On a quest for a peculiar pet

Jan. 15, 2003, midnight | By Anna Benfield | 16 years, 11 months ago

Chips reporter encounters a multitude of strange pets on her search for a new companion

I call out his name and Ralph bounds toward me, the ground trembling under his hulking mass. "Good boy!" I say affectionately, scratching behind his big floppy ears. I begin to run, and he chases me off into the verdant fields of my imagination.

Since I've entered high school, however, my dreams of raising a baby elephant have faded and I no longer scheme of turning my garage into a home for a gray giant.

Though my mind is set on finding a more realistic companion, I refuse to resort to an everyday puppy or kitten, cute and snuggly as one might be. I'm on a mission to find a one-of-a-kind pet.

The only way to be absolutely sure of my pet's originality, I've decided, is to investigate what sorts of unusual creatures lurk in Blazers' homes.

You have a what?

I am immediately fascinated by senior Lindsay Schubert, who cares for a donkey and horse on her five-acre property. She says that instead of riding her "oversized dog," as she refers to her donkey Ben, she plays fetch with him.

A farm animal begins to sound appealing until Schubert informs me of the heavy workload such a pet entails. Bathing the animal regularly, maintaining the fields and forcing the animal into a barn every night seems like more than I'm ready for.

I am equally overwhelmed by sophomore Peter Lee's description of his stinky zoo-like house, occupied by cats and a dog, ferret, cockatiel, rabbit and horse. "More money is spent on the animals than on the people," Lee complains.

Fortunately, senior Kat Teel, an employee at Totally Fish, provides me with some helpful insight into a less appreciated animal family.

Until Teel informed me about her four rats––Riff, Vivian, Olive and Lola––I had never accepted that sane people brought rodents into their homes voluntarily (although my family has failed to free our house completely of a family of mice).

Rodents, it turns out, can do more than scurry around on shoulders. Teel has taught hers to come when called, play games and even do tricks. I'm thoroughly impressed.

Aquatics from the tropics

I am similarly awestruck by junior Gordon Su's amazing pets. Not only does his brother own six turtles, but his mother cares for two Koi fish that can grow to be two-and-a-half feet long and live for more than a hundred years.

I realize the time has come to visit the Tropical Lagoon, a pet store in Silver Spring.
I pace the warm, damp shop, weighing the merits of owning a fish. Although a Chinese fighting fish might offer a tasty treat if I had to make a break from the country, dragging along the aquarium might be treacherous.

The exotic fish, intricately patterned with multicolored scales, also come with multi-hundred-dollar price tags. This seems ridiculous for the short-lived pleasure of staring into a tank while pretending to be snorkeling in the Caribbean.

Discouraged by my pet store experience, I turn back to Blazers for guidance on where to continue my quest.

Lucky ducks

Sophomore Sai Corbello taught her raccoons to hunt by putting goldfish in the bathtub. Unfortunately for me, her family rescued the raccoons while working in their chimney-sweep business.
I begin to wonder whether people end up with cool pets simply by chance. Junior Al Alvarao unknowingly helps me develop a backup plan should I become frustrated with my search. Alvarao keeps his cockroach in a jar by the side of his couch. There, the insect awaits occasional crumbs and playtime if Alvarao becomes bored. "He doesn't bug me," Alvarao explains.

So far, none of these pet options has really jumped out at me. Luckily the solution is handed to me on Nov 19 during 5A lunch, when senior Austin Oh brings me a quivering ball of fuzz in a brown paper bag. Oh had caught the gray mouse, only slightly larger than a quarter, earlier that period.

Elated, I seek advice from a friend of mine who rescued a baby flying squirrel from a neighboring park. In addition to providing me with a terrarium and wood chips, she helps find information from Marshal T. Case's book Look What I Found , filled with helpful hints on how to care for rescued pets of all kinds.

Finally, with a deep sigh of relief, the heavy burden of my quest is replaced with excited hopes for a beautiful future with my mouse.

My dreams can now be realized in a real-life Ace Ventura meets the Rescuers Down Under. I will train my mouse for spy work in a revolutionary scheme to take over the world. Ahoy!

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Anna Benfield. Anna Benfield is a CAP swimmer, field hockey and lacrosse goalie and diversity workshop leader. She loves biking, sailing, collages, the zoo and her little brother. More »

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