The Best Sorts of Pets
Mammals, reptiles, fish, bric-a-brac - if I tried telling you everything I know about animals it would be a long, drawn-out process. Like bathing a jellyfish if you kept them as pets, which I currently do. The way that I bathe them is with a soft-bristle brush that is safe for saltwater and the skin of viscous fish. By the way you wrinkle your nose I see this disgusts you. But pets must be cared for once they’re robbed out of the wild. You can’t just place them in pens and then ignore that they’re there. Even a jellyfish deserves some love and attention. Even a jellyfish deserves to be clean.
The thing about bathing a jellyfish is you’ve got to come at it at just the right angle. The architecture of the tank comes into play. Jellyfish are round, gelatinous creatures and your tank should be void of sharp corners the fish can wedge into as you approach with your brush. Jellyfish kept in a square or rectangular tank tend to float around their enclosure in a geometric malaise.
The brush I use for bathing has terrycloth teeth. It’s a sort of terry specific to sea life. The jellyfish love it and drift close to the glass for hours afterward, hoping for another soaped rub. Which brings me to soap. I use my own recipe. One-part Ivory. Two-parts Dove. A drop of canola. I found this recipe on the sidewalk while passing the fish store. What followed my finding the recipe was a long process of trials and errors. Not every jellyfish made it. I’ll be straight about that. That’s why I’m laying out the hard facts for you now. So you can know what to expect. Are you ready for jellyfish? Are you up to the task?
Something else I can tell you about now that we’re on the subject of pets is the keeping of birds. I happen to own a flock of canaries, have seven or eight of them flying loose in my house. Of course, I don’t cage them. Birds want to be free, even if the price of this freedom is flying into the windows in a vain effort to get to the trees. That’s how I lost Stu and Delilah. That’s how Bernice broke her wing. So I came up with a solution, which I’ll pass onto you, in case you’re considering some pets such as these. Instead of a cage, I’ve designed a bird leash. My canaries are fashionably tethered while inside the house. And though they are certainly restrained there are no bars around them to make them feel confined. This sort of forward thinking is not without problems. There are times that the leashes get tangled and the birds end up ensnared in a knot reminiscent of marionette strings. I’ve spent more than a few hours untangling leashes while the birds wail and squawk.
To make a bird leash you need a fine leather that won’t irritate delicate avian skin. The best kind is Italian cut up into the narrowest strips so it feels less like leather than air. You’ll attach this fine leather strip to a tiny harness made of titanium that fits the bird like a vest. Fair warning: these vest are tough to put on, as the birds are so fragile. It’s best to wear gloves because they will peck at your fingers while you struggle to fit the contraption around their small, feathered chests. Once you’ve managed to fit the vest to the bird it’s best to not take it off for any reason besides the bird’s death. Which is less likely to happen now you’ve got them humanely constrained. *As a side-note, these pets are just slightly easier to own than jellyfish because if you buy them a birdbath they do the work on their own.
Another fun pet, if you’re even still listening, is an albino ball python of which I have two. This sort of animal is best raised in a pair, as they are so prone to cuddling. And, as was true with the canaries, I don’t keep them pent up in a hindering enclosure made of metal or glass. These pets are a pair of free ranging snakes who slither and coil wherever they please.
When not cuddling with each other these snakes will inevitably seek an alternate source of affection, which will most likely be you. But spooning a snake is often uncomfortable due to the long shape of their bodies and the cold slick of their scales. It’s just not the same as snuggling with a soft pet. So I’ve created a special snake sweater woven from the wool of alpaca and the fur of an African hare. Snake Sweaters present their own set of challenges. Snakes weren’t built to wear sweaters, having no arms or appendages to keep garments on. I didn’t give up though, knowing how important touch and time together meant to my snakes. What I eventually designed was a sweater with a series of snug elastic rings. And despite the slight constriction of air as it flows into the snake’s lungs, the sweater looks sharp at the same time it enables you to spend some quality time with your pet.
Boll weevils, pygmy giraffes, trained wildebeests. If I tried to tell you everything I know about animals it would take me all day. Which is time that I do have if you require it in making a decision on the right sort of pet – so long as you’re willing to listen and learn a
About the Author: Elizabeth Heald lives in Portland, Oregon and is a founding member of Full FrontalWriting Collective. She was finalist in the 2013 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and earned honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest. Her work has been featured in tNYpress, Devilfish Review, Five On The Fifth, The Absurdist, The Fiction Pool, and The Timberline Review. Her short story “Post-its” was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. She writes in a house frantic with three kids, two badly behaved dogs, and a husband who paces. Her best work is done here.