Wednesday, December 12, 2012
As many of you are no doubt aware, I received a Beta fish last July from as a well meaning (if somewhat misdirected) thank you. At first I was worried that I was going to kill the darn thing, a common fear of mine whenever I inherit another living organism. It has been a number of months and the fish is still alive and doing very well despite the number of times I’ve wanted to kill the darn thing.
When we first inherited Pet (creative name don’t you think?) my current assistant immanently wanted to flush it down the toilet because she thought he’d be too much trouble. As she was threatening the creature’s impending demise she was also begging that we get a dog. I believe that if you are entrusted with any life form, you are morally obligated to give it the best care you can possibly give it, which is difficult to translate into “Let’s flush a live fish down the toilet.” So I made it clear, the fish was staying. Forget about a dog.
About ten weeks later the creature met with its first fiasco as his tank was going in for its weekly clean. Apparently, Pet decided to leap out of the cup he had been transferred into and directly under the stream of extremely hot water which was being used to clean his bowl. My assistant shrieked, quickly trying to end the steaming hot assault on his poor body. When she finally got Pet back into his home, he was clearly in shock and hung out listlessly in the water refusing to eat or even respond to stimuli for days. The young woman felt awful and equally appeared to be a combination of in agony and apathetic for days. If he appeared to be motionless she would fearfully tap on his cage despite my protestations that the creature needed his rest. I kept trying to tell her that nature had an amazing way of healing itself, but she was convinced that she had killed the same fish which she had originally wanted to flush down the toilet.
Ten days later, Pet was looking better than ever and we were both in love with the blue miracle fish.
And then the really annoying thing happened, Pet started costing me money. Lots of money. So much so that I was halfway tempted to flush the fish down the toilet myself.
How can a perfectly healthy beta fish start costing someone a ton of money you may ask? Well, this is what can happen when you use your globe like flower vase as a fish bowl even though it was never intended to be used in such a way. And then you don’t have a real fish bowl to put the fish into you use a plastic bowl as you wait for your the Biorb aquarium you ordered off of eBay to arrive because with all the research you’ve done on beta fish you’ve been told over and over that the animals need a much larger capacity tank and a water filter. Then the fish tank comes and even though this is a much larger fish tank than the flower vase, the hole on top is actually much smaller so the plastic ornaments which were working so well in the last environment won’t fit in the new one so you have to order a new set because apparently beta fishes need to hide in order to feel safe. Then, of course I had to buy a vacuum thingy to change the water because the new bowl was too heavy when filled, to lift each week and take to the sink. And, of course, I needed to by a backup filter because I had no idea how long the first one would last. By the time I spent over one hundred and fifty pounds due to a broken flower vase and a fish in need of a new piece of aquatic real estate I was wondering why I didn’t flush him down the toilet and into a watery grave to begin with. It didn’t help either that my assistant was now in love with Pet, and couldn’t understand why I was so frustrated.
There is nothing about life that is free. Existence is free but life is not. Even on the most basic biological level, one has to spend calories to keep alive. Life, whether thrust upon you by a well meaning friend, or something you have to struggle to keep in possession of, is always at a cost and requires a level of responsibility. To take on a life be it child, fish, plant, or animal, is to accept the condition that you will provide the creature with best care possible, listening to its needs and watching it grow. This can be hugely satisfying but life comes at a price, even something as mild as buying a fishbowl and a few plastic plants. There’s no such thing as a pet that requires no care, or a plant that isn’t on some level a responsibility. Even myself, who foolishly thought she would just watch someone else do all of the care-taking for a fish, ended up taking out her credit card to ensure the fish got everything he needed for life.
A lot of new graduates that come through here remark that they never knew life was so expensive. What they mean of course is. . . Well, exactly what they said. That in between the food and the shampoos and the taxes and the health care, there usually seems to be very little left over. But life has a bigger expense bill than that even, it takes a willingness and effort which is hard to muster in difficult times. Life costs something.
Things have pretty much hit an equilibrium again with Pet. Now that I’ve bought him a proper aquarium and all the bits and bobs hopefully my bank account will have some time to recover and we can settle into a bit more of a fish care routine. I don’t think taking care of him will ever be so easy I forget he’s around but I’m not sure I want to either. I want to remember that all of life has to be nurtured and cared for, and that part of living is to care for whatever life comes your way.