If my life were a Disney movie, which I am very glad it is not, the moment when my oldest daughter turns to me with her big brown eyes and pleads for a pet of any kind would melt my heart. Instead I find myself reeling off a list of reasons why we should not have a dog/kitten/snake/lizard/deer. The dog is a hard one to turn down. All films with children include a dog. Even orphan Annie has a dog. A dog is man’s best friend. How can I say no to a dog? I grew up with several dogs. Is it right to deny my children that undying, uncomplicated love and devotion which only a dog can provide? On the other hand, dogs are very dependent. They need walks. A lot of walks. Even in the rain, snow and wind. Small people cannot be relied on to take them out in all weather. I know it will end up like the Tamagotchi, which beeped relentlessly all day long and which I ended up feeding and taking to the toilet, as if I didn’t have enough of that with real live beings.A kitten, though, should be easier. Cats are loners. They look after themselves. They can even catch their own mice. In return, you get to stroke them and this apparently lowers your blood pressure and leads to a longer life. Not only are they a pet, but a health tonic. Who could turn down a kitten? Well, they also need constant care in the early days and tend not to master the cat litter tray for weeks/months. Only a parent can deal with the resulting mess. Plus cats tend, in my own experience, to want food at 4am and to sit purring by your head until you wake up and give it to them. This means that you can’t get back to sleep for at least an hour and when you do drift into unconsciousness it is only minutes before you have to get up for the day ahead.I will pass over snakes and lizards basically because I see no advantages whatsoever in having a pet that either wants to eat or kill you or just stares at you coldly like you are some piece of lower life form. We now arrive at deer. This was suggested to me on the grounds that Bambi is very sweet and a deer could eat the grass in our garden, meaning we would not have to mow the lawn. After much resistance, I have settled on a guinea pig and not because, after many years in pet oblivion, they seem to have suddenly become cool. Every movie you see seems to involve a guinea pig, if not as the star then at least in a supporting role. My reasoning is that they are, compared to a dog, a piece of cake to look after. Basically you stick them in a hutch, bung in a carrot every now and again and get the kids to clean them out. I know they make a horrible wheeting sound, but this has got to be better then the infernal scratchings of a hamster at midnight as it tries yet again to organise an escape party. So having been convinced of the necessity of having a pet – supposedly, I tell myself, it teaches the kids to be caring and loving, but I know the real reason is to keep them occupied with something that does not involve a screen – it now befalls to me to convince my partner. This means, of course, that he will see it as essentially all my idea and will therefore be able to deny any duties towards it and I will end up with full parental responsibility for it. This family thing is like a ever increasing chasm which swallows you up whole.
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