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Animal Crackers

29th January 2016

This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, August 2015

My kids are desperate for a pet. Specifically, they want a dog called Snuffles. Me, I can’t factor in managing another little animal. I have my hands full with my current menagerie of three kids under nine. Plus, every time we encounter the animal kingdom it seems to be quite dramatic and stressful.

Yesterday I was hanging out with three-year-old Pudding when a little bird flew in the house and cornered itself in the kitchen. My heart sank. This happens often, and I am always reminded of that Modern Family scene when Mitchell, terrified of birds, smashes up his entire lounge room trying to encourage a pigeon to fly out.

Birds, so non-scary in their natural habitat, somehow utterly freak me out at close quarters, and make me come up against my worst, most hysterical self. Here we were, with a tiny blue-tit frantically trying to fly through the kitchen window, and conking itself over and over on the glass.

Eventually I realised that I was going to have to capture the bird in a tea towel and carry it outside.  I could feel my blood pressure rising as I closed my hand gently around the madly fluttering, warm little body. ‘It’s OK it’s OK it’s OK it’s OK’ I muttered, deranged, as I carried the bird past little Pudding.

Suddenly it squirmed out, dropped onto Pudding’s foot and then rolled, motionless onto the floor. Pudding screamed, a terrible sustained banshee wail, and then I screamed too, before picking the bird up again and running outside (IT’S OK IT’S OK IT’s OK IT’S OK)  to place it on the step. ‘They do that!’ I told Pudding, my heart hammering. ‘Birds do that! It’s not dead!  It’s just stunned!’

Eventually the little bird came to and flew away, and I discovered that as it buzzed past my laptop on its little scenic tour of the house, it had shat on my keyboard. So Nature had the last laugh after all.

My son had animal-related hysterics recently too. It was a Saturday night, right on bedtime.   My husband Keith was away and I was trying to keep the vibe calm so I could cajole all three kids into bed when six-year old T-Bone suddenly ran inside with a frog in his hand. ‘A frog!’ he yelled. ‘I’ve got a frog and he’s my new pet!’

The girls shot off the coach, cast Eloise In Paris aside and threw themselves into the spirit of the thing. ‘Little fwoggie’, moaned Pudding, poking at the poor amphibian with her dirty little paws. ‘Let’s call him Trevor,’ said eight-year-old Peanut.  ‘Where did you find him?’ I asked T-Bone. ‘In my slime bucket’, he answered. I enquired no further.

Before I could regain control, Trevor jumped out of T-Bones hands and ran behind the fridge.  I was in it now. ‘No!’ I said. ‘It’s hot back there! He’ll cook!’ I found a torch, shone it into the dust and picked out poor Trevor, just out of reach. I managed to scoop him out with a long spoon and ordered T-Bone to take him out of the house. Before they could make it, poor befuddled Trevor took a flying leap onto T-Bones face.

‘MY EYE!’ T-Bone shrieked, running in circles. He ran around so wildly that it took me a while to grab him and pluck Trevor off. ‘My eye!’ he screamed the whole time. ‘My eye!  My eye!’  Poor Trevor finally got back to his slime bucket, and I did eventually get the children to bed, but the whole crazy drama of it all was another nail in the coffin of the dog-dream. Snuffles, I’m sorry but you will have to remain an imaginary dog for a while. It’s a zoo around here already.

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