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The numerous pets I have owned in my life have taught me many things, like how to take responsibility for another living thing and care for its needs at any age. But one of the biggest lessons about pet ownership is one I learned very early: You should always ask your parents for permission before agreeing to adopt a pet. When I was a kid, I noticed an advertisement in my elementary school newspaper that sought a new home for a pet mouse. To this day, I have no idea why I felt compelled to adopt this mouse. My family had never owned any cats or dogs, but all I knew was that I had to have it. So, I called the owner and agreed to adopt Whiskers before even asking my parents for permission. I wasn’t home when the person dropped Whiskers off at our house, which left my parents very confused and wondering what the story behind this mouse could be. It took a little convincing, but they let me keep Whiskers! For the next few years, Whiskers and I were pals. He would sit in my shirt pocket, and I’d sneak him little treats. This little brown mouse made for a great pet and, ultimately, became the first of many. After forcing my parents into being mouse grandparents, we adopted gerbils, guinea pigs, and tropical fish throughout the remainder of my childhood. These little pets were easy to take care of, and they were fun for us kids to play with. They kept us all on our toes, too. In fact, one day, we adopted what we thought was a male gerbil from the pet store and named him Herbie. As I was leaving for a week of Boy Scout camp one Friday, I saw definitive proof that our gerbil was not a male. Inside our cage were little pink logs, each one scrambling around, discovering their new world. I quickly shouted to my mother, “HERBIE HAD BABIES!” We ended up keeping some of those babies, and we all had a special place in our hearts for one in particular who had a little stumpy leg. We kept him the longest. FROM WHISKERS TO BUDDY How I Came to Be a Pet Owner
My years as a rodent pet owner came to a close when I grew up, but I still sought the companionship and joy of a pet as an adult. By the time my son, Nick, was 5 years old, we adopted a Labrador mix named Buddy from a lab rescue. He came to us already housebroken, which was a plus, and for the next 15 years, he was a faithful companion in our home. He was more of a mutt than anything, and he was a sweet dog. He was always excited to see us when we came home. We all loved Buddy, and it was heartbreaking to have to put him down in 2013. No matter how much responsibility caring for a pet requires or how many surprises they throw at us, we still adore them and treat them like family. From Whiskers to Buddy, having a steady stream of pets in my life has created many fond memories I will always have with me.
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