My brother and his wife and 4 children are enjoying a week in Bussleton, WA, so as (the wonderful) Auntie Jen, I’m in charge of the house. And that includes my niece’s pet: a stick insect.
I wasn’t that interested when she was showing Sticky off and talking about what great pets they are. In fact I can’t even remember any of Sticky’s virtues, but now I have a problem.
Last night I switched on the lights in the study. There was a shot crack, the bulb blew, and then the whole house was in darkness. Fortunately my niece likes to read in bed when she should be sleeping, and I know where she keeps her torch.
After some fuse flicking and a call to their neighbour – I couldn’t even sort out the safety switch light fuse issue – I was back in light. And thought I’d just drop in and say hi to the insect.
This is the email I just sent to my brother and his wife:
So, you know how I said he was all good on Sunday night? Last night, after the lighting incident, I went in to Scout's room to borrow her lamp as the lighting's a bit dim in the study now.
I said hi to Sticky and noticed that he looked, well, he was hanging in a rather precarious and surely uncomfortable position. I flicked his branch (gently of course) and got a couple of very limp reflexes from a couple of his bits. Thought (hoped) he was just sleeping.
But he's still the same today and I'm very worried. (About a f*@!ing stick thing, I can't believe it.)
I've done some research, and these guys do have a lifespan of 6 - 12 months apparently. But HE CAN'T DIE on my watch. I'm terrified. Is there anything in terms of maintenance that you can recommend? Help! Can we bring him back to life?
There's still a slight reflex, but he's wrapped around a leaf with his head tilted back like that fliptop kid that used to be on the Colgate ad and I'm wandering in there every hour hoping to see he's climbed up the side of the cage and is eating through a eucalyptus leaf.
What do you do when you’ve killed your niece’s pet?
I’ve only been back in the country for 2 months, and have so far basked in praise and daily, ‘I’m so glad your homes.’ I’ve even been thinking about writing something for a Families magazine, maybe even a Parents one, about ‘Don’t underestimate aunties…we’re almost as special as grandparents.’
But that, along with possible house-sitting opportunities, seems entirely unsuitable now.
I thought about saying that I hadn’t visited him the whole time they were away. He’d been given enough fresh leaves to get through the week, and I’d been told he’d be no trouble. Imagine my surprise!
But now I really think he’s really dead.
I suggested to a friend today that he’s suffering, missing his attentive and sweet animal-loving owner. My friend, and her 3 daughters, didn’t grace this with a reply.
I’ve tried blowing gentle resuscitation breaths at him – he seems to have become a ‘he’ in the last 24 hours – and talking to him, telling him that his beloved will be home soon and all will return to normal. But he still seems to be dead.
It’s another 6 days until the family returns. Waiting for a reply to my email is more tortuous than any will-he-won’t-he date call, and though I tell myself not to go in there and check for some miraculous recovery I keep going back.
My niece and I look very alike and I’ve always thought we have a very special bond. Now I fear whenever I ask her to try something new with me, or get in the car with me, even when I cook dinner for the family, she’ll look at me with my own blue eyes, and if she gets to the point where she doesn’t say it, she’ll always be thinking, ‘You killed Sticky. Just 5 days in your care, and you killed him.’
It’s possible I’ll spend hours trawling through the neighbourhood hunting another Sticky to do a switch. But I reckon, even though it’s only a f*@!ing insect, I reckon she’d know.
I could always get on a plane back to London…