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Fish tales and childhood responsibilities

Editor’s note: This column is the third in a series about pets and children. You can access the first two installments at http://www.henricocitizen.com/index.php/Opinions.

When a family purchases a pet, parents have visions of their child’s growing responsibility and expansion of character. But when it came to our border collie pup, Toby, the dog brought on nothing but extreme paranoia.

If there was one thing my kids loved more than all else in their lives three years ago, it was their stuffed animal collections. Toby found that he loved them too. They made such a satisfying ripping noise when he gutted them down their seams, and their eyeballs popped off so nicely. And their inside stuffings! Pure heaven to gouge out with his paws.

My son and daughter, aged 9 and 6 at the time, learned quickly to leave their furry friends in their upstairs bedrooms, with their doors firmly closed. But every once in a while, a chosen animal would find its way downstairs, and before anyone knew it, the living room was littered with an unrecognizable carcass and yards of fluff.

They also learned to keep their shoes in the garage and their jackets in the closet, for Toby was known to gnaw gaping holes in any and all clothing and accessories. They learned to put their outdoor toys back in the garage when they were done playing with them, for Toby found sporting equipment tasty too. Baseball gloves, snow saucers, wiffle balls, lacrosse sticks, basketballs – they all found their way into Toby’s mouth of destruction.

Paranoia became a useful tool for tidying the house and backyard, but it wasn’t doing much for inciting my children’s love and affection for their new pet. And my kids truly love animals of all kinds. They would come home from play dates full of descriptions of the menageries at their friends’ houses. I suspected they spent most of their time playing with the pets instead of with the friends that invited them over.

They soon started begging for a new pet, and Toby – who equaled the work of about five pets, in my estimation – wasn’t even a year old. The pet of choice changed from day-to-day: budgie birds (preferably a few so they could fly around together in a closet all day), a pair of chinchillas (they are much happier with a partner in their cage), rabbits, cats, another dog, a frog, a parrot.

Pregnant with my third child, I’d scoffed at the suggestions, saying that their new baby sister would be their new pet. I had an idea of who would be taking care of a new pet, and it wasn’t my kids. And I never wanted to be a zookeeper.

My husband and I still try to institute chores when it comes to Toby, but my son gets squeamish about mixing in the “wet food”, i.e. the canned food Toby likes. And it’s all we can do to get our daughter fed and dressed and out the door for school in the morning, much less make sure she feeds the dog.

As they got older, I happily noticed that they helped out more with caring for Toby without our badgering. So last Christmas, I thought my son was ready for a fish tank. Fish aren’t even really animals, I reasoned. If one happens to go belly up, it’s not so distressing.

But as we came to find out, fish tanks are kind of a pain to keep clean. My son was sorely tempted to whine his way out of doing it all himself. But in addition to helping him get it up and running, my husband and I laid down some tough love. In the end, my son learned how to maintain a fish tank by himself and care for three hardy goldfish, and he is much the happier fish-owner for it.

But the fish aren’t all that satisfying as pets. He gets more satisfaction from decorating the tank than from interacting with the fish. He is singing the “new-pet” tune again, loudly and often.

Yet seeing his newfound sense of responsibility has changed my outlook a bit. I figure as long as he buys and cares for a new pet himself, I could be talked into another one. Children will only be young for a short time, and animals really do bring joy to our lives, children and adults both.

Does anyone know of a pair of chinchillas for sale?

Diann Ducharme is the author of The Outer Banks House and the recently released ebook, Chasing Eternity, and is a wife, mother of three children and owner of one border collie. You can find her at http://www.diannducharme.com where, she blogs about the writing life.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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