If I were my own best friend I would tell myself love shows up in unusual ways and at unexpected times.
***There are a few important facts that help set the stage for this story.
- The little guy recently got his first pet – a red fish – which after much deliberation he decided to name “Fish.”
- The little guy is just over two years old so actual care of Fish tends to fall to the larger family members (i.e. me).
- We chose a fish because we wanted a low maintenance pet.
- Fish (meaning all fish, not just our fish) can get constipated.
(Disclaimer: This post is longer than usual. The short version is I spent a long time on a Friday night figuring out how to hand feed our pet fish mashed peas so he could stop being constipated (i.e. poop and be able to use his swim bladder again to float) and go on living a happy life being tortured by the blue dinosaur I put next to his tank to be his friend. Heh heh heh. Oh yeah, and be loved by the little guy. Love is weird.)
The longer version: It was an average Friday evening after dinnertime and we were getting the little guy ready for bed. I was looking forward to some end of the week, feet up, TV on, veg time. My partner in crime suddenly noticed that Fish was not swimming around in his tank. He was not bobbing gently or swishing in circles or trying to attack the large blue dinosaur I put next to his tank to be his friend. Nope.
Fish was floating on his side. At the top of the tank. Inflated two to three times larger then normal size. Flapping his little flippers. And not looking very good. “Aaaacck” was my first thought. A four letter word was my second.
A phone call to the pet shop and a short drive later with a water sample from the tank it was determined that bad water, bad pH, inappropriate nitrates, bacteria, virus, and fungus were not the culprits. Three “fish guys” were holding court around the water samples trying to decide what might be wrong with Fish.
As the pet shop prepared to close they all agreed that Fish was most likely constipated. Say what?!?! Fish can get blocked up?? This came as a surprise to me, so I sarcastically quipped, “so what, now I need to give my fish a laxative?”
The three fish guys looked at me and in all seriousness said “yes” in unison. Huh. Apparently fish can get constipated and they have this thing called a swim bladder that then gets blocked up and when that gets blocked up the fish cannot inflate/deflate to go up/down in the water. (That’s the simple version they gave me.) “So, I assume you guys sell some sort of laxative drops,” I asked desperately hoping this was true, because it was late, I was tired, and putting a couple drops in the water sounded fairly easy.
“Nope” was the response. “You have to mash up some green peas and feed them to the fish.” (Seriously?? My fish is floating on his side at the top of the tank… He runs for the farthest corner when I drop food in on a healthy day. How on earth am I going to get him to eat from a spoon???)
And with that the pet store closed. I drove home trying to figure out how I was going to get Fish to eat mashed peas. Upon arriving home I was immediately enticed by my big comfy couch, something mindless on TV, and the thought of putting up my feet. And then I looked at Fish.
And that’s when it first hit me. I realized I loved that little red critter if for no other reason then he is part of our family and I get to scare the fish poop out of him with the turquoise dinosaur. Alright, get to work…
Thirty minutes later I am starting to panic a little as Fish is still mostly circling the surface and has now turned a pink shade (not his usual brilliant red). I have tried three different baby spoons and a syringe without luck. The bottom of the bowl is littered with pieces of mashed pea. I am hoping there is some diffusion going on and Fish is ingesting at least a little bit somehow, someway. I briefly consider making a mug of mashed pea slurry, bathing him in it and then returning him to his tank…
That’s when I decide to put a little mashed pea on the end of my finger. I slowly put my finger in the water, edge it gently towards Fish and… he eats it!
Hallelujah! Lights and choirs and singing and more lights! I literally jump. In the kitchen. At 9:30 at night. And cheer. Because I finger fed Fish mashed peas. Love. Plain and simple. (And maybe a little insanity but mostly love.)
A few more pieces of pea later I decide that is enough. Fish is still circling the top but I am hopeful the peas will do their magical thing and Fish will recover. I wish I could hug him and tell him it will be okay. Some part of me realizes this is a fish and if I wanted to hug our pet I would have pushed harder for a puppy or a kitty or a guinea pig. And some part of me says what the heck is going on, aren’t fish supposed to be low maintenance?? And another part of me feels good because I can go to bed now knowing I did everything I could for the smallest member of our family.
And that’s it – love shows up in unexpected ways. Feeding mashed peas to a fish off of my finger at 9:30 on a Friday night. Both for love of the fish and love of the little guy. (Smile.)
[Epilogue: For those curious souls who want to know what happened to Fish… The peas totally worked! I woke up the next morning afraid to look feeling pretty certain I was going to find a not so healthy looking Fish, but there he was completely back to normal. Circling the tank. Swimming gracefully up and down. At his normal size! There was a rather hefty fish dropping on the floor of the tank. And later there were some odd bubbles at the surface that I cleaned out. So perhaps the “fish guys” were right – Fish was a little blocked up, a little gassy, and needed a little fishy fiber! As of today he remains happy, healthy, and “best friends” with a turquoise dinosaur.]