Pets are the gift that keep on taking


It is my deep belief that if it weren’t for stores like Petco, creatures such as gerbils, hamsters, small fish and assorted colorful birds would have gone extinct a very long time ago.

The store also sells reptiles, but I think this is merely a gag because I can’t imagine anyone who would voluntarily and purposely bring a snake into his or her home.

But because of stores like Petco, these species of animals continue to thrive because the companies prey on unsuspecting 8-year-olds and their allowances. And bored teenagers.

My girlfriend and I fall into the latter category. This is why I am suggesting you buy stock in Petco.

Two or three months ago, Shelby and I decided it would be fun to get a goldfish. I already had a small aquarium and some decorations, so I figured it would be a cheap, in-and-out sort of transaction.

This what Petco wants you to think.

This has got to be planned out, because the majority of people looking for a simple, easy-to-care-for pet are going to want a goldfish. So naturally, Petco places the fish department in the very back, so one must walk past all the other furry and feathery merchandise before they get to the fish.

And then Petco situates the goldfish on the far end of the display, so that the customer must look at all the other colorful, more exciting fish before the goldfish.

Shelby and I were not too smart for this plan, and before we knew it, we had picked out three fish that definitely were NOT goldfish, not to mention tropical fish food flakes, a solution to clear chlorine out of tap water, a small plastic plant and a ceramic castle.

What should have been a $5—at the most—business deal ended up costing me close to $50.

So naturally, after we got back to Shelby’s home (her mom, Carrie, was just thrilled that we picked their house) and put the fish and the water additive and the plant and the castle into the tank, the fish went belly-up.

The name “tropical fish” is just a nice way of saying “fish that can only survive in the tropics, which does not include your elaborate, expensive, clean and carefully arranged 20-gallon aquarium.”

Petco also has “saltwater” fish, although I think they just have holograms being projected into the display aquariums, and when you buy a saltwater fish, they give you a dead one because it is more convenient than going home, putting a live saltwater fish in a more elaborate, more expensive 40 gallon aquarium only to have it die upon contact with your water.

So we went back to Petco the next weekend, and bought more fish. Then they died. And we repeated the process once or twice more.

By that time, Shelby and I had walked by the rodents department on our way to the fish several times, and the Petco marketing ploy was beginning to kick in, because—gosh darn it—wouldn’t it be fun to have a mouse? Or two?

Luckily, I had a fairly new 10-gallon aquarium at home that would be just perfect to house mice. And Shelby had woodchip bedding from her rabbit cage. This was going to be another cheap, in-and-out deal!

Ready to adopt two mice, Shelby and I went to Petco and began picking out which mice we wanted. Petco employees had alternate plans for us.

A rather spherical man walked up to us and began telling us, at length, that it would be much more to our advantage to get a rat.

“Rats are great,” he said. “Ask anyone who owns a rat. They’ll say they’re great!”

I didn’t catch what is nametag read, but I like to think his name was Tommy.

“Rats don’t smell at all,” Tommy said. “And they only poop in one corner. Ask anyone who owns a rat. They’re great!”

Tommy also made a strong effort to point out that rats are friendly and incredibly loving, by shoving one in Shelby’s face and saying, “Here, pet him. Isn’t he great?”

“Boy if you want strong companionship,” Tommy said, “You’ve got to get a rat. Ask anyone who owns a rat. They’ll say they’re great. Great great great great great!”

But we remained strong and picked out two male mice, plus a running wheel, purple “igloo,” feeding dish and water bottle.

After we got back to Shelby’s and began setting up the new mouse cage, Carrie came down the steps, looked at woodchips at the bottom of the tank, and said, “They don’t come in water, do they?”

At some point in our excitement, Shelby and I forgot to mention our plans to get mice.

As much as I hate to admit it, Petco’s wily marketing strategy seems to work fairly well, so I would suggest you start buying stock in the company immediately.

But do it before this weekend. Share values should spike this weekend after Shelby and I get a small, blue bird that we’ve been keeping our eyes on.

I already have a cage and bird food at home, so it should be a quick, in-and-out, $300 transaction.

* * *

UFO: A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Don’t ask why.


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