When Fido went from dressing up as a ghost to being one last Halloween, I feared I would never recover from his unexpected passing. But as my family and I sat around the dinner table that fateful night, staring at our luke-warm cheese dip through eyes clouded by salty tears, a realization struck: for the first time in years, my parents were within six feet of each other and not fighting. I have since developed a foolproof plan for all the other children whose moms and dads haven’t slept in the same room for six years: always have a dying pet. 

Now, I am not saying you have to go out and murder animals—I’m a vegetarian for Christ’s sake—but some animals can handle this part all on their own. If you adopt something like a fish, let’s say, you can have a death every 7-14 days. I have also come to the conclusion that a pet plant will work in a pinch, but you really have to sell it. You can probably only use a “plant death” once, and pet rocks are out of the question.

But even with these scheduled deaths, it is critical to preserve shock value or the tragedies might lose their bonding power. Each death must be increasingly traumatizing for both you and your parents. For the first week, go ahead and say Flounder died of natural causes. The next week, ask your mom to feed your fish but only remind her about half the time, so that she is responsible for their malnourishment and untimely death. The guilt will eat her alive, and who will she seek out for comfort? The man she foolishly chose to conceive with eighteen years ago. 

If you aren’t comfortable with actually killing the creatures, there are some easy alternatives to pet genocide. My solution: simply hide your scaly/leafy/slimy friends somewhere else. You can set up an additional secret fishtank in your room or, if your parents are particularly nosy, just keep them in your toilet and never flush. Don’t worry about this being an inconvenience. If it works, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t, then you’ll have two homes with two bathrooms soon enough.

—M. Elliott