Theo, age 8, spent the summer collecting frogs and tadpoles from a nearby creek. With the help of his friend Ethan, who is 9 and can answer any and all questions on amphibians, Theo learned to distinguish leopard frogs from tree frogs, and studied their development daily on our back deck.
Theo was so enamored with the whole operation that he wanted to purchase some more exotic strains. We visited a Pets Mart and hovered near a tank until a saleswoman came by.
The right saleswoman, I should say; with disheveled hair and wire-frame glasses favoring one ear, this woman was all about the frogs. She hunched forward as if to let out a call that might travel the road back to our creek.
My main concern was the amount of upkeep these $30 pets would require. "What do these frogs need, because our frogs from the creek...," I started to say, and immediately realized I had violated a sacred rule: removing the animal from its natural habitat.
I tried to play it off. So did she--at first.
"Well, first you'd need a tank, which I assume you already have," she said. I nodded.
"Then you'll need a water filtration system. I'm sure you already have one, because I'm sure you realize that frogs can't live in tap water."
Here I stuttered. And lied just a little. "Uh, creek water, is what we've been using," I said, angling for her good graces. Kill two birds with one big stone: get the water right (though we had added some from the tap) and make the new habitat fairly close to the original one from which we yanked these poor creatures, causing them untold mental anguish.
Creek water appeased her, but only slightly.
"And you'll need to feed them. I'm sure you're buying frog food already."
"Mosquitoes!" Theo chimed in. At this point I believe the two of them had a bit of a tiff on the dietary requirements of respective breeds. I diverted the conversation with a quick thank you and a "Oh, look at the birds!"
We made no purchase that day, yet somehow, the tadpoles turned to froglets without a filtration system, and the frogs survived without vitamin-packed food pellets. And yet, just as with the bunny, after a while there were creatures in our care getting ignored and making me feel guilty.
I mean, they're just sitting there all day. What kind of life is that? I'd wonder from my computer chair.
So once again, I pulled out the ol' "They'll have a better life somewhere else" line, and once again I meant it. The weather was turning, and I didn't want frozen frogs on my deck; already I had dried frogs imprinted, like fossils, on the wood, from when Theo lined up some that didn't exactly take to tap water.
We released them to the creek to do whatever it is that frogs do to stay warm (note to self: ask Ethan).
Theo seemed pleased that the frogs hung out on nearby rocks as he carried out this process, feeling a sense of satisfaction of having raised them and let them go for nature to do as she will.
Note to fish and sea monkeys: You're next.
Be sure to read the heartless story of giving away my son's bunny and also how I killed off all the ants on the farm.