Janet Gilmore has to be the only person in the country who has had a stinkbug for a pet. She even made a leash out of dental floss and enjoyed the fact that her pet food was really cheap.

by Janet Gilmore

With all the news lately about rescued animal pets, I thought maybe my family should get a rescue-something. I got my first husband from a hubby rescue shelter. The folks at the shelter told me that because he had been abused, he was mute, which sounded fine.

They were wrong.

The very first night I decided to add some chopped onions, fresh cashews, shrimp and a thimbleful of sherry to his Rice-a-Roni, and don’t you know he piped right up and said, “Please, PLEASE don’t add anything! I love it so much just the way it is!” and ruined a potentially long marriage.

I got my present husband, Hugh, the regular way, not from a shelter. I went looking for him and bagged him at a singles’ dance. We’ve been happy together, but I thought maybe we’d be even happier with a pet.

The problem with a rescue pet, of course, is that by the time you find out the effects of its previous trauma, you can’t re-abandon it because you’ll die of guilt poisoning. I know a woman who refuses to take medication for her own depression, but her (rescue) dog is on tranquilizers; a little perspective here, people?

Nevertheless, I began thinking about pets. Dog? Rescue or regular? Cat? I don’t want a cat. Bunny from a happy family? Parakeet? Who would abuse a parakeet? Turtle? Rescue or free-range? Goldfish? You want paper or plastic?

At exactly that moment, I noticed a stinkbug on the kitchen sink. He — I knew he was male by the handsome raised bumps on his back — didn’t say a word; he just stood there looking at me with those eyes and those eyelashes of his, and the decision was made. Who could resist him?

Hugh must have overheard me talking baby talk because he came into the kitchen to ask, “Who are you talking to?”

“Hugh, look! A stinkbug! He’s so cute! Can we keep him? Please?”

“Well, OK, but we’ll have to have him neutered, and it’s your job to walk him.”

“What should we name him?”

“I’ll leave that to you. I have to go write my next book.”

So I made a teeny leash for Stinkums from dental floss, although I couldn’t really find his neck, and built a big cage from screening mesh. Well, it wasn’t that big, but I figured it would seem big to a stink bug. I gave him a little water dish and a burned-out halogen light bulb to play with, because I heard they like halogen bulbs. I fed him rotten fruit. We didn’t have him neutered, since he was always either on his leash or in his cage. How much trouble could he get into?

He seemed happy enough to live with us, though, and I was glad to have such a sweet-tempered pet. He sat on my finger and listened when I talked to him, but one awful evening he was not in his cage.

I ran outdoors; suppose he had gotten out of the house? How would I find him? I went into the garden and called, “Stinkums? Are you out here? Stinkums? I have some rotten apples for you!”

No answer.

“OK, fine, I’ll buy you that little toy Ferris wheel you want for your cage! Just come home; I miss you! I love you unconditionally; please?”

Tearfully, I went inside and looked all over. Even in my son’s room, the last repository of lost things. No pet.

“Don’t worry,” said Hugh. “I’ll get you another one…”

“ I DON’T WANT ANOTHER ONE!” I sobbed. “I want Stinkums!”

“There, there,” said Hugh. “I know what you need.”

And, in the way of our family, we all gathered in the living room to watch the funniest movie we could think of to cheer up. That night it was “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” I started smiling right away.

Just at the scene where Pee-Wee walks into a bath tub in his clothes, shoes and socks, and we were all laughing out loud, I heard the worst sound I could possibly hear.

I heard the buzz of wings, and I knew, just knew, it was my bug, soaring toward the lit halogen lamp.

Maybe he wasn’t happy living with us after all.

“NO, STINKUMS!” I yelled. “DON’T DO IT!”

But it was over in a matter of seconds.

Buzz, buzz, sizzle, sizzle, STINK!

P.U! They sure named those bugs right!

We unplugged the lamp and took it and the charred remains outside.

While Stinkums’ soul soared to stink heaven, we went back inside to see the rest of the movie. I put half of a peanut bar on the rug to tempt Stinkums magically back to life, then realized how stupid that was and ate it myself.

By the end of the movie, with a peanut bar in me, I felt much better. All better.

I have a passionate nature, not a deep one.

“You know, Hugh, I don’t think I want another stink bug. I was thinking about getting a female and naming her Cinderella, but calling her ‘Cinders,’ just in case,” I said.

“But maybe I won’t. We were happy before we had a pet; right?”