“We don’t need a pet. We have a baby.”
I used this excuse for years when my children were young. I got it from my friend Geni, who used to explain to her older kids why the current baby/toddler was similar to having a pet: “He eats stuff off the floor, makes messes, plays fetch with you, and loves you!”
As far as I could tell, a pet was like having a perpetual toddler. During my years of changing diapers, babyproofing the house, and cleaning up entire boxes of cereal dumped out on the floor, I had no interest in getting an animal.
Bookgirl, however, started at about age 11 campaigning for a pet. She didn’t want a cat or a dog; she wanted a rabbit. I knew nothing at all about rabbits except that, like any other animal and most kids, it wouldn’t clean up after itself.
I said no.
Bookgirl compiled an educational pamphlet for us, with several pages and pencil-drawn illustrations. I can’t remember everything that her “research” proved except that “bunnies are cute and aren’t much work.”
I said no.
Wanting to find an outside activity that Bookgirl would enjoy, we signed her up for a 4H club. It just happened to be called “Eggs and Ears,” and focused on raising poultry and…rabbits. Bolstered by this club, Bookgirl kept up a low-key crusade for the next two years.
About the time Ranger finally outgrew the toddler stage, Darren came up with an idea. After all, we homeschool. How about we channel this passion into education?
He gave Bookgirl a special school assignment: research rabbits. Real research, answering questions such as: How much does a rabbit cost? What equipment would we need? What do they eat? How do you care for one? Where could we get one? She then was to organize the information and present it to us.
His reasoning was that if she was willing to complete a school assignment, she might really be ready for the pet.
“Okay!” Bookgirl said cheerfully. Darren noted it in the school planner and gave her three weeks to work on it.
Three weeks later, Bookgirl stood in our living room and presented her research. She’d done extensive reading, looked up cages and food online, and decided on what breed of rabbit she wanted. It really did look like a rabbit was a low-maintenance pet, plus Bookgirl absolutely agreed to do the cleaning and feeding.
So finally I said yes.
We brought black-and-white Cosmic home last year. Bookgirl’s research was well-done. She knew what to feed him, how to arrange his cage, and why he would suddenly pop high into the air as he ran around the living room (it meant he was happy). As predicted, we had to take him to the vet at six months to have him neutered (he was desperate to produce little bunnies with my foot). We knew he chewed on things, although the sheer number of books, cords, and earbuds demolished by this animal was a surprise.
Her research didn’t cover everything, though. It didn’t mention that I’d have to clean out behind the couch because the bunny loves running there. We found out that changing a bunny’s diet means having to clean up a globby, smelly tail area (much to Cosmic’s dismay). Mostly, it didn’t mention that Darren and I would enjoy having this animal as much as the kids did.
I’m the one he greets in the mornings, running figure-eights around my feet, asking for food. I’m the one who leaves him bits of lettuce to get him through the night. I usually find half an hour during the day to lie down on the floor next to him, petting him while I browse Facebook or play a phone game.
Bookgirl definitely got an A on this school project. I’m glad I said yes.
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other photos by Sara Jones.