Lesson from a dead Slug

For several years, we lived in apartments and duplexes where we were not allowed to have “real” pets, like a cat or a dog. We tried guinea pigs, but my little boy was allergic to them or their litter. We had a turtle (“rescued” from the road side) for half a day, until I read up on all the diseases they carry. Finally, we settled on an aquarium.

But that was not enough for my son.

Whenever he played outside, he would collect all kinds of critters: roly-polies and beatles, mayflies, stink bugs. If he could catch it, he would keep it. When it rained, he collected worms, slugs and snails in glass jars.

I would make him add some dirt, grass and moisture, in order to keep those bugs alive. And I would order him to let them go after maybe a day or two, when the critters started looking a bit limp.

I always tried to teach him to respect even those tiny lives, and to not squash or otherwise kill them, just “because he can”, because he’s bigger. I explained to him that as long as these animals (including spiders) stay outside, in their habitat, we’ll leave them unharmed. But if they come into our habitat, inside, they will be fair game.

A week or so ago, my son found two slugs with which he so fell in love that he didn’t want to let them go. So we padded his bug-box with fresh grass and dandelion leaves, added a few drops of water, and put the slugs in there.

I’m glad he did not insist on setting the box on his nightstand. But he put it not far, next to the aquarium.

He really loved those slugs and played repeatedly with them. (Don’t ask me… I don’t have a clue of how you play with slugs… 🙂 ) But he’s only 7 and tends to forget to get new greenery and moisture to his beasties. I, too, forgot a bit about them.

And it happened what was inevitably going to happen: the slugs dried out and died.

And here was my boy, wailing and shedding hot tears over his dead slugs.

I’m sure he learned his lessons:
– leave wildlife in the wild, or…
– if you take it inside for even a short period, you have to provide the right conditions so that they don’t die
– any kind of pets need care.

I learned a lesson, too: no critter is too small or ugly to be a pet and to be loved dearly by some little boy!

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