By Pierra Calasanz

“Listen up everybody,” said Teacher Ria, clapping her hands to get attention. “Friday is going to be Pet Day. You can bring your pets to school and tell us all about them.”

The children cheered wildly at this announcement.

“You have four days to think about what you want to say. If your pet can do tricks, you might want to show the class too. We will have prizes for the cutest pet, and the most responsible owner. So don’t forget to bring your pets on Friday!” Teacher Ria said.

At once, her class became a beehive, buzzing with the excited sounds of children talking about their pets. But there was one voice she didn’t hear, and as she looked around, she saw her most talkative student unusually quiet. On other days, he always amazed her with his extensive vocabulary.“What’s wrong Patrick?” Teacher Ria asked, as she spotted Patrick all alone in the corner.

Patrick wouldn’t answer, and continued to pout. Teacher Ria tried to talk to him but he just turned away. Finally, she gave up.When Patrick’s mommy came to fetch him that day, Patrick asked, “Mom, can we go to the pet shop on the way home?”
“As long as you promise not to ask me to buy anything,” answered his mom.

Patrick was not allowed to own a pet. His father was allergic to fur and his mother refused to have something dirty or noisy running around. But Patrick constantly asked them for a cat or a dog or even a white mouse.When they reached the pet shop, Patrick’s face lit up. He ran to the dog cages first and pointed to the small, furry puppies. He squealed in delight at one that was running around in circles trying to bite its own tail.

“Can I have a dog, Mommy?” Patrick asked. “Honey, you know we can’t. Your father is allergic to dogs.”Patrick moved to the next cage.“How about a cat?”
“Cats too.”
Patrick pointed at the mice and hamsters. Patrick’s mom vigorously shook her head.

Patrick walked over to the bunnies. He particularly liked a brown one. “Please Mom, I’ll take good care of it and feed it everyday and clean up its mess and keep it quiet.” He wanted a pet so much that Patrick’s mom almost gave in to the quiet little bunny, until she remembered her own bunny that peed in her shoes and ruined the furniture.
“No Patrick, I’m sorry. You promised you wouldn’t ask to buy a pet if I took you to the pet shop,” she reminded him.
“But Mooom,” pleaded Patrick
“No.” His mom said firmly.
Patrick felt so bad that he did not feel like going over to the birds and fish anymore. He folded his arms across his chest and pouted all the way home.

At school, Patrick remained quiet and thoughtful and never joined in his classmates conversations about their pets.
“I’m going to bring my pet parrot to school,” said Sara. “My parrot knows how to say hello and how are you,” she boasted.
‘I’m going to bring my guinea pig Chew-Chew,” said Jim. “I named him that because he loves to eat.”
“My pet lizard is sure to win the cutest pet prize,” boasted Roger the class bully.
“Ewww,” chorused the other kids.
“What’s your pet Patrick?” asked Roger.
Patrick pretended he did not hear and concentrated on his artwork. He felt bad that he didn’t have a pet to show.

Friday finally arrived. Teacher Ria’s classroom seemed like a zoo. Above the chattering of the children, one could hear barks, meows, chirps. There were bunnies and chicks running all over the place along with the children.

Teacher Ria brought the class to some sort of order and began the show and tell session. Sara’s parrot did indeed know how to say hello and how are you. Christine’s poodle knew how to jump loops and obeyed when told to sit, lie down and roll over. Sam’s chicks couldn’t do anything except peck at his shoes. But they were definitely the cutest pets.

When it was Patrick’s turn, he stood in front of the class and from his backpack pulled out a lion puppet. His classmates began to laugh.
“Patrick doesn’t have a real pet,” yelled Roger.
Patrick started to turn red but Teacher Ria urged him to go on.
“This is my pet lion Mustafa,” he began. His classmates laughed even louder.
“Mustafa is king of the jungle,” Patrick continued bravely. “But he got tired of taking care of himself. He came to the city to look for someone who would take care of him.”
There were still the occasional giggles but most of the children had stopped making fun of Patrick and were now interested in his story.

“Mustafa tried knocking on many people’s doors but they were afraid of him. Then, he knocked on my door and asked me politely if I would take care of him. I said sure and now, he lives with me. Everyday, Mustafa wakes me up in the morning by licking my nose. He likes to make sure I won’t be late for school. He likes to take a bath with me. I
shampoo his hair for him. When we are finished with our bath, I put on my clothes all by myself and I comb my hair, then his. I eat my breakfast and share some of my cereal with him. He especially likes the one with marshmallows in it. Then I go off to school.”

“When I get home, I take him for a walk in the park. None of the kids get too near me because he looks fierce and scary even if he is not. But it’s okay. When he’s around I have the slide all to myself. Mustafa loves the jungle bars. He says he feels right at home. When we get back to the house, I have to follow him inside with a mop. He forgets to wipe his muddy paws on the doormat and leaves muddy tracks around the house. My Mom hates that. And, oh, I have to feed him before dinner because he roars when he is hungry which is often. I have to keep him clean and satisfied so he won’t bother my mom. I always have to shoo him off the living room couch and keep him away from my dad who is allergic to fur. I make sure I take care of him real well so my parents will let me keep him. So far he’s been on his best behavior,” said Patrick, patting his puppet on the head for emphasis.
Patrick had told his story so well that the children almost forgot his pet wasn’t real. They all started clapping.

Then it was time to hand out the prizes. Everyone cheered when Sam’s chicks won the prize for cutest pets. Cristine’s poodle was the most talented pet and Patrick, to everyone’s surprise, won the most responsible owner award.
“Even if Patrick doesn’t have a pet,” Teacher Ria said, “he showed us how he would take care of his pet if he did have one. I think he would have been quite a good master.”
Teacher Ria handed Patrick a small fishbowl with several pretty little fish swimming inside.

Patricks’s eyes widened in delight. “Can I keep them?” he asked.
“Of course Patrick!” answered Teacher Ria. I don’t think your mom will mind. I had a talk with her the other day and she said you could have a pet that wasn’t noisy or scary or furry or dirty. I think she’ll let you keep these little fish, as long as take care of them.”
“Oh I will Teacher Ria! I will!” promised Patrick as he hugged the fishbowl to his chest.