In case you hadn’t noticed, I have posted at least 2 stories about times I acquired strange pets without considering the consequences and have promised more.

I have a legitimate animal problem. If I see an creature, I want to care for it. I want it to come home and live with me forever and I start daydreaming about the wonderful life my bizarre animals and I will live together. It occurred to me when writing about my elementary school that there is a pretty obvious explanation for what I have deemed my “animal problem.”

When I was in elementary school we had a lot of class pets. I can recall a time when Our classroom had a rat who had lost his tail to cancer, two bunnies, and a bird who we would let fly around the classroom at will. Everyone was responsible for contributing to the animal care throughout the week. There were plenty of times I personally volunteered to care for pets in my home during school breaks without consulting my parents.

I could bring pets home without my parents consent but it didn’t work the other way around. My mother once considered donating our pet parakeet to her class at school. Parents often donated pets they no longer wanted to the class… We were all about it. It’s how we had ended up with half of our class pets… Anyway in response, I stayed up all night tearfully recording my many feelings about the mere prospect of loosing my beloved parakeet onto a cassette tape with my kiddie sing-a-long karaoke kit and left it outside my parents door. They let me keep the bird. Getting rid of tweety was not worth my eternal resentment.

So we had many class pets but we also frequently interacted with wildlife as well. From catching snakes at recess to finding bits of animal caucuses in the forest to bring back to class and dissect… probably not a great idea in retrospect… because rabies and stuff… but sometimes the wildlife joined us in our classroom. Not in a ‘wildlife specialists came in for a special lesson’ kind of a way but in a ‘wild swallows broke into our classroom’ kind of a way. Don’t worry it only took us an hour to chase them down and capture them in a fishing net so we could release them back into the great outdoors. And we all learned some important life lessons in that hour of classroom time. For example: one should always keep a large fishing net on hand. You never know when such an item may come in handy. Also one should be creative with the use of their on-hand tools and equipment. Just because something is intended for the capturing of fish does not mean that you can’t use it on a bird. We also witnessed Bob’s masterful hunting methods. All in the name of saving the animals.

We were very concerned about the wellbeing of wild animals. On one particular occasion I personally helped rescue a fish from a creek. There was a creek behind the school and most days for recess we would play on the playground for a bit and then walk as a class to the nearby field because our playground was made of wood and was rotting into the ground. The creek had just begun to freeze and we noticed a large… probably bass? trapped in a small patch of water beneath the ice. Obviously we had to stop and rescue the fish.

I was the classroom animal whisperer. This was a known fact because I was always the one who managed to get our pet birds to stay on my finger long enough to get them back into their cage at the end of the day. This was not an easy task. Imagine a classroom full of young children running around chasing scared animals.. I was also wearing rain boots that day. So I was chosen to climb down into the creek with Bob, who had broken the ice, and convince this fish to swim into our bucket. We then transported the fish to the lake where we were able to set him free in the open water.

This was not the only fish we caught. Our classroom fish tank (did I forget to mention that we also had fish?) was populated by locally sourced minnows. Sourced by us… out back in the creek. Because what kind of boring classroom gets their fish at a pet store anyway? This fish tank provided a valuable learning experience because we all learned about the food chain. Despite feeding these fish they had a tendency to fight each other and sometimes the bigger fish would eat the smaller fish. I don’t think they were killing each other for food because they didn’t really consume the other fish, they just kind of left their bodies floating in the tank until we removed them. Nature is a cruel beast.

 We were big on creative and unusual classroom pets. I am told that after I left the school they even had a dog as a class pet for a while. I remember Bob saying that he would like to have a farm out back. Just a few chickens and maybe a goat or something. For the educational value of course. It never quite came to that… But clearly somewhere along the line I developed a need to care for animals. Any kind of animals. I was the freaking bird and wild fish whisperer ok? So it makes sense that foster bunnies and chickens and guinea pigs find their way into my apartment from time to time. IT’S LITERALLY NOT MY FAULT AT ALL.

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