Monday, May 23, 2011

Babysitter's Dilemma: Tortoise or Hare?

A blindingly obvious choice for anyone that has 1. raised a child, 2. taught kindergarten, or 3. seen how fast a hare actually moves.  Do I commit to tend a slow reptile that drinks/eats every other day, makes a sloth look hasty, and needs cleanup every three days?  Or do I take the (admittedly geriatric) highly strung bunny, that needs daily feeding and watering, clean bedding, cuddling, treats like fresh carrots and rutabagas, and probably a big pink bow as well? 

We have the tortoise.  A shock to all, I realize.  Some members of the family were expecting a small, hand sized creature, harking back to pet turtles of yore that never quite managed survival and attainment of greater girth.  We tend what can be termed a largish dinner plate with chubby, clawed legs.  Weight watchers may not be out of the question, for the blasted thing might weigh twenty five pounds.

preschool 046

Such an alarming pet, for such a slow and gentle beast.  We must wash our hands after every contact, even the most casual.  Salmonella is a bit catching, says our local tortoise whisperer.  Now conversations around the house are likely to be punctuated with “and wash your hands!  With soap!  For more than seven seconds!!”  Mealtimes are even less pleasant, more like interrogations. “Did you wash your hands?!  Let me see!  If you’re not telling the truth, you could get very, very sick” and etc.

[Change of topic, because I feel constrained to mention: I planted my containers last weekend, and risk the wrath of Nature/Murphy’s Law/certain Alaskan garden experts by planting out early.  We shall see who has the last laugh.  For all the pesos I spent on annuals this year, I sure hope it’s me.  Back to compelling tortoise narrative.]

A dog wandered into the front yard on Saturday, and it was as if the Russian army had been discovered swarming the coast (I can see Russia from my place, you know….).  The five alarm klaxon went off.  Adults were hollered at to protect the tortoise, who, blithely ignorant of his impending doom, was roaming the yard at the speed of molasses.  Fortunately, the aged, drooling Labrador was driven off and “Tort” was spared.

preschool 047

Our “rent-a-pet”, for lack of a better word, is summering with us.  For his day job during the school year, he spends time amongst children aged 3-5 years old, gadding about the preschool room, avoiding craft projects involving paint or hole punches.  I came to a realization last week, at approximately the same time I was loading Tort’s coffee table-sized habitat into the truck.  I am one of those sucker parents, that takes the class pet because no one else volunteers for it.  I felt sorry for a tortoise.  At least the class pet wasn’t a wolverine, a rhinoceros, or a blue whale.  I suppose I’ll be president of the PTA next…. 

Any strange pets?  Been subjected to a guilt trip?


  1. A tortoise, in solitary confinement, in Alaska ;~(( Why?

  2. I had all manner of pets when I was little. I had the classic red ear slider. I wasn't scared by salmonella to wash my hands. Mother being who she was insisted anyway. I never got sick. I also brought home crayfish. My ever suffering Mother scolded me for putting a big dirt clod and grass into one of her casserole dishes. I told her there was baby crayfish in there. She didn't hardly believe me until I jiggled the clod. They came skittering out. I had to release them. Boooooo I could go on and on about the snakes, rats etc that my children carried on with.

  3. So you chose the tortoise over the hare? Probably a wise move if the hands can be washed every other minute for more than 7 seconds. You are a sucker, but a kindhearted one. Entertaining prose, as always, Christine. Oh, and I've got my fingers crossed that there are no late frosts for you. Or me. :)

  4. I so love your humor! Good luck with the class pet. One of our classroom gold fish bit the big one during Christmas break and I thought the childeren were going to kick me out as teacher. Mind you my "children" are ages 16-25. Hope your container plants make it. You can be like me and bring them in and out of the house every time it threatens to freeze. My husband calls it the plant parade. He refuses to help under the guise that I should know better. Keep us updated on the tortise. Sounds like an adventurous summer.

  5. @EE,
    Tort gets out every day in summer. In winter, what right minded tortoise would want to go outside? Tort also has lots of company...probably a bit too much during his preschool residency;)

    @Lisa at Greenbow,
    But did you ever bring home a pet leech? I couldn't understand why mother made me keep it outside.

    I was too afraid the rabbit would die on me. It was a very old rabbit and it would be a shame that after surviving another year of preschool it was pushed over the edge by my ignorance.

    @Birds, Bees, Berries, and Blooms,
    I'm lazy and just fling an old sheet on the pots if I'm really nervous. But as I am more lazy than nervous (is that good?) I rarely even do that, preferring to just wing it and see what happens. And I had to give up on goldfish, they just turned belly up on me without fail.

    Hmmm, I'm starting to sense a pet aversion trend here in myself.


  6. If the tortoise can survive the children then the labrador was no problem! It is worrying looking after someone else's pet though.

  7. @Sue,
    As I'm coming to find out, a little too worrying. I had a dream about Tort last night...what does this mean?



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