Pet history reeks of mystery

Way back in the mists of prehistory, I remember asking my parents to let me have my first pet. Our cave—er, I mean house—had theretofore been pet-free, unless you count my small self as the youngest resident rug rat.

My brother, the yard ape, was a bit larger than me, and didn’t particularly see the need to socialize with me very often. Thus, I reasoned, I needed an animal companion that would be my friend. Preferably one that also couldn’t escape. So, I launched the Great Goldfish campaign.

As such plans go, it went typically. My parents repeatedly said no, while I escalated promises of increased chores and pet care. Honestly, I’m surprised that I’m not still indentured.

Finally, they relented, and Jeremy the calico goldfish came to live in a bowl on the piano. Apparently goldfish don’t like piano music, or at least not mine. Shortly after we got him, Jeremy simply disappeared.

Of course, I was heartbroken. I needed another friend. (In case you were wondering, Jeremy’s desiccated body was found many years later inside the piano during a tuning session. Poor thing probably didn’t like Bach.)

Having broken my parents’ resistance, a steady stream of finned, and eventually feathered, pets took up residence with us. We even worked our way up to a dog: a toy poodle named Sunny. All of those pets had one thing in common. Not a one of them served more than two purposes: companionship and ornament. None of them actually had jobs.

Fast forward over the years, and through many more and more exotic pets. Siberian dwarf hamsters, Caecilian worms, apple snails, ferrets and wolfdogs joined the parade. As I find myself getting older, though, I find myself wanting my pets to actually do something besides keep me company and eat. And poop. (Yuck.)

Take the chickens, for example. I keep trying fancy breeds for eye candy, but their purpose is to provide food in either egg or meat form.

The horses are theoretically broke to ride, so just in case every vehicle we own breaks down at the same time, we will actually be able to travel on something besides our own feet.

The barn cats catch mice, hopefully before they get into the house.

The indoor cat catches snakes and warms the foot of the bed, hopefully not at the same time.

The large house dog keeps unwanted intruders outside.

Nice, useful animals.

So what’s a kid to do when they want a completely useless pet? They ask mom, who they know has a weakness for rescue sob stories. The same mom who put Thanksgiving on hold to drive to Texas to rescue a Great Dane from being a puppy mill breeder. The mom who used to put herself shoulder deep in cages with wolfdogs. Surely that mom couldn’t say no to a harmless little bunny, could she?

Yep. She could. And she did. Because really, what purpose does a rabbit serve? It’s not an Angora, so I can’t spin yarn from its hair, and being the cute little pet it was obviously meant to be, we aren’t going to be eating it either. It’s going to be an eating and pooping machine.

And of course, we need one. Because, you see, after talking to the nice lady offering said bunny, and both kids making deals no sane mom would either believe or refuse, we had to have this bunny. Otherwise it wouldn’t be loved, or something. Yes, friends, that’s code for “mommy is a sucker for cute fuzzy critters.”

Of course, it couldn’t be a big ugly albino Californian or New Zealand, which give mommy the creeps. It couldn’t be a ginormous Flemish Giant, which the kids couldn’t pick up and handle themselves. It had to be a cute little Holland Lop. Just the right size for a cuddly pet. And it doesn’t eat much either. Sheesh.

Before the kids could change their minds, we headed off for them to buy the impending rabbit a cage. They pooled their money, selected the perfect cage and accessories and spent the next few days deciding on names.

Naturally, when the nice lady arrived to drop off the (admittedly very cute) newest member of the family, those names went out the window. Within moments, the new name was Smokey, which mommy immediately vetoed. (When you’ve just quit smoking, your sense of humor suffers a little bit. Just saying.)

Shortly thereafter, we all managed to agree on Bun, simply so none of us would forget it.

Bun has done a lovely job of settling into the family. She may not have much of a job to do, but the kids are doing a great job taking care of her, with very little assistance from me. Even after a little incident with urinating on Caitlin, she’s still loved very much.

Thanks, Annette. Thanks for giving us a Bun, and for reminding me that sometimes useless is just fine.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at

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