Balloons and pets

When I was a student in elementary school we had a big activity where we all went outside with helium-filled balloons that had notes attached to them. The notes had our name, school and address and a brief request to whoever found the balloon to send us a postcard. I didn’t realize this event occurred at other schools, but apparently we weren’t the only ones to participate in such an activity.

I lived less than a block from my elementary school and a few balloons landed in our backyard as I recall. I didn’t send them any postcards. There really should have been a minimum distance that deserved a response because some of the balloons didn’t even make it past the playground. It’s not very exciting to have the playground aid write you a letter telling you all about the long journey your balloon made to the swing set.

In any case, what happens to all those balloons that kids release into the sky? What if it hits a small plane or gets sucked into the jets of a larger plane, causing a crash? What if a bird tried to eat one and got sick? What if the balloon landed somewhere and a pet got to it and suffocated? I wouldn’t expect a very pleasant postcard from that person.

“Thanks for sending your balloon, it killed my dog.”

In reality, we sent a bunch of colorful trash into the sky with a note requesting a postcard from the colorful trash recipient. Then again, is it really trash if it floats gently into the sky rather than being dumped in the nearest landfill?

Speaking of pets dying, I had a lot of animals die as a kid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the knack to care for the pets I had sufficiently to maintain life. I don’t know how many goldfish we went through. Then there was the ant farm, which I vaguely remember getting knocked over, releasing the little guys to roam free. There were numerous hamsters or gerbils (to this day I don’t know the difference between the two) that we found dead, tightly clutching the mesh wires on the bottom of the cage in a tiny-handed death grip.

Then there was my dear hermit crab. His name was Hermy. As you can imagine, it took me months to come up the imaginative name. I tried my best to take care of my little crab, but I didn’t know that hermit crabs need to upgrade their shell as they grow. I thought I was taking excellent care of him, only to come home one day to find him halfway up his little circular cage, naked as a hermit crab searching for a new shell. It was a sad moment.

There is one shining example of a pet that never died while in my care. It was a feisty little parakeet named Budgie. I always said I had wanted a Budgerigar, commonly referred to as a Budgie. Giving that name to a parakeet was the next best thing, although it’s kind of like naming your dog “Doggy”. I learned later that Budgerigars and parakeets are the same, but that’s neither here nor there. I thought it was a male parakeet until it laid an egg. Then I guessed it might be a female, but I was also curious how it had managed to find another bird with whom to create an egg. I wondered if it had somehow managed to fraternize with a sparrow who had entered an open window for a conjugal visit, but the logistics were just too much to believe. It would have had to get in an open door or window, fly to my room and open the cage door, make sweet nookie with my pet parakeet, then escape from the cage. Ignoring the courting process of a determined sparrow with a parakeet, I simply couldn’t believe such an act had occurred. A trip to the library revealed that lady parakeets can lay eggs all on their own. That was infinitely more believable.

I managed to keep good care of Budgie until I gave her to a woman who loved birds and had dozens of them as pets. I felt good taking Budgie to a place where she would have lots of other friends to play with, and I never had to deal with her death, which, given my history, was an impressive accomplishment.

And that’s the end of my trip down memory lane.

Comments are closed