like the ending out of a children’s book right? It was a few years later when I found out that the family that had adopted our little ducks had actually done so because they wanted to have them for Thansgiving Dinner and don’t mean as quests. You can imagine my dismay in knowing that we had been deceived into handing our ducks over to their would be executioners. In fact, I think that might play a little part as to why I am a vegetarian today.
I only share this as a cautionary tale to try to save other families from the trap of Easter Animal Ownership or E.A.O. as I like to call it. I am not sure how this tradition got started but I am pretty sure nobody asked any ducks or rabbits… chickens are gullible, they probably went along with it.
So when your kids ask for adorable little woodland creatures please remember Hewey, Dewey and Rodney and just say no.