Cleaning the Frogs

This morning my 14-year-old son Lucas walked into the kitchen and said, “Dad, would you clean the frogs for me?  The tank is gross.”

If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it 72 times.

On Lucas’ 8th birthday, Claire and I surprised him with two fire belly frogs.  It was a fantastic birthday present and he was thrilled to have “Fire” and “Belly” as he named them, share a room with him.  We bought an aquarium tank, placed a couple of rocks from the yard in it and filled it with two inches of water.  It was the perfect frog habitat.    

The guy at PetSmart told us that the fire belly frogs would live for approximately 2 years.  We recently celebrated (I use that term loosely) their 6th birthday. 

Fire belly frogs are not exactly the cleanest creatures on earth.  They pee and poop in the tank and leave half-eaten water-bloated crickets floating around.  Lucas is right.  That tank is gross.

And I’ve been spending 10 minutes once a month since 2005 cleaning that cesspool.  12 times a year.  For 6 years.  Wow. That’s 72 times.  72 times I’ve been a one-man Hazmat crew fishing out cricket carcasses floating in a sea of frog feces. 

You never think of this stuff when you are at the pet store.  All you think about is how cute the frogs are and how psyched your kid will be.

As tough as the cleaning is, it’s not really the worst part.  The worst part is the crickets.  The frogs have got to eat, you know.  No brown pellets for these amphibians.  They have discerning palettes and only eat live crickets.  So every week we have to go back to PetSmart to buy two dozen crickets.  I thought we were getting two pets, but in fact we were getting 26.

Pet store crickets are a wily bunch.  Obviously they know that soon they will be eaten by a frog, because they always have freedom on their minds.  More than once they have gotten loose in my car.  There’s nothing worse than driving through traffic at 65 mph and feeling something crawling across your foot.  Actually there is.  Sitting on the toilet and feeling something crawl across your foot.  I’ve experienced both.  No matter how well fortified the cricket container is, somehow a couple of those little buggers always manage to escape.  

The only thing more atrocious than dealing with crickets is enduring the smell of PetSmart.  It’s a thick kind of sweet odor that, as John Denver used to sing, fills up your senses.  I think it’s actually put there on purpose, just like they pump oxygen into the casinos in Vegas.  It’s the same in every pet store.  I’m not just picking on PetSmart.  They all know the secret.  This olfactory sensation makes pet owners drunk with froggy or puppy or kitty love and they impulsively buy all kinds of stupid pets or stupid shit for their pets.  How else could you explain anyone buying a doggy bikini?  

One whiff of PetSmart and you’ll buy anything.  Pet Smart. Owner Dumb.

So what’s the point of this story?  

When your son turns 8, don’t buy fire belly frogs?  No.  Actually, quite the opposite.  My son loves those frogs.  And if I hadn’t bought them, I never would have had the material for this story.  

You may say you just wasted two minutes reading it.  But I once thought that the 720 minutes I spent cleaning the frogs was wasted time too.