It is a crisp, yet sunny November morning. Despite the chill in the air, the little ones barely take notice. They are snug and warm, bundled up in their snowsuits and deeply engrossed in the important task at hand. Chi-Chi and Muffy are huddled over our feed bucket, enthusiastically scooping out sunflower seeds and sprinkling them on the ground. They are busy performing the responsibilities involved in caring for our family’s pets – the chickadees, blue jays, juncos, pheasants and giant colony of squirrels that reside on our property.
As I inch myself a little deeper into my cozy down-filled jacket, a smile forms on my lips. My approach to pets certainly provides for a simpler way of life during these busy and hectic days with a young family. A few scoops of seeds tossed into the birdfeeder every few days is the extent of care our feathered friends require. My life is free of poop to scoop, pricey vet bills, fur balls and that nagging and ever-present guilt that poor Rover has not had a walk in over a week. The wise words of my father echo through my mind. I can picture him standing in our backyard, waving at his numerous birdfeeders and firmly stating, “These birds are the best darn pets I’ve ever had the only pet a man needs”. His words may have been wise and his opinions strong, but his heart was soft. He no doubt developed this philosophy after enduring years of caring for and cleaning up after a menagerie of friends from the animal kingdom. Obviously, his children’s incessant pleading and whining forced him to stray from his strong beliefs. A herd of cattle, a crazy chicken, an African frog, two quail, four rabbits, three thousand honey bees, too many hamsters, countless fish and one very high-maintenance beagle are just of few of the critters my father welcomed into this home and heart.
Feeding the birds is not just “for the birds”. Chi-Chi and Muffy are learning valuable lessons about taking responsibility and nurturing another living creature. They are also developing an interest and appreciation for nature and our native wildlife. At 2 1/2, Chi-Chi is able to identify the different species of birds that frequent our feeder. Although a bit younger, Muffy also demonstrates an appreciation for these little creatures as he keenly and quietly observes them.
My plan to “keep it simple” is to learn from the mistakes of others and follow my father’s wise advice on pet parenting. Of course, this is the man who just recently tried to convince me to adopt a couple of baby goats. Perhaps he realizes that all the hassle, work and frustration that went hand-in-hand with our pets was well worth it for the benefit of the children. Perhaps he simply wants to see me suffer what he did!! Regardless, I think for the time being, I’ll stick to the birds!