…Holly took her first steps in caring for a living creature.
When I woke up Sunday morning I knew very little about goldfish and their care except for a distant memory of winning a goldfish at a carnival as a kid and that fish lasting not more than a day in my fishbowl. So when our synagogue, Congregation Shomrei Emunah, added a win-a-live-goldfish game and Holly played it with Grandma and Grandpa standing by during our performance, I was very surprised to see her walking toward the stage area with a plastic bag in her hand and a little being swimming inside of it.
The fact that Holly’s school friends also won goldfish seemed to make it a communal experience that all these children were now going to experience a rite of passage at the same time – the responsibility of caring for a living creature. Of course, my mind went immediately to…”We have to get a fishbowl!” – a notion that was quickly corrected for us at Brookdale Pet Center in Bloomfield where the salesperson guided us toward a more suitable habitat for a new goldfish — a small aquarium kit with a pump and a filter. Suddenly, I was plunged into a world of learning about how to more properly care for a goldfish. Holly picked out the “tie dye” colored gravel to line the bottom of the aquarium. There was so much to learn, like that a goldfish has the potential to live 45 years and grow to a foot in length, that their gender doesn’t become apparent until they;re at least a year old, that shelled green peas help them pass waste products more easily.
When we got home and got our fish, which Holly had named Rosie Elisa (She names every stuffed animal Rosie and the middle name Elisa is the name of a close friend of Holly’s), settled in the aquarium, I decided to do some more research on how to care for our little aquatic animal. I came across this article about the 12 mistakes new goldfish owners usually make. I discovered in the process that there were a few steps I could have done better or had more awareness of when getting our fish situated.
Holly sang to the fish, spoke to the fish and kept running up the stairs during dinner to go into her room and look at her cute new pet. I had taken this close-up picture of Holly’s fish so she could print it out and take it to school to show her friends. When she saw the printed picture yesterday morning, she laughed with delight at the full-page image.
When I left for work yesterday, that was the last time I’d see Holly’s goldfish alive. When I went upstairs to check on her after returning from work, our new friend was motionless and unresponsive. A few unanswered taps on the tank confirmed the worst. She was gone a little more than a day after being awarded to Holly in a carnival game.
In an impromptu memorial ceremony in Holly’s room, I thanked Rosie’s memory for teaching us so much about caring for a living being. Holly tearfully told Rosie’s memory that she loved Rosie and didn’t want her to die. Amy complimented Rosie’s memory on what a wonderful swimmer she was and how loved she was.
I then took Rosie outside the house for a dignified burial in our garden right near where some daffodils were shooting up through the ground and preparing to bud.
Going On with Our Mission
Having been thrust into a scenario where we suddenly had to learn so much about care of a goldfish, I was prepared to accept the risk of loss. I was even able to accept the loss itself when it happened. What I was not prepared to do was give up and turn our backs on all we had learned. I proposed that we go out and get new fish, maybe two, last night. Amy and Holly were unanimous. We went out to Petco (they happened to have later hours than Brookdale Pet) and chose two comet goldfish. Holly named them “Rosie” and “Rosie.” I suggested “Rosie II” and “Rosie III” so we can keep a special memory of the original “Rosie.”
I applied more of the tips I had learned about acclimating fish to a new aquarium this time. Last night was Rosie II and Rosie III’s first stay in their new digs. These fish appear to have had an easier transition to our home than did our original one. They did not have to face the long hours in a plastic bag being bounced around during the carnival followed by the sudden shock of different water in an aquarium. These two new fish were in a larger double bag of water for their short trip home. This time I had the advice of Petco’s resident fish expert on how I could float their bag in the new water that would later become their habitat. This helps ensure the most even possible transition from the water in the bag to the new water. Shock from sudden changes in water temperature and therefore body temperature can lead to life-threatening complications.
It finally came time to introduce our two fish to their new home; I improvised with a bathroom cup instead of a net and cautiously proceeded to transfer Rosie II and Rosie III to their aquarium. They currently reside in a 2.5 gallon tank which is OK for very young goldfish, but they will soon outgrow this tank like toddlers outgrowing their cribs. It appears that our near future holds the need for a 30 gallon+ aquarium to comfortably sustain these living beings and see them thrive and grow.
I explained to Holly that pets are not replaceable – each living being has its own soul and personality. But we can love and care for these two new goldfish as a way to honor Rosie I and everything she had taught us, and all the ways she made us better people.
In the span of one day we went from unsuspecting new pet owners to diligent students of owning a pet to a grieving family to people who get back up on the horse and try again. Tell us in the comments about experiences you’ve had with your kids that relate to this story.