I love animals as much as the next person, but when it comes to owning one, I have a strict criteria. They must not require affection. They must not scurry. They must not require food, every day. I must be able to leave them for long periods of time without them dying and consequently disappointing the kids. They must either be capable of living outdoors in a concrete yard in 50-degree heat or indoors in a very small contained space, they must not smell. The total investment time in any given week, should not exceed five minutes and the purpose of keeping the animal as a pet should be to teach the children the value of being selfless and showing responsibility by caring for an animal, within the above parameters.
Some argued it wasn’t possible, but I was determined. We needed to get a pet, fast. The reports all showed the keeping a pet between the ages of 3 and 8 underpinned positive well-being in children. The search was on, the doors of opportunity flung open to a world of pets which would flourish under our care and fascinate the children for months, possibly years.
We took to the Souq, the market here in Qatar when you can find everything from saffron to a snake. Applying our criteria to each section of animals we finally agreed on four beautiful pets. Ray, Casper, Nemo and Goldie and if you haven’t yet guessed, they are fish! Beside ourselves with our new found, low maintenance friends, we proceeded to buy a low maintenance tank. Just as we rounded the corner from our house, we witnessed a guard leaving our door, and the ominous envelope which he stuck onto the front door. What could it be, knowing Qatar, it was another rule or regulation, some new initiative to be adhered to, lest you find yourself out on your ear.
Just after we untied the plastic bag to release Ray, Casper, Goldie and Nemo into their new home (the Eu. 15 tank complete with light and water filter and small enough for one person to carry to and from the sink at change water time) I opened the envelope. A cold shiver came over me. It was a Pet Registration Form, no lie. On the very day that we brought four purposefully low maintenance pets into our home, there came the new initiative, ‘every house needs to register their pet’.
The form required, tenant name, address, telephone number (mine not fishes’), clarification of type of pet, Dog /Cat/Other, Pets name, description (Colour, markings etc), and the microchip number and vaccination and sterilisation details. The later requisite details felt a little stringent, particularly as given my history with goldfish, they would likely not live long enough to catch anything and given that fact, I felt it would be unfair to sterilize Ray, Casper, Goldie for Nemo and hamper their fun during their imagined short life span.
Reading the terms and conditions I felt relief that our chosen pets were silent fish because policy stated that barking dogs and crying cats were considered unacceptable pets. Also poop litter would be fined and wee, had to be washed, so to take rover for a walk realistically you would need a wheelbarrow for the accoutrements. So inoffensive were our pet choice that I considered not completing the registration form until I realised that unregistered pets would be treated as strays and thereafter confiscated, so I imagined it was compulsory for each pet to carry their registration details around for fear of being picked up!
So just like everything in Qatar, our new fishy friends arrived bright eyed, eager to explore their new fishbowl life but bit by bit their fins are clipped, and they’re laded down by wads of paperwork and red tape, welcome to life in Doha, Casper, Ray, Goldie and Nemo……. Where’s Nemo? Nemo is floating on the top of the water! A limp fish, more paperwork and an upset child. ‘He’s not dead’, I say trying hard not to bang the toilet seat, ‘he’s just missing’, I hoped a missing fish was less paperwork that a dead fish, so I opened the case, finding nemo.