getting a pet (hint: not a hippo)


This is going to be about 2 things … getting a pet … and thinking about what kind of pet to get.

What made me think about this?

A headline.

“Humphrey the pet hippo kills owner”

One-tonne pet tragically and violently ends bizarre ‘father-son relationship’ with farmer


This isn’t even a National Enquirer or People magazine (I put both in same category) story.  This is The Guardian. This is real stuff.

A farmer was killed by his pet hippopotamus despite repeated warnings that a hippo could never be tamed (it makes me wonder if a lot of people have actually tried taming hippos in the past …. oh … and why).

He was killed by being bitten to death by his 1.2 ton “pet” hippo named Humphrey.

In a bizarre twist Humphrey (the hippo) actually chowed down on his beloved owner (Marius) in the same river where, years earlier, the hippo had been rescued from a flood.

Makes me wonder. Bad memories?


How did hippo-adopter Marius get Humphrey?

Humph (to his friends) had grown too big for the people who originally adopted it (apparently they hadn’t researched that A HIPPO BECOMES SEVERAL TONS IN SIZE) and was bought at the age of five months. Humph eventually became a pet on a farm and learned to swim with humans.

Earlier this year Marius was photographed riding on the five-year-old hippo’s back and was quoted:

“Humphrey’s like a son to me, he’s just like a human,” he said. “There’s a relationship between me and Humphrey and that’s what some people don’t understand. They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals.”


It is hard to argue with that …. oh … other than the fact earlier this year a man and his seven-year-old grandson spent two hours in a tree after being chased by Humphrey while canoeing on the river that passes through the farm.


That may have slipped Marius’ mind as he cuddled up with good ole Humphrey.

Oh. I forgot.

Humphrey also frequently broke out of its enclosure and chased golfers at a local golf club (lets remember … while large … hippos can outrun golf carts & caddies).


And one more fact.

Armed with giant canine teeth, hippos are said to kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhinos combined. They can move at speeds of up to 30mph despite weighing up to three tons.


While this is really stupid (having a hippo as a pet) in general it makes a point about owning pets and responsibility.

Although someone can do a lot of reading and research and be thoughtful about what is involved in owning a pet it is truly difficult to prepare yourself for what it takes to be a pet owner.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t honest enough with yourself beforehand (although Humphrey’s owner pretty much deluded himself in some way … maybe it was the south African wines?) or thought deeply enough about the responsibility … you just don’t know what you don’t know.

You may intellectually recognize the commitment required. But once actually being a pet owner it can be overwhelming.

Well.  Ok.  It is absolutely overwhelming (says the past owner of a border collie).


Most pets are wonderful companions (albeit I find the idea of a hippo being a wonderful companion a little bit of a stretch).

Getting a pet means you should do, at minimum, 2 things:

  1. Don’t be delusional.

Ok.  What I mean by that is put all your fantasies off to the side and store away your idea of a dream pet and be realistic. It is work. It is overwhelming. It has an expense (mentally, physically, financially). Unless you adopt an adult pet don’t delude yourself into knowing what you are actually getting (exactly). Each pet has its own personality & characteristics which you can absolutely help shape & mold but there are no guarantees.

  1. Be desirable (of that great pet relationship)

With a pet, particularly a dog, you get what you want if you work toward what you desire in a relationship. In fact … if you invest the time with any pet (Humphrey being the exception hence the reason why I create this post) you will 99% of the time get the relationship you desired.


Enough with that.

I just loved the hippo story and it got me going.


If you are thinking of buying a dog take a second and read … Good Dog. Stay. – Anna Quindlen (or any book by Jon Katz).

The book isn’t really a book. It takes maybe 20 minutes to read.

It’s just a concise overview of owning a dog (very well written) and the challenges and the simple joys and the fact that part of owning a pet, unlike humans, you pretty much know how long a life they will lead.

Getting a pet is a big decision and should be treated as such.

I will also say that owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding decisions you can ever make in your life. It is the kind of decision that can change your life.

Written by Bruce