The life of Zarf | Two Decades of Kids and Counting | Sally Torbey | Palo Alto Online |

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By Sally Torbey

The life of Zarf

Uploaded: Jul 27, 2014

Are you considering acquiring a tadpole to introduce your young child to the wonders of developmental and marine biology? Consider the possible consequences of such a purchase!

My daughter's friend, Laura, received an African dwarf tadpole for her birthday in first grade. She named her new pet Zarf. As anticipated, Zarf sprouted legs and lost his tail over the next few weeks in a fascinating transition to his adult frog form. With an average life expectancy of five years, Zarf was not expected to survive to see Laura graduate from elementary school, and yet, this year, it is very likely Zarf will still be with us when Laura graduates from college and starts her adult life. Zarf just celebrated his 15th birthday.

Not only has Zarf lived an exceptionally long life (for a frog), he has lived a life of drama, including three close brushes with death, two involving cats. Once, the family was actually in the process of giving Zarf a respectable burial when he twitched. Upon being returned to his tank, he perked up and carried on. It is difficult to tell whether Zarf is dead or alive because he often goes hours without moving at all, lifelessly floating at the water's surface. The family has implemented a two-day rule. No burying Zarf until he has gone more than two days without moving.

Because of Zarf's predilection for appearing dead, it is not easy to find pet sitters for Zarf. We were entrusted with him for a week. He is very low maintenance, a weekly sprinkle of frog food is all he requires, but after a few days it got a little tiresome having every visitor to our home ask why we had a dead frog in our family room, so he was relocated to a less conspicuous location, my daughter's bedroom. She found his lifeless companionship a bit creepy, so he was relegated to the bathroom.

Laura was at our home recently when she received an urgent call from her panicked family. Laura's family consists of the most accomplished, capable and educated people we know. They are intellectual, pragmatic, world travelers who take on life's challenges and crises with admirable composure, wisdom and competence, except when the crisis involves Zarf. Laura was informed that Zarf had trapped his back leg behind a rock that a well-meaning pet sitter (not us) had purchased for Zarf's amusement, and he was drowning. The family demanded Laura return home immediately to rescue him. Laura remained remarkably level-headed, reasoning that if Zarf were drowning, the situation was dire, and he could not wait for her to drive home. In a moment of brilliance, the family repurposed a pair of chopsticks to dislodge Zarf's foot, and reported he was freed but still motionless, unquestionably dead. Sadness descended over us all. The immortal Zarf was no more? Suddenly a burst of cheering and applause emanated from the phone, he twitched! Zarf lives on!

If you decide to acquire a tadpole, make sure you have plans in place for its care for many years to come, as your child may well move out before the frog departs!