At Harper’s Magazine, Anne Fadiman’s hilarious and poignant essay recalls Bunky, an African clawed frog the family kept as a pet until his death at age 16. After years of feeding the required “Stage Two Food Nuggets” that formed Bunky’s diet and regular tank cleanings, Fadiman feels as though the family never did quite right by the frog, despite his longevity. This is a fun and insightful read on what it means to be a pet owner.

George and I agreed that we should wait until Henry and Susannah were both home before we buried Bunky under the weeping cherry, next to Biscuit and Bean. We joked about it, but we were also serious. We never considered throwing him in the trash. We wanted to honor him in death as we hadn’t in life; otherwise we’d be like a family whose photo albums get thinner with each succeeding child, until the last one has no pictures at all. (Come to think of it, we’d never taken a single picture of Bunky.) So Bunky went into the freezer. He’d spent more than a decade on the kitchen counter, so he didn’t have to travel far.

What is a pet? Is it an animal you love, as we loved Typo? Is it an animal you are responsible for, as we were for Bunky? Do you have to be able to pet a pet? Must there be reciprocal affection, or is it enough merely to have a guest in your midst that has a different number of legs, or perhaps no legs at all? Is it enough to house, feed, and bury an animal, to keep it alive for sixteen years, or maybe seventeen, and never understand the first thing about it?