December 2013 we had just moved into our new house. My son had been waiting about a year to get a fish at this point, and over winter break, I obliged him. We picked a one gallon beta-friendly tank with a filter and light, and my son picked out his shiny new blue dragon fin beta. We picked a decoration – a sunken ship – and took him home.
My son was elated. EEEEElated. The quiet soothing hum of the filter was soothing to his nerves, I think, and i’m sorry we didn’t do this sooner. The soft light was also a night light. My son sat up and read to that fish every night for the first two weeks we had him. He was very responsible (for a seven year old) and fed him every morning and evening. We always checked to be sure he was fed, and 80% of the time, he had been. My son needed few reminders considering how many times he needs to be reminded where his shoes are.
Last Nov/Dec I noticed “Shipwreck” was growing a white lump on the side of his head. It didn’t look good. We went to the pet store and the fish specialist quietly let me know they had seen the same thing on a lot of their fish. She told me it didn’t look good as I was purchasing the overpriced ineffective beta medicine. For 7 days we followed the instructions, but the lump got bigger.
To his credit, the fish was still eating and swimming and fairly happy, if not a tad lopsided. We decided it was time to have the talk with my son about pets dying. We talked and talked about it, as the fish went on swimming…. for months. … and months.
Since last November we’ve sort of been expecting to find this fish floating upside down, and he’s constantly proven us wrong. My son took it as a testament for how well he took care of him.
Last night I checked on the fish before my son went up to his room and found him stuck to the filter intake pipe. A sure sign of demise, right?! I had a panicky moment of finding the right cord to unplug so if nothing else, my son wouldn’t find him stuck to the vacuum in death.
Lo and behold, that little f-er swam away as soon as that filter was unplugged.
He swam away sideways and only half alive, but he was still alive! This is the fish that wouldn’t die !
This morning we all dealt with the reality that the fish probably wont be ‘here’ when my son gets out of school and everyone was cool with this. My husband then pressed the issue about what we were going to do with the body – against my unsolicited advice – and this sent the kids over the edge. Crying ensued.
On the way to drop off, my son and I had a heart to heart and I think he was feeling better by the time he ran off to recess. I got home, and immediately began cleaning out the tank. I would be damned if we had to watch this zombie fish flounder for another day. It’s one thing to prepare everyone for death, it’s quite another to wait expectantly for three months while varying degrees of sadness and decay take over while the thing is still shaking a fin.
When I worked at Petco 100 years ago, my manager would put the dead/dying small animals and fish in a bag and put them in a freezer. This, she claimed, was the most humane way to dispose of and be sure the animal died. Short of thunking them on the head with a brick. I promptly caught the limp zombie fish in his original cup and placed it in the freezer as I cleaned out and repackaged all the aquatic accoutrements and put it all in the garage. I didn’t want my son to have to see things laying about the house reminding him the fish was finally dead. .. in turn causing the 4 year old to incessantly question the wings and bridges and heavens and clouds and habits of those that have crossed over before us for hours on end. (she is STILL talking and asking about my mom’s cat that was put to sleep last fall) In fact, she was asking about the cat and now the fish to her big brother who finally said something to the effect of, “Yea yea yea, the rainbow bridge. Can we play now?!”
After boxing, packing, and
hiding storing everything in the garage, i peek in the freezer and find this damned fish swimming in his cup like the day we brought him home.
Oh. My. God.
What’s a mom gotta do to kill a damned fish around here?!?!?!
sidenote: we have a septic system, so flushing him seemed horrifying to me considering what he’d spend his final
moments days/weeks/months dying in.
So here’s to the eventual demise of the world’s most stubborn, sick, deformed, and decayed Beta fish.
R.I.P. Shipwreck. You were loved …. until you weren’t.