The Pet Conundrum
Somehow, we haven’t ever been able to go very long without them.
Most recently, we owned a Beta fish named Larry who managed to survive for eons in fish-time and complicate our travel plans. During our years living on the over-priced island of Key Biscayne my brother hosted the hamster formerly known as Harley Davidson. My sister cared for a sad bunny rabbit (aka Mercedes) in our first home in mainland Miami. All three creatures were far too fragile and made me wonder about the emotional commitment that constitutes pet ownership.
My early memories hold more than a few non-committal animal pals whose care fell under someone else’s responsibility umbrella. Our family wasn’t just mom-dad-siblings. It was mom-dad-siblings and two feisty dachshunds. I loved Valerie and Dusty and I remember them like characters in a comic book. They populated stories that I told myself as a child and the too big world that I had somehow landed in.
That Kind of Friendship
Lying in a hospital bed. Driving to treatments. Missing another week or more of school.
For children with life-threatening illnesses, loneliness and ostracization go hand in hand. They may find that treatment prevents them from interacting with other children or affects their appearance, and even with the love and care of their families they spend hours surrounded by the adults charged with managing their health instead of out enjoying a carefree childhood.
Many children have wished for a new pet, like a puppy or a cat. These wishes highlight the personalities of the wish children, as they can have very specific (and hilarious) requirements. As I read them, it’s impossible not to remember my own attachment to the puppies I grew up with.
Six-year-old Paige dealt with the possibility of organ failure and had to go through treatments like chemotherapy and shots. One of the more comforting aspects of this difficult time was her stuffed pug, Puggy, which accompanied her to the doctor. Because of this, her wish was to have a real pug puppy.
Just like Paige, 12-year-old Amaya had to endure doctor visits and treatments regularly in order to combat her liver condition. Also like Paige, she wished for a specific type of pet to keep her company: a Teacup Yorkie puppy. Amaya’s wish gave her a new friend all her own to love through any future treatments.
Seven-year-old Chase had even more specifics than Amaya and Paige when it came to the cat he asked for as his one true wish. He gave wish granters a list of requirements, including: a hairless Sphynx, different colored eyes, a jet pack and a yellow Larry Shyatt sweater. These requests were brought to life when Chase was presented with his new Sphynx cat, Thor.
My childhood was so much more cookie-cutter than I thought, especially when I realize that I was lucky enough to have silly pets to keep me company. Because of their wishes, Paige, Amaya and Chase will get to take part in that essential hallmark of a normal childhood: a beloved pet.
Wish granters encounter a variety of imaginative wishes during their time volunteering. These wishes often reflect the aspects of a child’s life that have been most comforting to them — like playing in the water or learning a new instrument.
Second photo by Liz Masterson