Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Fish Called Mystery

This is not about mystery meat found in my boy's cafeteria or weird, mystery-content breaded fish sticks. This is actually a story about a fish lucky enough to be named Mystery.

I feel pretty bad for your average goldfish. What other species of animal can be bought for 29-cents at any local petstore or mega-chain and then humiliated in ping pong ball tosses, gutter races and fraternity eating contests? If a dog was getting this treatment, you would find the ASPCA on the doorstop and even if it was a cat, horse or rabbit you might find the offender featured on Animal Cops on the Animal Planet channel.

That's just not so for the unlucky goldfish. At a beach party over the weekend, the day started as a fun event for little kids. Cookie walks, scavenger hunts, swimming, swinging and sliding. And then I saw it. A guy lifts a giant, clear bag out of a cooler, the plastic glinting in the sun full of wiggling goldfish. Oh, no, here comes the ridiculous humiliation of gold fish in a gutter race. Sheesh.

For the most part, I try not to freak out about the small things. I allow my kids the pizza and lemonade once a week for school lunch, the occasional treat from the corner store and candy at the baseball games. However, animal cruelty in any form - that's just not happening, even to a goldfish.

Is this how our species learned to tolerate feedlot farms of cows 100 to a pen standing in their own manure? Or to accept eggs from chickens confined to a pen so small they can't turn around? Was it because we lost touch with the basic concept of respect for another living thing? No, the goldfish won't play fetch or chase a fuzzy toy mouse, but does it deserve to be thrown into icy cold hose water and shoved down a little gutter for our amusement? I look around and no one seems surprised or bothered in the slightest - parent or child - and this upsets me. Someone hands my son a plastic cup with a fish floating listlessly in sediment orange-tinted hose water and tells him "Go Race!"

All of four years old my son looks up at my face. Mom, what is his name? I don't know, I tell him. What do you think it is? His little voice says quietly, his name is a mystery because I don't know where he came from. I say, I don't think he should race, do you? Fish aren't meant for racing, you see, they are little and fragile so let's keep him safe and warm him up, OK? The fish stayed at our table, refreshed with room temperature bottled water and the boy had much more fun watching his new friend than playing any game.

Mystery, the fish, now resides in a castle in a comfortable bowl filled with clean water on our kitchen table. If taking care of a fish for awhile teaches my son to respect all living things, no matter how small, it will be well worth the effort. Mystery, my friend, you sure did get lucky to find us!


Joyce said...

You should name it Lucky, instead! 'Cause that's what it is, for being rescued by you guys.

Green Bean said...

Okay, again, my eyes welled up reading this. You've got to stop doing this to me. Or possibly it is because my cat of 15 years - pre-husband, pre-kids, will likely have to be put to sleep tomorrow.

How is it that we are able to distance ourselves from living things? Shut off part of our heart and see only what we want, what we think is convenient or fun? You are so right that we need to teach our children to treat animals well and also that even if we just save one small thing - if you just save this one small fish - it is making a difference. For one small fish and one small boy.

Chile said...

I have a goldfish named Connie. I'm sorry to say that I won him (?) in a street fair pingpong ball toss that I only participated in at the request of an ex-co-worker whose daughter was running the booth. So, I brought the fish home and we plunked him in a bowl. The next day, I bought gravel and food.

We started researching goldfish and their care, finding out that they need more oxygen, really, than they can get from the surface area of a fishbowl. They'll live healthier and longer with a tank and with an aerator. So, we bought the fish a tank and an aerator.

This 10 cent streetfair fish has now cost over $100. I was conned. Now you know why his name is Connie.

eco 'burban mom said...

joyce - Yes, lucky would be a good name, I have always told the boys no fish. Sigh. So much for not spending anything!

Green Bean - I am so sorry to hear about your cat. Animals hold a special place in our hearts and our family. I hope for the best for you and your kitkat.

Chile - LOL, Connie is an AWESOME name. I know you're right about the tank and bubbler, but I was thinking this guy probably wouldn't live for more than a day or two, coming from hose water and all. Of course, now he's zipping around the bowl like mad looking healthy as a horsefish. Mystery has already gotten us for $20 for gravel, a bowl, castle and food. If he makes it a couple more weeks, I will see if I can find an inexpensive tank and bubbler. Just one more thing for me to clean... Though, I enjoy knowing you rescue fish too!