I live with a sprightly scientist. My seven year old, Vaughn, is intrigued by nature, loves a good rock and collects bugs both dead and alive. Knowing all this, I shouldn’t have been surprised by his Christmas list last year – but nonetheless I was. Here was a kid, who could have truly asked for anything, presenting me a list that included a vegetable garden, monarch worms, a praying mantis pod of eggs, tadpoles…and a gecko.
Lucky for a busy mom, the first four items you can actually get online. So that’s what I did. I ordered away and waited (anxiously? patiently? nervously?) for these living creatures to show up in the mail.
Or so I thought.
Our Fredrick the Frog Adventure Begins
The first item to arrive was our suspiciously-named “Grow a Frog Kit.” This mysterious kit includes a container, some powder for water, food and a voucher for a live tadpole.
Vaughn quickly assembled the tank and could not wait to fill out our voucher and send off for our tadpole. It took 2 weeks to arrive, but “Fredrick” the tadpole arrived in the mail, in a bag of water inside a box, on a cold February evening.
In Vaughn’s eyes, Fredrick was super cool. In my eyes, he mostly just seemed relieved that his long, dark journey was over. Regardless, we placed Fredrick in our kit, and over the next few weeks we enjoyed watching him grow. In no time he sprouted legs, and soon thereafter two arms appeared. When his tail started to shrink, we knew it was time for us to order “stage two” frog food. It was a great experience.
Frog Food, or Cracker Jacks?
Now, I work in retail software, and as part of my job I deal with lots of transactions during my many engagements with retailers. But ordering our stage two frog food was unlike any transaction I have ever seen. You see, apparently when you order your stage two frog food there’s a promotion that is automatically invoked, whether you like it or not: “Buy Frog Food, get a FREE FROG!”
You read that right – when you buy a package of frog food, evidently they also send along a fully formed frog as a bonus prize inside.
When our food order arrived a few days later, we immediately wondered why our frog food had come in such a large box. And you can probably imagine our surprise when we opened the package to find a scary-looking albino frog staring back at us with two big red eyes. And believe me when I tell you that this new frog was a good 5x bigger than our sweet Fredrick, whom we had cared for and grown to admire.
Now, if you’re thinking that this new frog sounds strange looking, you’d be right. To be honest, he resembled a chicken breast with frog legs and eyes.
So what to do? Well, we’re nothing if not an inclusive family, so despite his appearance, we went right out to our local pet store and bought a tank — with a divider so we could protect young Fredrick — to make a home for our new frog, ominously named by my seven year old as “Deadrick.”
At first, all seemed fine with Fredrick and Deadrick. They shared a cage, they swam in the same water, but they could not interact. Problem solved.
Or maybe not.
Foreshadowing the Fate of Deadrick and Fredrick
The next day when we checked on the frogs, we were shocked when we couldn’t find Deadrick on his side of the tank. Where was he? Had he hopped out? We were stumped. Vaughn was also worried until he found Deadrick swimming on Fredrick’s side of the tank. Despite their obvious differences, they actually seemed to be doing okay — getting along, even — and they looked like they were settling into a happy new life together.
So we let them be. And Vaughn simplified their names to Fred and Dead.
Many of you may have already predicted the fate of young Fred and big Dead, but Vaughn was steadfastly optimistic. In fact, he wasn’t worried at all. The two frogs had become best buddies, and he was genuinely happy that they had each other for companionship.
So it was a very sad day indeed when, a few days later, I had to share the news with Vaughn, as I share with you now, that his beloved young frog, Fredrick, had in fact been nibbled to death by his supposed best buddy Deadrick.
Dave Finds Dead a Home
Distraught over the loss of Fred and fearful of losing his other two frogs (yes, even after Fred’s untimely demise there were still three frogs in our house: two, Shock and Lollypop, from a previous engagement, plus Deadrick), Vaughn asked me what he should do about Dead. Was there another place he could go to live?
We discussed our options. Here were Vaughn’s suggestions:
- Let Dead live out his life, alone in his cage
- Set him free in a nearby creek
- Let him dry out as punishment for his crime
- Flush him down the toilet as punishment for his crime
- Find him a new home
So that night we walked to the exotic pet store to visit our friend Dave and to explore these options (Dave owns the store where many of our exotic pets have come from). Vaughn explained his predicament to Dave. He went into full detail on the pros and cons of each of his possible options, and with Dave’s help he came to the conclusion that he wanted to find a new home for Deadrick.
He asked Dave if he had a home for Dead, and of course Dave did. He assured Vaughn that he had the perfect tank for Dead. But what amazed me was the amount of time Dave spent with Vaughn discussing his decision and reassuring him that he’d made a great choice. In return, Dave proceeded to trade Vaughn one water snail and a water plant that he knew his other frogs would like. And perhaps of most interest to other retailers reading this post, he documented the entire trade via a POS transaction that incremented one water frog and decremented a snail and a plant. I left with a receipt with product information and care instructions for our new live items.
This episode reminds me that while poor little Fred may in fact be dead, the retail store is alive and well.
You see, we all need people like Dave and stores like his in our lives…people/stores who make a difference. And when we find people like Dave, we are loyal to them.
I know Vaughn and I are loyal to Dave, and to his shop.
Because I so appreciate moments like this.
Because it takes a village. And sometimes an exotic zoo, too.