penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Our Pet Tree

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We don’t have pets at our house for a number of reasons.

I take owning a pet very, very seriously. It is a long term commitment – whether it is for a hamster that lives only two years or a dog that lives for 15.  However, our family currently has the attention span of a gnat and the ability to commit for a nanosecond.

All of us have allergies to one furry pet or another – which pretty much leaves fish, and my husband is allergic to sea food so even that one might be iffy.

My husband and I both work full time.  There just isn’t enough time in the day to give a pet – especially a dog – the amount of exercise it needs.  Training a pet is also a full-time job.

The cost of a pet would kill our budget.  We couldn’t afford to buy the animal, let alone do it justice in terms of food, care, toys, vet bills, and dog walkers (see above point about exercise).  Not to mention pet hotels if we had enough money left over for a vacation.  (Instead we had a third child. The profound effect on our budget has been similar)

I have changed enough poopy diapers to last me a life time.  We have only in the last year finished – really finished – toilet training our youngest. I simply can’t imagine bending over to pick up for an animal.  I just can’t do it any more.

Yet, I can see the benefits of owning a pet in terms of teaching a child commitment, empathy and the need for caring for another being.  I want our kids to have that – without having to pick up poop from a fuzzy, slobbery creature that is going to eat a giant hole in my household budget for the next 10 years.

Our opportunity came in the form of a letter home from school.

Just for a bit of background, I should explain that our school yard is a bit of a wasteland. There is a vast field with no shade for the children.  By June there usually isn’t any grass – just a dust bowl of dirt.

The emerald ash borer has had a devastating impact on our urban forests.  You can see the empty trunks and branches of dead trees all over the city.  Our school has had a number of trees affected – so of the few trees that are there, quite a number need to be cut down.

A few neighbours have also been cutting down trees in order to build bigger homes, which is also having an effect on the amount of shade available.

One of the more thoughtful and forward thinking teachers has been trying to find ways to make our kids’ school more environment friendly.  She submitted a proposal to our fine city for a grant to plant trees on our school property.

(As an aside – this teacher is an amazing woman. She teaches – and successfully integrates high needs kids into the class room.  She is a mom. And she has managed to help my son love school.  Yet she still somehow has time to fill in forms for obtaining a grant. The woman deserves sainthood in my books).

In addition to applying for the grant and helping to get a tree planted (with the promise of more to come) the teacher has also been caring for and watering the tree.  However, she is taking a well deserved break for the summer.

We received a letter home from her.  She was searching for a “head water engineer” to take over the watering of the tree for the summer and wondered if my son would be interested.

I asked my son and he was enthusiastic.

I was thrilled – this was a perfect opportunity for us to both care for another living creature and talk to our kids about the importance of the environment, urban forest and all of that.  The letter indicated that all we needed to do was pour a bucket of water on it once or twice a day.

The teacher showed us a tree – a bit lonesome by itself, caught in a bit of fencing and caution tape.  It is a prospector elm.  Upon doing some research, I realized it is not a showy tree, in terms of look or fall colour.  But it grows fast, creates shade and is hardy in a wet or dry climate.

It was easy to say yes. For the tree, for my kids, for the other students, for the school, for the community.

Now, the school year is over.  After the first day, we realized that there was no outside faucet at the school to obtain water. So we have started, each day, to fill a giant bucket at our house.  We load it onto a wagon, and we truck it a few hundred metres down to the school to pour over the tree’s thirsty roots.  With our bucket-laden wagon we probably make for an odd parade. So far though, the tree and my son seem happy with the arrangement. And I’m already feeling a bit protective as I look up into its branches.

Like any pet, maybe the novelty of care and nurture will wear off as the summer wears on.  But for now, taking a walk to water the tree is a chance to talk to my son about the importance of the tree and its role in the future of the school.  And he tells me how his day was.

We haven’t named the tree yet, although my son, upon hearing that it is a fast grower has dubbed it “Speedy.”  It seems as good a name as any.

And so far, there hasn’t been any poop to pick up.


Written by pennyinacastle

July 1, 2014 at 3:29 am

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