Sunday, April 3, 2011

Disposable Pets

I've added these little fish to the top of my blog. How cool is that? I wish there were more in there, but then I'd probably have to clean out their tank or something...

When I was little, my grade school had a carnival. I don't really remember much about it except that my parents bought tickets, and each booth had a game that cost so many of those tickets. Only one booth remains in my memory. It was the booth where a person tries to throw a ping pong ball into a tiny fish bowl. If you got the ball in the bowl, you won a fish.

Well, my older sister won a fish. And, SHE GAVE IT TO ME!!! I have no idea why she gave it to me. There are seven years between us, and I was pretty much a cramp in her style; however, I gladly accepted the random act of kindness. I now owned a fish! And, I named it Bubbles.

I'll admit it. I was known to be a prissy little girl. I did not do bugs. (Still don't). I did not do dirt because of creatures that enjoy dirt. And, well, I quickly learned that I didn't do fish. I particularly did not do fish in those little bowls. Fish create filth, filth that stinks and needs to be cleaned often. And those little bowls are too little for nets. Therefore, Bubbles needed to be extracted by hand.


No way! No how! Thank goodness my Mom wasn't prissy! Honestly, I get chills on the back of my neck recalling the memory of my mother extracting that fish from its bowl. Ick. Fish. God rest his soul. Bubbles lived a full life, but I was not sad when he went to live in that fish bowl in the sky. May he enjoy clean water for eternity.

A year ago, our younger son was suffering social problems in his classroom at his Montessori school. He had yet to be diagnosed on the spectrum of autism at that time, so we didn't understand the source of his difficulty in social situations. He just wasn't connecting with the group. And, the kids were teasing him. At that time, the classroom fish tank had unexpectedly filled with babies, and the teacher asked me if I were in the market for fish. Remembering Bubbles, I quickly said, "No thank you." No fish in my house!

However, upon mature consideration, I thought that it might be a nice experience for our son if he got to be the one to take home some of the class fish. He would be able to pick them out for all of his classmates to see. It would generate excitement. He would be the center of attention. This could be a good thing. How hard could it be?

Besides, the fish were free.

A couple days later, we walked out of the pet store $150 poorer and the proud owners of a 10 gallon fish tank starter kit/food and a couple plants for the new pets who were to move in this week. Our son was so excited! These fish weren't feeling so "free" any more, but could I really put a price on the boost this was going to give him?

Fish Acquisition Day was every bit as joyous as I had imagined! Our son felt like the Top Dog in his class as he picked which five fish he was going to bring home. We put them in baggies, and off we went to introduce them to the awaiting tank.

I wish I had known that day what I would be getting myself into. But, really, how can one predict an inept salesperson at the pet store selling us two tropical fish to go into our goldfish tank when we wanted to expand our brood? Once discovered, guess who had to take the fish out of the tank to bring them back to the store? This time, I was the mommy, and my mommy lives too far away to help! WAHHH! Nevermind the fact that once I got the fish into a bag and hauled my kids to the store, one of those tropical fish was floating belly up. We came home with two new goldfish, and I decided that our fish family was complete. There was to be no more fish deliveries from the fish stork for us.

And, who would have known that Bubbles could survive in a little bowl with nothing but tap water, but today's fish must have tanks and filters and water conditioners--stuff, stuff and more STUFF!! Even still, how was I to know that you needed to buy some hose-thingy to suck up the rocks to clean out their fish doo doo? I cleaned the water, but I did not regularly clean the rocks, and, after a while, the fish weren't doing so well.

One day, our younger son looked at our tank and said, "Why is that fish so fat?" Good gosh, was that thing PREGNANT???? Nope. It turns out he was bloated from sickness. Who the heck had heard of dropsy, an almost-always fatal bacterial infection fish get from poor water conditions????? Bubbles lived in cloudy water his whole life. These fish were divas, and this house just isn't big enough for more demanding personalities.

In the end, our sick, "free" fish ended up costing around $500 to save. A lot of people asked why I didn't just flush the fish and buy a new one. Fish are disposable pets, after all. They die easily and are easily replaced, I'm told. The answer is simple: I felt guilt. I felt guilty for making the fish sick. I would feel guilty trying to lie to my son, and, ultimately I'm sure I would not have gotten away with it. That kid has a keen eye for detail. I'm sure "Lucky", the fish with nine lives, has some kind of special marking on him that only our younger son has noticed. Replacing him was not an option.

So, we now have two gorgeous tanks on our counter, and our son fawns over them daily. Inwardly, I curse them. When nobody is around, I curse out loud. Yet, my son thinks they are the best things in the world. Sigh. I guess that's why I did it.

However, don't even think about it: I am NOT getting a hamster!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment