Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Taking the plunge

So our lives not being crazy enough, last weekend we decided to buy some goldfish.

This is Katharine. She's the feisty one, who already recognizes Baby Exile as the person who feeds her and reacts accordingly.

And this is Daisy I. I employ the Roman Numeral here to denote the fact that this Daisy is already no longer with us. No sooner had we brought her and Katharine home than we noticed that our little Black Moor goldfish had a strange penchant for lying on the gravel at the bottom of the aquarium for hours on end. Tank shock, perhaps, or maybe poor Daisy was already ill when we bought her at the pet store. Whatever the reason, we spent the weekend agonizing over what we should do about our sick fish - wait it out and see if she recovered, or euthanize her so that she didn't starve to death, as she wasn't even stirring to eat by Sunday evening.

I have had fish die on me before when I kept goldfish in college, but the last time my wife had dealt with pets was when she was a little girl, so she was surprised to see how emotionally involved she had already become with Daisy after only a couple of days. Her theory is that once you name a pet, you've crossed an empathic threshold of sorts, which makes a lot of sense. In fact this is probably the same reason why old-school Greeks don't call their children by name until after they've been baptized (which can be a year or more after their birth in the Orthodox Church), so as to soften the blow if the baby should not survive.

Well, we had already named Daisy, so we had no such emotional luxury. And even though Baby Exile had already seen the Harold and the Purple Crayon episode where Harold's pet fish Goldie dies - and was exceedingly fond of it as well - we could tell that the idea that one of her goldfish might not make it was distressing her greatly. So we decided we would take the coward's way out and "cheat" death by replacing Daisy I with another Black Moor (Daisy II). Yes, I know this is standard operating procedure for parents, but even so we were left with an uncomfortable decision to make: to flush or not to flush?

(Now actually these days the humane thing to do is not to flush a live albeit dying goldfish but to put it in a plastic bag full of cold water and a couple of ice cubes and freeze it, as since fish are cold-blooded creatures being placed in the freezer will simply cause its metabolism to slow down ever so gradually until the creature freezes to death. Apparently however some veterinarians have questioned whether this method is in fact painless or not, and claim that not only can the fish actually feel ice crystals form inside their cells but that it hurts like the dickens as well. These vets suggest poisoning a fish with a solution of clove oil and vodka, but I digress.)

Fortunately however the decision was taken out of our hands, for when I got home from the ophthalmologist's office on Monday I noticed that I couldn't find Daisy I anywhere on the floor of the fishtank. Odd. I checked the surrounding carpet only halfheartedly, as I was sure that a fish that couldn't rouse itself to eat certainly wouldn't have had the strength to leap out of the water. And sure enough, after making a second pass through the aquarium I spotted Daisy at last - her lifeless body had been sucked against the filter's black intake tube, where she was perfectly camouflaged. RIP, Daisy I (died 5/14/07).

Daisy II appears to be much livelier, and we added a third fish to the tank for good measures as well - a calico named "Doc" (no picture yet) who we said helped nurse Daisy back from her illness. Pathetic, I know, but we're new to this whole dead pet business...

No comments: