By Julie Hoag of juliehoagwriter.com
My three boys wanted to buy a pet, so we headed to the pet store with their own money in their pockets. One of them wanted a snake, but we had him convinced my husband was allergic to snakes. No snakes allowed in our house; I don’t want frozen mice in the freezer. I was relieved they were most excited about the furry ones. Almost $300 later, we left with an interactive, cuddly, speedy little pet: one smooth coated guinea pig we named Butterscotch. The speedy part would later give my middle-aged self an obstacle course I will never forget.
The boys learned all the good caretaking aspects of pet ownership, like feeding and cleaning cages, amid lots of fighting, of course. But I love the forced sibling camaraderie of working as a team. They would take him outside as he loved to eat grass. It was good for them to learn how to care for something other than themselves.
When the kids were at school, I took Butterscotch out to let him walk around the kitchen because I wanted some time all to myself with him. Yes, I’m serious; he’s really cute. I realized I forgot to uncover the pool earlier to let it breathe out pent-up chemical fumes. I already had Butterscotch out, so I decided to just bring him outside with me as he loves the sunshine and he could just eat grass while I uncovered the pool. My multi-tasking mom thinking was in full bloom. Until it turned rotten on me.
I kept checking on him as I unrolled the pool cover. I was a good mom, doing two things at once. He was twenty feet away, and every time I looked, he was happily munching grass. He usually sits in one spot as he knows he is a prey animal and is self-aware. My error in judgment slapped me in the face, however, for sitting right next to him made him feel less prey-like and leaving him to sit alone made him panic and bolt for cover.
I saw him down at the bottom of the hill, right at our six-foot tall wooden fence. He slipped right under it faster than I could take even one step toward him. My heart jittered and I held my breath in a gasp.
Our fence gate near where he went under was locked for safety to keep unsupervised kids out. I tried to scale the tall wooden fence, but I had nothing nearby to stand on. I knew I was in big trouble. Running inside to try and find the key would take too long. If Butterscotch got spooked, he’d take off into the woods or fall off the bank into the stream and be gone forever. My mind raced for a solution.
The neighbors had a back gate in their fence leading to the path, and I knew they didn’t lock it. As I made my way to their yard, I worried that a dog or someone on a bike would spook him before I got back there and he would run in a panic to the woods. Or he would freeze to death in the cold Minnesota temperatures if I didn’t find him.
I couldn’t open the front chain link gate, so I jumped up and scaled it sideways. My forty-one-year-old body went over the fence, and I landed on my side. I scraped my belly and forearm, and I could feel a bruise brewing on my side. I work out, but this was an obstacle course this middle-aged mama was not ready for. I fumbled with the back gate latch, afraid he would already be gone. The kids would never forgive me if I lost him, and I wouldn’t forgive myself. Idiot! I will never do this again; I took multi-tasking too far.
I ran down the sidewalk and spotted him still hovering near the fence under some brush. I tried hard not to run at him, but I knew I had to act fast before he zipped off. He heard me coming as I hurriedly approached him, tiptoeing. He freaked and zoomed away with a “turbo boost,” as my kids call it. I lunged for him, but his narrow, muscular body slipped right through my fingers. I grabbed for him again and hard this time, and he squeaked as I clenched him. My arms brushed through some prickly weeds that would punish me with tingling the rest of the day, but it didn’t matter because I got him, my obstacle course prize!
I held him close like a baby, so grateful I had caught him. I could feel his heart racing beneath his little furry chest, and my heart was racing, too. My shirt was drenched in sweat, and my arm hurt from the weeds. I put him into his cage so I could calm my panic attack and smirked to no one about my heroic rescue as I sat on the couch. I thought of how the neighbors must have giggled as they watched me scale the easy-to-open fence from their window and race through their yard. In my panic, I had forgotten how to lift up the easy release latch on the ground. Scaling the gate was faster anyway, I rationalized after twenty minutes on the couch. I almost lost that little guy, which would have made my kids heartbroken and, admittedly, me, too.
I don’t plan to ever tell my kids that story because, of course, I tell them the rule is to stay by Butterscotch. My almost fail as a multi-tasking mom is my reminder to myself to be forgiving when my kids make mistakes. Hell, I make them, too. I think I’ll forever just keep this secret to myself. They never need to know my bad mom moment, right?
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