Monday, January 30, 2012

Fishy business.

Little Boozle 2011

Those of you who have been hanging around this blog for a while know that this household is home
to 2 (crazy, perpetually starving) cats and 1 (not-very-intelligent-but-well-meaning) Staffy
(with a keen attraction for offensive smells*)

(*I'll get back to that later)

They shower us with love, affection, body fluids and disdain
in varying amounts
but that affection, that tactile love, is what makes them part of our family.

When our 8 year old decided that he wanted a lizard,
I decided that Mr Boozle was in charge.
I am not scared of lizards and I don't dislike them
but I just didn't want to have to take on the whole...well, lizard-business-thingy-stuff.


The oldest of the Boozle offspring was told that he needed to save up $50
and then we would look into it.
That would give us a few years, we figured,
giving his lack of willpower when it came to the lolly aisle at the supermarket.
But I will admit he surprised us.
He got $2 per week pocket money at the time,
and he dutifully (some may say anally) started saving.

So he didn't seem to take long to reach that magical $50 mark,
meanwhile reading library books about frilled-neck lizards.
To our credit, we ignored the urge to tell him that 
every pet shop in Adelaide had closed for the next 10 years
and off he and daddy went to suss things out.

Two hours later they returned,
muttering "lots needed to set up" and "500 bucks for the lizard alone"
and there it was.


I just don't get the attraction of fish in a tank.
Yes, they can be pretty pretty pretty
and it can be relaxing to lie back and watch them.
(You know, as your three offspring are running around the house screaming hysterically
and causing each other to bleed or projectile vomit)

But you can't pat them.
They wont curl up at the foot of your bed of a night.
(Well, they would curl up...literally...while agonal gasping)
You can't really name them- if you have any decent numbers.
And they die.
...Well, short of some fishy CPR, each one only dies once
but you know what I mean...

I did my best to talk my son into an axolotl (Mexican Walking Fish)
I love them and they are cool.
At least they have a bit of personality.

(Look at him. What's not to love?)


Plus they are meant to be hardy and difficult to knock off.
(I didn't tell him that, as a veterinary Uni student,
I killed mine in about 2 weeks.
Sorry, Rupert, buddy.
I still think of you often)

But I think the idea of 12 fish beat the idea of 1 amphibian.
Quantity over quality.

So we (yes, the royal "we". Actually they) got everything set up and waiting for the tank to settle.
Bought home some fish then a week later, we bought home some more.

Then, 3 days later, it happened.

My son woke to multiple fatalities.
Dead and dying fish.
Specifially 2 dead fish sucked onto the filter, 1 dying fish upside down near the bottom
(never a healthy stance for fish, I have found)
and 1 devasted 8 year old who was still crying through his 3rd helping of French toast.

It turns out that we didn't have a net because
"daddy said that we weren't going to have any dead fish"
Lucky for daddy that he was at work or he would have been bruised.
Very, very bruised.
No dead fish?
Pragmatism and desperation (certainly not a veterinary degree)
played some role in creating a makeshift net using muslin, rubber bands and a pasta server.

There was never going to be any Nemo-hollywood-cartoon-flushing-burials happening here
(which surprisingly was not even suggested by any of the kids)
and, after launching into a poetic speech supporting my son's obvious choice of a lovely garden burial,
it turns out that he was going to go with binning the deceased.
So he got a life lesson in what mummy considers appropriate in such circumstances
and we decided that they should be buried in the garden.
Really, really deeply.
On a cool day.
Just in case the not-very-intelligent-but-well-meaning Staffy with a keen attraction for offensive smells
(as mentioned above)
got an attack of the munchies.

It turns out that we had gotten 2 lots of dodgy advice about our first fish purchases.
One type of fish were too sensitive and shouldn't be put into a newly set tank
or they might die.
(Yeah. Really? Couldn't miss that little weakness)
The others were too big for the tank
and would eventually grow big enough to start eating the other fish.
Obviously only they hadn't already died from being put into a newly set up tank.

So we have started again.
We have new fish (which seem hardier. So far. Touch wood)
Plus I now know far more than I want to know about fish excretions and ammonia levels.
(As a vet I didn't treat a single fish)
The novelty has waned a little and the 8 year old is already forgetting to do the nightly feeding routine.

I have concern that, with repeated deaths,
my son might become a little immune to pet mortality
and, while that would be less scarring for him,
I would find that loss of emotional response to be distressing.

But, for now, if you go poking around in our freezer looking for icecream,
you might just find a little, rahter ornate fishy iceblock.
It has been so hot here,
we haven't had an official burial yet.

It has cooled down now
so we can get on with things.

(...And while we are at it,
we really should scatter the ashes from our other pets
whom we have lost over the past 8 years.
We said that we would do it once we had the garden finished...
which happened about 3 and 1/2 years ago.
I must go find them...)
Little Boozle 2011

Oh, and because I just know that someone will ask...
The cats don't seem too excited by the fish yet
They have set their sights on that lovely smelly fish food and have been trying to run off with that.
My 8 year old and I can live with that.


Lola Nova said...

Oh don't get me started on fish! We are now down to fewer numbers than ever before, due to the fact that we have not replaced any in the last several months. The hardiest among the lot seem to be 2 small bottom feeders in the catfish family, they have been with us for over a year.

Of course now the girl is "Dying!" for a guinea pig. Lord help us!

Tania said...

I waited for a full year for Carnivorous Fish to die. Things were getting very touch and go what with all the stick insects (LOVELY PETS!) hatching and real estate being at a premium.

I am now going to email you to tell you what I have in my freezer...

Sally said...

I like cats. I don't get either. I once woke up to find a dead gold fish on my pillow. Lesson. Don't have a fish tank on your bedside table.

Posie Patchwork said...

I love that 2 vets can't keep a fish alive. I never wanted fish, as we move all the time & like you, in a bowl, a tad pointless. Anyway, my sister gifted my eldest a Siamese Fighthing fish, so annoyed. I found them the most impossible things to keep alive, as of course, the pet shop aquarian owners see repeat business as a positive??!! It wasn't pretty, there was a grave & we all agreed, German Shepherds are much easier to keep alive, have a purpose & give so much more love back!! Love Posie

Posie Patchwork said...

Oh dear, i wrote 'aquarian' instead of 'aquarium' so embarrassed, especially to a vet!! I am an aquarian if that excuses my spelling?? Love Posie