It may surprise you to learn that, in spite of how well I care for Gizmo, I’ve not always been the best at pet care. Inspired by a story I read on another blog and a Facebook post by a girl I know, I decided to create a blog series about the many aquatic pets I’ve had. They all have stories worth sharing and, in my opinion, worth reading.
When I was 6 or 7, my sister brought home a goldfish from a carnival – the very first pet ever allowed in my parents home. My mom had always been very opposed to carnival goldfish. I assume she didn’t feel the carnival treated them with the appropriate care, thus making them have short life spans and, ultimately, making children learn a hard lesson about death much too early in their adolescent lives. Either that or she didn’t want to be tasked with feeding the thing. Either way, we put him in a plastic fish bowl exactly like those that now house large amounts of watered down alcohol at beach-front bars and kitschy theme restaurants. As an aside, if you’ve ever doubted my ability as a fierce competitor, Erin and I have (on two separate occasions) taken and succeeded in a bet to finish an entire fishbowl by ourselves without stopping…basically one long long long chug, but that’s a story of my mid/early 20s for another time. Anyway… As a first time pet owner, I was unaware of the needs of my new friend – Fishkel. There were no pebbles or rocks in the bottom of his bowl. There were no plastic ferns. No castles. Just a plastic bowl filled with room temperature water and a carnival prize goldfish. His life was exciting. I tapped on his bowl a lot and talked to him about everything a 6 or 7 year old has to share about her daily doings.
None of this information is pertinent to why Fishkel deserves a blog. The story actually begins when he died. Not too shortly after his becoming part of the family, he went belly-up. I was so hurt and upset (as I’m sure my mother so expertly predicted would be the case) that I requested we bury him in the backyard rather than flush him. My dad is a super hero and a real trooper, so he scooped Fishkel’s lifeless body and put him in an empty cardboard jewelry box coffin. We were all set to bury him, except it was January and the weather in Chicagoland in January is not conducive to shoveling a hole in the ground and standing outside for a proper burial. So Fishkel and his coffin (rubber banded closed, in case he became an evil fish demon and came back to haunt me) was given a special shelf in the garage until the ground thawed. Where we promptly forgot about him and he rotted. About 7 or 8 months later we remembered he was there, or rather, our nostrils forced us to recall the existence of his body. We were walking around the garage trying to find the source of the putrid scent which led us to a small cardboard box with a rubber band around it. Horrified, I begged my dad to open the box and make sure it was Fishkel and that his bones were still in there. My childhood self was certain Fishkel was so mad at us for forgetting about him that he came back as an evil fish demon. After confirming he was, in fact, not an evil fish demon, we buried him in the back yard. No service. Nothing proper about it.
In hind sight, the fact that my parents ever allowed another pet in my childhood home baffles me. We let a fish carcass rot in our garage for half a year. My responsibility level has increased slightly since then. I assure you. I think…