I don’t have the best of luck with pets.
Well, I suppose I should say I don’t have the best of luck with fish. Up until a few months ago, fish were all I had to call my own due to an allergy to all things with fur that apparently runs in my family. Anything I asked for as a child — be it a cat, dog or a guinea pig — the answer was always no.
When I was in kindergarten, we finally made the trip to the pet store to outfit an aquarium with neon pink gravel, some plastic plants and a catfish I named Whiskers.
Whiskers didn’t last very long, as was the case with every other fish I purchased from there on out. In college I had two betta fish (Jamaal and Jezebel, R.I.P.) who both met the same fate at the hands of an uncovered fish bowl.
Now, I suppose I knew that betta fish required a mesh barrier over the tops of their tanks in order to minimize incidents of errant jumping, but for aesthetic (and, admittedly, stupid) reasons, I decided my fish were well-behaved and obedient enough to stay in their tanks on their own accord.
I was wrong.
Imagine coming home from class, reaching for the fish food only to glance upon an empty fish bowl. This happened not once, but two times, with each of the fish.
I scrambled to Google how far betta fish could jump and soon realized I had a radius of approximately 5 feet from the fish bowl in which to look for my poor, lifeless, previously majestic fish. I found Jamaal flopping around on my dorm room floor; I found Jezebel in my sock drawer.
Both fish hung around for another day or two before meeting their final resting place in the toilet.
As you can imagine, these experiences made me rather wary of adopting anything living after I moved here to Newton. Living on my own, I figured it might be nice to have something to come home to, but my dismal history as a pet mother deterred me.
I eventually caved in January after a handful of visits to JCARL to take photos for our Pets of the Week section. I felt like a terrible person each time I left the shelter empty-handed to a chorus of meows and barking, so on Jan. 26 I headed to JCARL and brought home the loudest, neediest gray tabby kitten.
His name is Oscar, mainly because when I called the Newton Animal Clinic to make my then-nameless kitty an appointment, they put me on the spot. I had a handful of names rolling around in my head, but apparently blurted out “Ocasr” over the phone, because that’s what all his official documents now say.
After three months, he’s still alive and has managed to cover every surface in my apartment with fur, has perfected the art of waking me up in the middle of the night, and has an insatiable curiosity for the birds and squirrels outside my window.
This, paired with the warm spring weather, gave me an idea — why not get Oscar a leash and harness and let him explore the great outdoors this spring?
I realize the image of me this probably paints in your minds — I’m going to be that girl that walks her cat around downtown. Do I mind? Not entirely. In fact, shortly after leaving us for his job in Wisconsin, former Daily News sports writer Mike Hockett texted me, saying “you turned into a crazy cat lady a lot quicker than I thought you would.”
Just wait, Mike. Soon I’ll be walking around town, cat leash in hand with zero shame.