Dave Barry: Pets are good, because they teach children important lessons about life, the main one being that, sooner or later, life kicks the bucket.


With me, it was sooner. When I was a boy, my dad, who worked in New York City, would periodically bring home a turtle in a little plastic tank that had a little plastic island with a little plastic palm tree, as is so often found in natural turtle habitats.



I was excited about having a pet, and I’d give the turtle a fun pet name like Scooter. But my excitement was not shared by Scooter, who, despite residing in a tropical paradise, never did anything except mope around. Actually, he didn’t even mope around: He moped in one place without moving, or even blinking, for days on end, displaying basically the same vital signs as an ashtray. Eventually I would realize — it wasn’t easy to tell — that Scooter had passed on to that Big Pond in the Sky, and I’d bury him in the garden, where he’d decompose and become food for the zucchini, which in turn would be eaten by my dad, who would in turn go to New York City, where, compelled by powerful instincts that even he did not understand, he would buy me another moping death turtle. And so the cycle of life would repeat.



I say all this to explain why I recently bought fish for my 4-year-old daughter, Sophie. My wife and I realized how badly she wanted an animal when she found a beetle on the patio and declared that it was a pet, named Marvin. She put Marvin into a Tupperware container, where, under Sophie’s loving care and feeding, he thrived for maybe nine seconds before expiring like a little six-legged parking meter. Fortunately, we have a beetle-intensive patio, so, unbeknownst to Sophie, we were able to replace Marvin with a parade of stand-ins of various sizes (”Look! Marvin has grown bigger!” “Wow! Today Marvin has grown smaller!”). But it gets to be tedious, going out early every morning to wrangle patio beetles. So we decided to go with fish.



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