Opinion with Matthew Munson: Time to give in to requests for a pet

Bryan is hoping for a pet

I remember my first pet vividly; his name was meant to be Oliver (he was a beautiful cat), but I couldn’t quite pronounce that – so he became Ollie instead. I was devoted to him, and followed the poor thing everywhere; there were probably times he didn’t want me following him, but such is the innocence of youth.

Ollie died when I was 10 or 11, and I remember being heartbroken; it was a little later that I realised I had years of happy memories to pick from, and that the sadness I felt started to give way to that list of memories. I was forever blessed by having a pet such as Ollie as a child.

When Bryan lived in foster care, the family had a lovely dog called Sasha, who was fascinated by everything and everyone. Bryan has wanted a pet ever since, and I’ll confess that I’ve avoided the subject for the last couple of years – I’ve never owned a pet as an adult, and I wanted to make sure that we were settled and in a routine before I considered it.

Well, I seem to have run out of line this year, requests for a pet have reached something akin to fever pitch, and I am forced to conclude that the time has come. I have set some limits, of course; we live in a flat, so I’ve said “no” to a cat or a dog, and “yes” to something smaller; a guinea pig, perhaps, or a hamster – something like that.

I intend to visit Pets at Home in the next couple of weeks to get some advice, perhaps when Bryan is at school; it’s still a couple of months until Christmas, so I want at least one trip that’s peaceful and considered – Bryan, I suspect, would bring every single animal home with him if he were allowed. No, Bryan, we’re not going to be opening a menagerie.

I’ve never been that worried about owning a pet since living by myself; it’s just not something that I’ve considered. It’s not that I dislike animals – just the opposite – but it’s never been something that’s really crossed my mind. Bryan, however, has a big heart; he wants to care for and connect with a pet, perhaps in a similar way that I did with Ollie when I was a child. I’m not one to begrudge him that opportunity – although I’ve had to talk to Bryan about the fact of nature that animals don’t live as long as humans. We’ll gently deal with that when the time comes, as my parents did with me when Ollie passed on.

Speaking of his old foster carers, they sent me a picture the other day of Bryan in 2017; it was a few months after he had come into their care, and he had dressed up for Halloween (the first one he had properly celebrated). I couldn’t take my eyes off the picture; it was before I knew him, of course, but he was still very handsome. Am I biased? Of course; it would be terrible if I wasn’t. But there was a smile on his face as he posed for the camera, and it was a genuine smile; he was safe and being protected, and I am forever thankful for that grounding he had during those two years he spent in care. If anyone doubts the effectiveness of good quality foster care, you only need to look as far as my son to see where it works.

I asked him if I could take a photo the other day as we waited for one of his dance lessons. He grudgingly agreed and let me take this shot (main article image); what a blessing it is to be a father.

1 Comment

  1. I love your writing about your life with Bryan. We have 2 guinea pigs living indoors and a free range budgie. We spend more time cuddling the guinea pigs than the kids do (to keep them tame) so I think any pet you get you have to be prepared to love it even if the children lose interest. The budgie is very entertaining and a really nice pet for a lad who wants to give a lot of 1:1 attention as they can potentially be taught to speak a few words and do little tricks on command. We had one a few years ago which would land on our heads if we whistled to him. Lots of fun. Good luck!

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