Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eulogy for a fish

Listening to:
American V: A Hundred Highways, Johnny Cash.

Two more years. OK, a little less than 23 months. That's how much time I bought for my little handicapped fish by choosing not to put him "out of his misery."

And probably he would still be here today, if I had hung around to watch the fish eat the other day.

Longer-time readers will recall this little guy, who seemed to me to be on his last, err, legs in March '07. In fact I thought he was already gone, laying on his side at the bottom of the pond fishes' winter quarters, but when I reached down with the net to scoop his body out, he scooted away.

What I wrote then:
For several mornings now, I have come in to feed the fish and found this little one on its side at the bottom. When I come with the net, he rights himself, and when I set the net aside and drop the food on the surface, he wriggles all the way up - taking one or two wide, shaky arcs to get there - and grabs a flake or two. He's obviously sustained some physical damage, because he tends to overshoot the surface and get his whole face out of the water in his effort to grab some food.

No doubt the "humane" thing to do would be to "put the poor thing out of its misery." My guess is he's had the fishy equivalent of a stroke and may never be "right" again. But as long as he's so interested in food that he makes that daily struggle to the top, I think I'll let him and nature decide when it's time to kick off. Every little life deserves that chance.
Two summers and a winter-and-a-half later, he was still doing fine. More days than not, he'd just hang around on the bottom, but he never failed to come up when the food came out. And he didn't just lie on his side when it wasn't suppertime; especially during the summer, he'd do some bopping around the water in his shaky little way. And he'd still often overshoot the surface; I think that's what went wrong in the end.

This little fish became a role model of sorts for me. Don't let the setbacks keep you down, he seemed to be saying. Even when you're not quite right, you can still reach the surface and survive another day.

The last time I went in to feed the fish, I noticed the water level was a little down, so I filled the tank back up a little, until the water was a couple of inches from the top. Then I tossed the fish food in, watched for a few seconds - I always made sure the little guy could still make his way up - and then I left the room.

Today, I found my little guy on the floor outside the tank. My guess is he got up his energy and launched himself at the food, overshot the surface and went over the side.

He's only the second fish whose death ever made me cry. Remind me to tell you the other story sometime. I didn't think it was appropriate to drop him down the toilet or into the garbage, so I found a leaf pile that wasn't frozen and mixed him in with the outdoors. Silly, I know, to mourn a fish. What can I say?

But still - two more years. OK, 23 more months. That's how much time he gained because I decided not to "put him out of his misery," and not once did he ever seem to be in misery anyway.



Anonymous sunni said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, B.W. And no, I don't think it's silly at all to mourn a fish, nor anything that that inspires or motivates us, or loves us. Here are some warm coily squeezes for you:

{{{{{{{ :-) }}}}}}}

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am truly and sincerely sorry to hear of the loss of your little fighter.

10:12 PM  

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