Every kid needs a pet, right?
Though I grew up with “outdoor” pets, we always had one, and as soon as I had my own place, I had indoor friends – mostly cats, except my sister had a dog in our shared home for a while. Anyway, my sweet Peyton kitty was with me from 4 weeks old for 17 years. Oh how I loved that cat. But when he passed, I wasn’t ready for another heartbreak, then we got pregnant, then we bought a house, then we bought a nice sofa…
Speaking of that sofa, we spent more on that sofa then I’ll ever confess (and I love it), and within 1 week our sweet Zoe talked her sitter into NOT wearing pull-ups while she was potty training. “Princesses don’t wear pull-ups.” And she peed on my sofa. Within 3 weeks, we had friends over with their cutie pie kids, one of which had a nosebleed (poor guy) on our new sofa. But I digress.
We’re not ready for a kitty.
We tried a beta fish, but man they’re dirty. And since Zoe can’t clean a fish tank, I was left with the very dirty work. When that fish (finally) made his way to the ocean, we took a break from pets. Then one day we were in the mall and saw a kiosk filled with tiny, colorful shelled hermit crabs! Heck, they’ll sell you a whole KIT, and they eat anything and just need water! It is like the MIRACLE pet, right?
Not so much. Our first crab, affectionately named “Crabby” was just that: crabby. He rarely left his shell, period. He rarely ate. While they’re known for being nocturnal, he rarely even moved around then… Still, we fed him, changed his water, and Zoe helped “take care of her pet” (the most boring pet in the world).
Then, as things happen with kids, she became less and less interested in taking care of (much less remembering) boring old Crabby, and guess who fed him and changed his water? Me. And seriously, he NEVER moved. I swore to my husband he was dead. He said he wasn’t – “they’re hermits”. I was unconvinced. So I STOPPED feeding and watering him (I swear to you, he was dead before that), just to prove my point.
2 weeks later, when that damn crab was still sitting in his shell in the same place, which no one had noticed but me, I told my husband what I’d done and pronounced, “He’s Dead.” As is my way, I talked him into telling Zoe AND getting 2 more crabs to replace this one (surely he died of loneliness – they’re also known to love company).
As all great parents do, we went online to figure out how to tell a 3-year-old that her pet has died (for the record, there are LOTS of resources on that). Apparently between 3 and 5, kids don’t really get it. They see death as “temporary and reversible“. And every resource out there has this advice: Be Honest. (probably good advice)
We also found lots of resources that said that a little funeral or memorial helps kids process things. So we made a quick plan, and here’s how it went:
- We told Zoe that Crabby had gotten very sick and died.
- She confidently said “No he’s not – he’s just in his shell”.
- We assured her that he was dead and picked up the shell to show her – he didn’t move.
- We encouraged her to tell Crabby goodbye.
- She held him in her hand, said goodbye and gave him a kiss on the shell (so sweet).
- Daddy had cut the top out of a clear plastic glass and made a little blankie for him out of a paper towel so we could bury him, then sat him outside to await burial.
- The phone rang and we face-timed with my sister for about 30 minutes.
- Daddy went out to check on Crabby.
- He was gone.
Yep, gone. We had loosed a hermit crab in a red ladybug shell on the neighborhood. Now that would be funny except his chances of survival were very very very low. Sure, they eat anything, but they NEED water, and we basically live in a desert. Plus, I bet he looks delicious to various animals out there. We were mortified (especially me, who had starved him for 2 weeks).
Luckily, Zoe doesn’t know what “bury” means, nor did she ask where Crabby was… so we whisked her away to the mall to get two new crabs, immediately. Without making this story EVEN longer, lets just say the “crab guy” didn’t have his kiosk set up that day BUT he was there and luckily had “some crabs” out in his car (I’m not kidding).
As Bart manned the kiosk, our crab savior took me and Zoe out to his black BMW (still not kidding) where he pulled out a crab container with around 10 crabs in it so Zoe could pick 2, which she did – and they were HUGE. Much larger than Crabby and already active, during the day!
We got them home, so excited that they moved around a lot, they ATE right away and they liked to snuggle each other (as much as crabs can snuggle). Disaster averted. Zoe was thrilled. I was relieved, and my husband kept checking the driveway all afternoon as we went in/out for signs of Crabby.
Around 6 pm I was headed for a quick run to the drug store when something red caught my eye… You got it: Crabby. I ran back in and told Bart -then came out and picked up Crabby, dropping him into the container with his 2 new (big) friends. I was afraid they would eat him, but could that be worse than several hours on a hot day in LA wandering around alone after 2 weeks of no food and water? I’d say not. Besides, HE CAME HOME.
So, now we have 3 crabs. And Crabby is in heaven (not literally but figuratively) with his new friends. He plays, he stole one of their shells (crabs like costume changes), and he is very very much alive.