When I went to the Scholastic Book Fair as a kid, I was always searching for something cool. Most of the time, it ended up being the beginning of my love for a specific book series. However, there was one memorable time when I picked up a video game. This was back in the 2000s, so what I actually bought was a disk that, once inserted into my family computer, downloaded Paws & Claws Pet School.
Paws & Claws Pet School, the aptly named game, is one in which you teach pets tricks for their owners’ convenience–or to help them become movie stars. Once I began playing, I was hooked. The premise was simple enough, though I remember struggling to have enough food for all the animals as I took on what was perhaps too many caseloads at once. There was a limit to how many of each type of animal you could train at once, but as you completed each of their tasks, the owners would return to take them home. The hardest part of the game was definitely trying not to get attached.
I remember training countless dogs and cats as I began the game, but one pet in particular was memorable. He is still, to this day, the thing I remember the most about the game. I don’t know how it happened, but there was a cat named Tom that I was supposed to be training, and when I finished his tasks, his owner never came back. He still got hungry and needed to be cared for like the other animals, so I ended up taking him in as a pet of my own and feeding and playing with him, even though it didn’t help the game progress.
This got trickier as my pet school expanded, allowing me to train rabbits, horses, and even birds as I became more skilled. I struggled to keep on top of the seemingly insurmountable timed tasks that I had taken on, and I worried that I would begin to fail. There were no true consequences other than not getting paid and having wasted money on food, but I think that’s when I finally stopped playing, and I haven’t started again since.
But that might not be the end of the story. I just discovered that the game is downloadable on Steam, so perhaps there will be more pet school in my future. I hope that you’ll consider trying some of this particular brand of animal-based nostalgia too. The worst-case scenario is that we both spend a couple of hours trying to remember how to navigate an admittedly less-than-modern game. Best-case, we rediscover a forgotten favorite.