If you’ve ever considered getting your grandkids a pet, you’ll want to read this

It was last year at this time, a few days before my grandson’s fifth birthday, when I began to worry about what to get him. What wonderful something could his grandfather and I buy that would stand out from all the other gifts I knew he’d receive from his aunts and uncles and friends?

A dog, of course. Every boy wants a dog. Lassie. Winn-Dixie. Skip. But a dog is not what you give your grandson when your grandson’s mother, your daughter, has absolutely no use for four-legged creatures of any variety. If I showed up with a dog for her son, she would have shown me the door.

Which is why I decided on frogs.

The Gift

They came as a pair — two tiny little things — in a square miniature Plexiglas eco-aquarium, which, according to the “easy care instructions” that came with them and the people in the store, was essentially maintenance-free. You have to clean the mini aquarium only once a year, because it comes with “living gravel,” and the bamboo included does something to the alkaline in the water, one salesperson explained. Another effused about how much her granddaughter and grandson loved their frogs. She bought them each two, she said.

The frogs themselves seemed eager to be swept up and carried away, leaping and lunging like creatures in a Disney movie, dozens and dozens of them pirouetting (think the Dancing Mops in Fantasia, only without music), all the little aquariums stacked on top of one another, piled high and spread out all over the counter.

“These frogs are selling like hotcakes,” both salespeople sang.

And I said, “I’ll take that pair over there.”

Adam seemed to like the frogs at first, though not as much as he’d have liked a dog, of course. They were extremely sprightly when he was unwrapping them (and tipping them upside down). There were even a few “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.

But then he got Monopoly and a computer game and a Star Wars costume. And because frogs do not nuzzle you with their nose or bark to be noticed or demand that you feed them RIGHT NOW, they sat, from day one, essentially abandoned on the kitchen counter.

The Gift … That Keeps on Giving

Part of the the frogs’ appeal, of course, was that they could be abandoned. They didn’t have to be walked or brushed or dragged to the vet for checkups and flea baths and shots. They didn’t even have to be fed every day; just twice a week. And if you forgot to feed them? No problem! “Frogs require very little food and can survive for up to ten days without feeding,” said the little pamphlet that came with them. And we know this for a fact because the frogs did survive ten days without food last summer. My daughter moved her entire family and all their things but forgot to take the frogs.

A dog, if I had given one as a gift instead, would never would have allowed this to happen.

The frogs, since that misadventure, have lived with me. Now they sit on my kitchen counter, in their miniature Plexiglas eco-aquarium, which is not exactly maintenance-free. I’ve had to clean it (think Nemo and the dirty fish tank) because some days, I cannot see the frogs. This, however, may be due to the fact that sometimes I feed the frogs more than the booklet says I should.

Some facts about feeding these frogs: They eat pellets that are the size of the dot over this letter “i.” The dot a pencil tip makes is bigger than their meal. An entire year’s supply of food for the two of them fills just a tablespoon. They are allowed only two pellets each two times a week. I feed them on Tuesday and Friday. I drop the pellets into their water and they spring from the bottom of their tank and race for the food, almost knocking each other out because they’re so desperate to eat. “Do not overfeed the animals,” the booklet states. But sometimes I do.

Someday I am going to walk into the kitchen and one or both of them will be floating instead of swimming. Why I dread this, I don’t know.

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