Sophia successfully spells her final word: “R-O-T-I-S-S-E-R-I-E.”

The Charleston Middle School Spelling Bee crowd cheers wildly. But to her, it doesn’t seem fair, since she sees the word Rotisserie over the roasting chickens every time she and her mom go to the grocery store. However, she decides she’d worked hard for weeks to learn to spell the other words, so Sophia gracefully accepts the trophy.

Sophia’s mom embraces her daughter. “I’m so proud of you, sweetheart. Let’s celebrate. What would you like to do?”

Sophia smiles sheepishly. She has been planning for this moment for weeks. “I would like a pet of my very own.”

Her mom tilts her head with a look of surprise. “We already have two dogs and a cat. Why do you want another pet?” she asks.

Sophia shakes her head. “Really? Mom, the dogs and cat belong to the whole family. I want a pet that is mine only, one that I can hold and play with during the day, one that will keep me company when I do my homework.”

Mom smiles to shows she understands. “Oh, I see,” she says. “OK, but it has to be a small animal that can be kept in a cage and doesn’t have to be fed worms, insects or anything alive.”

Sophia leaps with joy. “Thank you, Mom, this will be the best pet ever.”

Sophia and her mom talk about different animals they might encounter at the animal shelter. Sophia knows a lot about the shelter they are going to. It is one of the few in her state that has the facilities to accept all kinds of rescued animals. If any place will have the right pet for her, it will be this shelter. When they arrive, Alex, one of the shelter volunteers, welcomes them and offers his assistance.

“If I were you, I’d get a snake,” Alex says, walking them over to the terrariums in the back of the store. The dimly-lit section contains glass boxes with an assortment of snakes.

As Alex lifts one of the Brown Snakes from the box, an earthworm drops from its mouth. “This is a Brown Snake,” Alex announces, happy to show that he knows his stuff. “They can grow to be 13 inches long, so they’re not very big. And they’re kid-friendly.”

Brown Snake

Sophia says, “Wow! Look at all the interesting patterns and designs. How cool is that? I definitely want this snake, Mom.”

“Let’s look around a bit more,” says Sophia’s mom.

Alex says, “May I suggest a hamster? They are very lovable, and we have so many that we need to find a home for. This cute little guy is a Syrian Hamster, which is the largest of the five hamster species.”

The hamster is sleeping peacefully in her cage.

“Look how cuddly she looks. May I pick her up?” asks Sophia.

“We don’t like to disturb the animals when they are napping,” replies Alex.

“That’s okay. Just by looking at her, I can tell that she will be the perfect pet for me. Let’s take her. Okay, Mom?”

Syrian Hamster

Budgie Parakeet

“Just to be safe and to make sure that we didn’t miss something you’d like even more, let’s see what other animals are here at the shelter. Is there anything else we should consider, Alex?”

“We have a couple of parakeets you might like,” says Alex. “In fact, this one just arrived today and looks very spiffy.”

“He is adorable,” says Sophia. “What kind of parakeet is he?”

“This particular one is a budgie. Unlike many birds, budgies like to be held. They can be easily trained and even taught to talk,” replies Alex.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” says Sophia. “Now I am totally confused about which pet to choose.”

After reviewing what they wanted and didn’t want, it became clear there was only one that made sense.