The Pet Care Badge

When we began our year with American Heritage Girls Scouting this year, the badges that would be completed as a troop were already chosen.  My girls lamented that Pet Care was one of the badges in question, and they reasonably stated that they would be unable to earn this particular badge because of my strict No Pet Claws in the marital contract.

And then with hormones in an uproar, I threw caution to the wind, and we adopted a rather largish rescue dog named Mater.  Clearly a bonus to actually owning a pet was that the sisters could legitimately earn their Pet Care badge.

And then fate stepped in, and because of very unexpected aggression issues, we had to give our beloved rescue dog up.  (And btw, we don’t know all of the details, but he is now in a good home with no children, and 13 other dogs.)

As we began American Heritage Girls this week after a nice long Christmas break, it occurred to my girls that they could no longer earn their Pet Care badge with an actual, you know, pet.

A few days ago I learned that the troop was scheduled for a field trip to the business that we took Mater to for training and boarding.  My children know the facility well.  When I mentioned the upcoming field trip to Fiddledaddy, he knowingly added, “The children will need to be sedated.”

Cailey learned of the pending trip today during the scouting meeting, and I had to hold my little scout as she fought back tears.  This has all been particularly difficult for her.

On the ride home I tried to think up ways that the badge could be earned without having to resort to borrowing a pet.  Since we are in no way ready to adopt again.  And I came up with something brilliant.

The badge work revolves around a few requirements that include pretending your pet is lost and make a sign to be posted, teaching your pet tricks, general pet care, etc.

My first idea which actually germinated when Emme was about 5 included the use of Emme’s imaginary dog named Barko and the lost dog sign she created in order to procure a real dog.  That idea was shot down.

It’s been done, mom.

Then I started playing up the merits of the Chinese algae eater that resides in our 6 gallon Fluval tank, who goes by the name of Al G.

Al G has been with our family for about 4 years, and he has some interesting behaviors that could be construed as tricks.  If you’re desperate for a pet that does, you know, tricks.

The children got into the spirit of the idea and began listing Al G’s qualities.  First of all, he’s a good guard fish.  He fiercely guards his castle, never letting any other fish enter.

(If you look closely, Al G is peering ominously out of the castle door.)

Al G knows how to play fetch.  By himself.  He begins feeling feisty along about 9:00 at night, and will throw rocks at the sides of the aquarium.  And he has quite a fast pitch.  This is particularly effective if I’m watching a scary sci-fi type movie, and have been known to audibly scream when Al G begins casting stones.

He digs holes and buries stuff.  I watch him hard at work, and have often wondered what in the world he’s burying.  I got my answer when cleaning the tank one day, and discovered the remains of a long lost guppy.  I’m not pointing fins at anyone, but I suspect that guppy tried to encroach upon Al G’s castle.  A man’s castle is his home, after all.

Which brings me to my next point.  Al G can play dead.  Every single time I clean the tank I’m certain that I’ve killed him, because he will lie quite still in the corner, belly up, until I give up hope and am about to go after his carcass with the net.  For burial at sea, and all.  He then springs to life and scurries back into his castle.  And from that perch, he will glare at me with steely fish eyes for the remainder of the day.

Al G is a decorator as well, since he likes to rearrange rocks and plants.  Often forming piles of stones in odd places.  Very Blair Witch Projecty.

And lastly, Al G is a fastidious house keeper.  Here he is deep cleaning his castle.

Frankly, I think we have the Pet Care badge in the bag.  Unless we have to bring him in on a leash for show and tell.

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