January 28, 2008
By Robert Sharpe, Commack, NY

Can you imagine going to the store for a furry little hamster and coming home with a puppy? Well, that is exactly what happened to me and my family. It was September 14, 2005, and we were celebrating my little sister Lauren’s birthday. My dad, mom, two sisters, and I had just finished eating a delicious, month-watering BBQ steak and baked potato dinner, when Lauren asked my dad,

“Can we go to the pet store and buy a hamster for my birthday?”

“Do we really have to?” replied my father.

“We already have too many animals to take care of.” He was referring to my older sister, Amanda’s, pet guinea pig.

“Please, please, please?” Lauren responded, never being able to take no for an answer.

My dad, as much as he tries to hide it, has trouble saying no to us. So, when I heard Lauren’s pleading, I knew that we would soon be off to Selmer’s Petland to buy a hamster for her sixth birthday.

My family and I, on that warm, end-of-the-summer night, piled into our minivan and headed for Selmer’s. As I looked out the window, always keeping an eye out for old American cars, I thought about the different type of animals the store might have. During our drive, my dad was reminiscing about when he was young and living on Long Island.

“When I was little, Selmer’s was the only pet store around. We had to make the long journey from Smithtown if we wanted to buy a pet or needed pet supplies,” he said.
My stomach was in knots and my foot began to shake thinking about getting to the store. Finally, we pulled into the parking lot and found the “perfect” parking spot, my dad is a little crazy that way. As I entered the store, I could feel the energy of the all the animals that seemed to surround me. My ears were bombarded by loud chirping and squawking noises coming from above me and loud barking and howling coming from below my feet. My nostrils filled with the unpleasant odor of many animals all living in a single place.

Upon entering the establishment, different members of my family wandered off to their favorite pet department. Lauren and my mom set out in search for hamsters. Amanda and my dad went downstairs to look at the yapping puppies. I headed off to the back of the store to get a glimpse at the fish. I found the neon fish fascinating. Their bodies are transparent except for a bright orange and blue stripe on their back. My eyes lit up when I saw a sign on the tank that read, “2 for a $1.00.” I ran from the fish area in search of my dad, so I could ask him if we could buy some neon fish.

When I spotted my dad, not being able to hold in my excitement, I screamed, “Dad, can we buy some neon fish?” I added, “They’re only 2 for a $1.00!”

Dad, obviously not happy at the prospect of taking care of fish, the guinea pig and the soon to be purchased hamster, grimaced and answered, “Sorry Rob, we don’t have a fish tank or anything else we need to keep fish.”

Maybe if I tried the “please, please, please” approach, I would have a chance. Unfortunately, my father did not fall for it. Maybe I will be more successful when the timing is a little better, like when it is my birthday. I relinquished, knowing I wasn’t going to get any farther with this conversation. In a small voice, I said, “Well, fish would probably be more trouble than they’re worth.”

Saving the fish conversation for another day, we walked over to where Amanda had been playing with one of the puppies. The lady in charge of the puppy area noticed our family milling around looking at the different dogs.

She asked my father, “Would you be interested in taking one of the puppies out to play in the special caged area?”

Without hesitation, Amanda replied, “Yes! Daddy, can we look at this one?” She had been saying for the past twenty minutes how incredibly cute one particular dog was. I have to admit it was pretty cute. The dog she was interested in was mostly white with a black button nose. Its fur was fluffy and soft to the touch. The woman let the dog loose in the puppy play area. Amanda and I had fun throwing the ball while the dog retrieved it.

When my mother and sister finally showed up at the puppy department, Lauren was obviously upset. Her sad eyes and down-turned mouth gave away her disappointment. My mother told us that the saleswoman had said, “Hamsters are not good pets for a six year old.” Apparently, hamsters stay up all night, sleep during the day, and have a tendency to bite little fingers. Everyone stood for a moment in silence. We all felt bad that Lauren would not be getting the hamster she wanted for her birthday. The next thing I remember was my father asking us, “Should we get a dog?” With that, Amanda yelped for joy. My mom, Lauren and I stood with our mouths agape.

I asked, “Are you serious?”

Lauren said, “No, if I can’t have a hamster, I want a rabbit!!”

My mom yelled, “Are you crazy???”

My dad responded, “I always had a dog growing up. I think it would be good for the kids. It would teach them some responsibility and it would be something for all of us to love. Didn’t you ever hear of the saying, ‘Dogs are a man’s best friend?’ ”

Well, I thought my mom was going to faint! She was totally against getting a dog. With a red contorted face, my mother hissed, “Who is going to take care of it? Dogs are smelly, expensive and a lot of work.”

We all worked very hard to convince my mom and Lauren that we should get a dog. Amanda, Lauren and I spent the next hour playing with the adorable puppy. After making a lot of promises to my mom and dad about who would take the dog for walks and feed it, my parents decided to buy the puppy. The only condition was that since the puppy was Lauren’s birthday present, she got to choose its name. So on the way home, with the puppy in her lap, Lauren smiled and said, “We’ll call her Sammie.”

Amanda asked, “Sammie?”

To which Lauren replied, “That’s short for Samantha.”

This experience has taught me how to be a more responsible person. Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility. My family and I need to work together to successfully raise our new puppy. My sisters and I share the responsibility for taking care of our dog. I make sure Sammie has food and water every day. Amanda and Lauren take Sammie for walks. I have been training her to roll over and shake hands or paw with me. I did not realize how much work getting a dog would be. Every day when I come home from school Sammie is waiting for me by the window. I look forward to seeing and playing with my dog, Sammie.

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