My darling husband seems to be genetically incapable of distinguishing between “pets” and “critters” (critters: Rural-American for creature.) This has led to some interesting creatures entering our home, and exiting as quickly as I could manage it gracefully.
(The most interesting critter was probably a young falcon he saw hit by a truck on the drive home; he checked to see if it was dead, found it only concussed and injured, and we took it to the avian rescue center for treatment. That was actually pretty cool.)
(He also has a propensity for anthropomorphics: he attributes human emotion to critters. That is why we ended up with a whole flock of crickets and a pound of worms seeded into the floor of the terrarium as “company” for a garter snake (Monty Python) and eventually a salamander as well. We named the salamander “Dug”, as that is what he did. We dug up Dug every two months to make sure he was still alive. I have a great picture drawn by our then-3-year old of a black square with eyeballs in the middle, titled, at her direct request: “Dug, Our Salamater.”)
(Our Eldest, when she was about three, was playing outside, when I heard her cheerfully exclaiming over ants making their way over the sidewalk. “Oh, look at the sweet baby ants! They’re so cute!” Then I heard STOMP STOMP STOMP and a sweet, cheerful voice: “There! Now you can go live with Jesus!” She has not shown any homicidal tendencies since, so I think we’re in the clear, but we did have a long talk about death, dying, and the Afterlife For Bugs.)
(Sorry for all the parentheticals.)
Yesterday, he brought home another “pet” for the children: a lady praying mantis, heavy with egg. Since I did my best and got rid of our critter cage during recent moves, Lady Mantis currently resides in my glass cookie jar, on the kitchen counter.
My current 4-year old (the Spicy one) has great concern for creatures large and small, particularly those her Daddy brings home for learning and adventure. She’ll try her best to provide for their every comfort, up to and including donating saucers from her tea set to serve as water dishes, and volunteering a doll blanket for warmth.
Yesterday, the Eldest caught her on her way into the house. She had somehow convinced a sluggish, chilled grasshopper, nearly the length of her little hand, to sit on an action figure, and was carefully making her way to the kitchen.
“Good boy. Gooooood boy. Sit still. Goooooood boy!”
Eldest has been around 13 years. She understands her mother’s extreme reaction to un-corralled bugs in the house. She removed the grasshopper from the 4-year old, and gave it a good toss into the raspberry canes, where it can join its chilly grasshoppery mates, and breed the generation that will invade my raspberries next summer.
4-year old began to sob.
Eventually, we got coherent words from her sad little self:
“But I need to! Lady Mantis must eat this creature!”
So she both lacks a sense of the distinction between critters and pets, and desires to feed Worthy Bugs on Lesser Creatures.
Practical, and somewhat disturbing if I think about it too hard.