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Mourning the pet I never wanted

Confession: I am not a pet person.

This is usually met with horror, but I’m just not. I didn’t grow up with pets. My dad is allergic to cats, so they were out.

I was also the kid who wept over the baby bunnies we tried to rescue in the back yard and gave them a funeral when they didn’t survive. I am not here for getting attached to a small creature with which I cannot communicate. And as a SAHM, guess who would get stuck with… er, “bathroom” responsibilities? My days of dealing with poop are over, thankyouverymuch.

So imagine my dismay three years ago when a lady walks up to us at a local carnival, hands my husband a goldfish in a bag, and says, “Here! My boss told me to find a family to give this to!”

The girls were 2 and 5 at the time, and we both feared their first lesson in death was imminent. Because, you know, carnival fish are notorious for going belly-up within a day or two.

This fish, however, lived past the assumed two days. Long enough to acquire a name: Goldie (I know, original). Once she hit about a week, we bought her a fishbowl and some pretty “rocks” for the bottom. I feared all this fancy stuff would traumatize Goldie and *that* would be when she kicked it, but she loved it. In fact, she actually used to bat the rocks around somehow when she got excited.

Goldie was not only feistier than your average carnival goldfish, but I’m pretty sure she was more intelligent. She knew we were the source of food, because any time we walked by, she’d swim toward us like “oh hey, you’re going to feed me now right?” And I’m pretty sure she recognized the fish food container, because if we left it out, she’d swim over and stare at it like she could will more food into her bowl.

I always felt a little guilty about having Goldie. What kind of life did she have in that little bowl? She seemed happy enough; she’d swim over and blow bubbles when Annabelle went over to giggle at her throughout the day.

Alas, last Sunday night I noticed Goldie wasn’t well. Our perpetually-hungry friend couldn’t swim to the top of the water to get her food. She was on her side with an arch to her back. I frantically Googled “how to help an ailing goldfish,” but I got conflicting or irrelevant information. I took to Facebook to see if any friends had dealt with anything similar, but most warned me that Goldie’s time was probably nigh and I should prepare the girls.

And, of course, my too-tender heart cried over that darn fish. I felt guilty because I didn’t do anything beyond trying to poke some food down to her. Her water was clean, and we checked on her throughout the day and talked to her – I told the girls to tell her they loved her while they could – and sent up a prayer to St. Francis of Assisi to intercede for Goldie so she wouldn’t suffer.

Goldie fought it – she’d perk up and start trying to right herself – but she swam over the Rainbow Bridge a few days later.

Sophie and Annabelle took Goldie’s passing hard. They were responsible for Goldie; Sophie fed her in the morning and Annabelle fed her in the evening. They saw her ailing and felt that helplessness of not being able to make it better.

I told them her pain was gone and that she was in fishy heaven and could eat whenever she wanted and it wouldn’t hurt her. Then Annabelle broke my heart by saying, with giant tears in her eyes, “I hope there’s a creek between fishy heaven and people heaven so Goldie can come visit us when we go to heaven.” (commence more tears from me)

We released Goldie’s body into a nearby creek. It seemed the most respectful option. I know that’s probably not environmentally correct, but I also know it’s not a good idea to flush goldfish. I also didn’t want to bury her in the backyard, because there are too many critters around here that like to dig and I did not want to risk the girls seeing Goldie’s grave desecrated – or worse.

The girls are recovering, but I have to catch myself every morning and not remind Sophie to feed Goldie. And every so often, I look over to the spot where her fishbowl resided and do a double take because she’s not there.

But seriously, no more pets. My heart can’t take it.

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