They sold dogs.
They sold cats.
They sold budgies and canaries.
They sold goldfish.
Sometimes, but only sometimes, they also sold white mice, guinea pigs or rabbits.
They provided simple pets for simple needs in simple times.
Well, times have changed.
Have you been into your local pet shop recently?
I did the other day and was truly startled.
They had dogs, they had cats, they had budgies and canaries, they had goldfish.
They even had white mice AND guinea pigs AND rabbits - and I remember thinking: "Gee, this is a well-stocked pet shop."
Then I saw what else they had.
They had tree frogs, cute little long-necked tortoises, stick insects and, scariest of all, a tank with a sign which warned of the presence of Australian rainforest scorpions.
Yikes! Scorpions! In a pet shop and at $60 each!
Who would go into a pet shop with every intention of buying his kid a loveable dog, capable of returning great affection, and come home with a green, nippy, horrible, potentially lethal scorpion?
Not that I know for certain that Australia rainforest scorpions are green, nippy, horrible, and potentially lethal, mind you.
There did not appear to be any in view in the tank.
Maybe they had buried themselves in the sand at the bottom of the tank, I thought.
I really wanted to see one though, and thought momentarily about trying to entice one out by putting a hand into the tank and offering a belly rub, but I decided against it.
"Yoo-hoo," I cried into the tank. "Walkies!"
But that did not budge them either.
They certainly did not come bounding up, slobbering or otherwise.
"Din-dins," I called again, but still they stayed hidden in the sand.
Just as well, I thought in hindsight.
What if they had come to the surface, saw me standing passively there and decided I was dinner!
I did not have a clue what Australian rainforest scorpions ate.
Perhaps you had to feed them on tins of cat food? Or maybe you had to buy the whole cat?
"Can I help you, sir?" said a friendly attendant who was suddenly there beside me.
"Er, um, I was just admiring the Australian rainforest scorpions," I stuttered. "You don't often see them out of the rainforest, do you?"
The attendant glanced at the empty tank, then back at me oddly.
It suddenly occurred to me that the reason the tank looked empty was perhaps that it WAS empty. The shop might have sold out of scorpions and all that was left was sand.
"Er, um, I really like those stick insects over there, too" I said quickly, trying to change the subject.
"Yes," said the attendant. "Nice, aren't they?"
"I've never owned a stick insect before," I said. "Do they er, um, need a litter tray?"
"Oh no," said the attendant. "They're stick insects; they have tiny, tiny, tiny poo.
"They make very good pets.
He was right.
I bought one and called him Spot.
Spot only cost me a few dollars.
Spot does not eat much.
Spot does not chew my slippers.
Spot does not dig up the garden.
Spot does not need to be bathed.
Spot does not need to be groomed.
Spot does not need to be taken for walks.
In my mind, he (or it could be a she, it's sooooo hard to tell with my poor eyesight) is the perfect pet.
Of course, my son Jack, 5, does not think so. I think he really wanted a family dog.
I am sure he will get over it though.
It could have been worse.
I could have brought home a $60 Australian rainforest scorpion.
©July 11, 2001 John Martin. All Rights Reserved
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