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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Electronic Pet Responsibility

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On the top of my Christmas list every year was one thing: a dog. And until I was twelve, that dream didn’t come true. Now I can completely understand my mother’s logic in waiting to adopt a dog. My mom didn’t want a dog because she knew that she would be the one to take care of the creature: walk it, train it, bathe it. Because although I would promise repeatedly that I would wake up at 6 AM for morning strolls, we all knew that I wouldn’t. And even when I got my beloved furry K-9 Kasha I still didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that my mom didn’t try to prepare me for the responsibilities.

When we were all growing up there was a frenzy that started with the purchase of a small stuffed animal that opened the gate to a magical land: (at least through an eight year olds perspective) Webkinz. First you would adopt your fuzzy friend from a toy store (they even sold them at my grocery store). You had the tough decision of picking out your pet: would it be an adorable, pudgy hippo, a festive reindeer, or a classic golden retriever? Between my sister and me, we owned all of these. She named the hippo Herman Pricilla Williams, a name which will live forever in my memory. Once you registered your new best friend, you would in a sense take care of them: you would feed them, build them a house with furniture, take them to the doctor, go on “gem” hunts, and get “Kinzcash” by playing the dozens of games on the website.

This was the same logic behind the wildly popular Nintendogs. I think that all of my friends had the game on their personal gaming system. After adopting your puppy (they never age) you can teach them tricks, virtually “pet” them, and take them on walks around the neighborhood. Perhaps one of the underlying, and most heartbreaking, elements of both of these games was that your pets could disappear. Webkinz would lock you out of your account if you did not buy another furry companion within a year and your precious Nintendogs puppies would run away if you didn’t take care of them well enough. And despite the fact that neither of these atrocities happened to me, I was still terrified of their existence.

For me, it seemed like Webkinz and Nintendogs was a pre- requisite for owning my own dog. And in a lot of ways, I think it made a lot of sense. You have to feed your critters every so of- ten and actually keep a schedule for yourself. You have to teach them commands, and for once you are no longer the student but the teacher. You have to nurture and care for your electronic pets like they were indeed real. And although there’s no comparison for owning your own dog, I think that what my mom was trying to get after through those electronic games was the notion of taking responsibility and caring for something besides yourself.

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