Better Pets

“I’m six years old today, Daddy.”

“Happy birthday, Button. After lunch we’re having a birthday party for you. All your friends are coming, and they might even bring you some presents.” Dave smiled, nodding wide-eyed.

“I remember once you told me when I was six years old I could have a puppy?” Dorothy said, rocking as she stood.

“I remember saying that if Mommy agreed you might have a puppy.” Dave chose his next words carefully. “You know there aren’t any real puppies or kitties anymore. All gone. Now we have robots. Easier to care for and better for the environment.”

“I know that.” Little Dorothy’s body wobbled as her head bobbed. “My teacher told me that at school. She said old robots need homes. When they wear out, people put them into new furry bodies and teach them to play with children, wag their tails, and lick my face, and love me, and sleep in my bed, and keep me company when I’m sad, and—”

“Yes, I think the new doggies can do all those things, even purr if you want them to. People program them for all the things you want them to do.”

Dorothy scrunched her mouth to one side and dropped her eyes. “Mommy didn’t want me to have a puppy. But I told her you promised, and she said it was okay.”

Dave put on his best frown to look upset. “Okay, Button. But when you go to the shelter, I’ll go with you. I don’t want you picking out a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.”

Dorothy giggled. “That’s silly, Daddy. Why would I get a vacuum or hair dryer?”

Dave lifted his daughter onto his knee. “Of course, you wouldn’t do that on purpose, but you might make a mistake. Robots never die and some are very old. Long ago people made them to do just one thing, like clean floors, or wash dishes, or play games like chess. That made some people angry. They said robots should all be created equal. After that, all robots got the same brain even when they only did one thing.”

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When Dorothy rubbed her hands in worry, Dave raised his tone and lifted his arms. “Of course, it might be nice to have a doggie that cleaned instead of messed on the floors.”

Dorothy laughed, gave her father a neck hug, then looked up into his face. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I didn’t know you wanted to go to the shelter. I wanted to have my puppy here with me for my birthday party.”

“That’s okay, Button. I’m sure if Mommy went with you, everything will be wonderful.”

“Oh, it will. My doggie will have black and white fur with floppy ears, and …” She paused. “Daddy, remember when you said I could have a giraffe?”

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