Children and Pets, and The Adults Who Love Them

Anghelika came home from the first day of preschool today, excited to have handed off zoo-keeper duties to a new dad. His job will include feeding crickets to two young frogs and a tarantula named Bob. The new zookeeper happens to be a veterinarian, and his first question was, “Do you feed your crickets calcium?” Anghelika’s blank response only served to excite The Zookeeper more, who simply said, “I’m going to love this.”

bob

Anghelika was excited too. The joy of working in a co-op is sharing such duties with qualified and excited parents. Lots of expertise is needed to support an active classroom, especially when there are animals around. Caring for living things is not child’s play.

When Dave turned six, as the story goes, he asked his parents for either a) a boa constrictor, or b) an iguana. His mom did a little research into care and feeding, and chose the vegetarian option: “Howard” the green iguana was that year’s birthday present of note. Mom thought that it would live a few months and that would be the end of it, but, when Dave left for college, Howard was still there in his cage, in the dining room, adding his particular je ne sais quoi to evening mealtimes. By the time Howard joined us at our home in Southern California, he was a 20-year-old, 5-foot-long, 5 pound reminder to choose your children’s pets carefully.

What tipped the scales in Howard’s favor so many years ago was that somebody told Dave’s mom that she just needed to tear up some lettuce for him and he’d be fine. In Dave’s home, that meant Howard ‘survived’ for 20 years on iceberg lettuce, probably the least nutritious food on the planet. When Howard finally left home to live with us, we picked up a  book on herpetology, just because. This book, no surprise, described a slightly more complex diet than watery lettuce as being ideal. As we got our heads around feeding Howard a complete diet, we marveled that he’d survived so long with so little nutrition, and theorized that he might have been in a coma for most of his life.

While his new diet lead to increased energy, and a good last chapter to his life, he also suffered from a few significant gastrointestinal difficulties. We stewed squash, mashed tofu, ground up various other foodstuffs, and served it all to the surprised creature. Of course his health went downhill pretty quickly, but we attributed that to his newly awakened metabolism. (For  any aspiring herpetologists out there, iguana enemas are not cheap.)

We could have used a good veterinarian back then. Dave’s mom was not by any stretch negligent, just lacking information … information along the lines of how to load your crickets with calcium, or how to feed your green iguana a square meal. Maybe it takes a village to raise the animals in your children’s lives too. The simple truth is, we are thankful for the enthusiasm of co-op parents, who bring their unique expertise to enrich our children’s learning environment. We think Bob the tarantula is probably pretty grateful too.

 

This post originally appeared on the Parenting On The Peninsula Blog

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