When I was little I wanted a dog just like any other child (my case of "dog aversion" developed later on in life). My mother countered this desire with two things. 1) A lovely childhood tale about the time she and her brother forgot to feed their dog and it starved to death. 2) She's allergic.

Dead dogs and allergies cannot deter two children from begging for a pet so my mother finally relented and started our family on a long line of what I call "substitute pets". Substitute pets include fish, frogs, hamsters, mice and guinea pigs and they all live in tanks or cages. (Bunnies and lizards are "advanced substitute pets" since they come closer to real pets and may actually be the animal that was originally requested.)

Our first substitute pet was a goldfish named Gurdy who died immediately and was quickly replaced by Gurdy II who was quickly replaced by Gurdy III and on and on all the way up to VIII. Gurdy VIII led a ridiculously long and fruitful life. We also had two firebelly frogs (that I think came in the mail) named Kermit and Mr. Herman Hopper.

After a few more years of begging, my sister and I were allowed to venture into the world of animals with fur. My mom bought us two hamsters— a dark brown one and a white one which I promptly named "Cookies" and "Cream". (Oh, I thought I was so so clever.)

The hamsters escaped constantly and we would put carrot shavings on a wooden plank leading from the floor to the top of the cage in hopes of tricking them into their return. Every morning, my sister and I would run downstairs to check. (Yes, we kept our pets in the basement. This was my mother's house after all.) They would always come back after a few days and I can't even explain the happiness I felt upon their reentrance into captivity.

When my mother had enough with the runaway hamsters, she gave them to a local nursery school that was attached to a church. The last we heard, they had escaped the classroom and were occassionally spotted running around underneath the pews.


Looking back, this sounds very much like when parents tell their kids that they sent the dog to live at a farm when really the dog was runover by a car. OH MY GOD. MOM!!!! What did you do to our hamsters???

(Editor's Note: I am seriously cracking up right now because honest to god, it has just occurred to me that the preschool story was complete bullshit. I cannot WAIT to call my mom out on this tomorrow.)

Anyway, after Cookies and Cream were "sent away", I got another hamster (more proof that Cookies and Cream were in fact— DEAD) and we must have eaten Chinese take-out the night before because I named him Mooshu. A few months later, my little sister got a guinea pig and not to be outdone, she named him Cous Cous.

I have no idea what was with all the food related pet names. Except I do love food.

But props to my mom because she was much nicer to her kids than I will ever be to mine (if you overlook that whole hamster murder thing), because my child(ren) will not only be denied real pets, they will also be denied substitute pets. The last thing I want to do with my precious time is clean out a cage.

My kids will be getting subsitute pets for their substitute pets. What are those, you ask? Stuffed substitute pets. Here's a round-up.


Clockwise from left to right: Webkinz Plush Lop Bunny, My Pillow Pet Turtle, Pet Hamster by Zhu Zhu, Plush Snake Teether by The Freckled Elephant, Maple Sugar Pocket Mouse by MarJJI, Guinea Pig by Plush, Plush Jules Frog, Herbie the Electronic Pet Hamster, Faux Fur Honey Bunny by Zygopsyche

And if the thought of even a stuffed furry little friend is too much for you, then there is always:


Also, Mom? I'm not buying the allergy thing anymore either.

Hamster on a leash photo up top is by Pyza.