Since our daughter Casey was born over 30 years ago, my family has had a lot of pets. If we made a graphic of all the pets we’ve had, it would look like one of those evolution charts, albeit one of an extremely random species.
It would begin, of course, with a goldfish. We never had much luck with goldfish; no matter what we did, they never seemed to last very long. It was probably because we overfed them. Every time we got bored, we’d say, “Casey, want to feed the fish?” and she’d enthusiastically dump a handful of whatever the fish food was into the aquarium. After a week or so, we’d find the thing with its enormous belly up, give it an undistinguished funeral, and spend $2.99 on another one.
The fish evolved into hermit crabs, which evolved into these weird frogs that came in the mail (we ordered them; they didn’t just show up unsolicited) and never left the water. Those evolved into hamsters, then a rabbit. All of these had one thing in common as far as my wife and I were concerned: they couldn’t die fast enough.
The damn rabbit, which I think we acquired when Casey was in second grade, hung around until she was about to go off to the Rhode Island School of Design. (That is, Casey went off to RISD, not the rabbit. We would have made the rabbit go to a state school.) This longevity was in spite of a genetic deformity (in the rabbit, not Casey) that made its tooth grow unabated to the point where it wouldn’t be able to eat. I had to shlep it to the vet once a month and get its tooth filed for $15. Plus, the rabbit would sometimes get this horrific expression on its face that communicated: “I would tear you to pieces if I could get out of this cage…and if I could chew.” You can read about the glorious day the bunny died here.
The frogs refused to die at all. In fact, when we moved from Westchester to Connecticut six years ago, we actually left the remaining amphibian behind for the new owners. “Includes all appliances,” it said in the real estate listing, “and a friggin’ immortal frog.”*
It wasn’t until we moved up the food chain to a dog that a pet became a beloved member of the family.
Then, of course, we ran into the opposite problem: what to do when a beloved member of the family got gravely ill. Most dog and cat owners have had to deal with this. How much money do you spend on chemotherapy for a 15-year-old cat? Should you put your 10-year-old St. Bernard on the waiting list for a liver transplant? Do you love your goldfish enough to spend $250 on life-saving surgery?
That last question came up recently for a family in England, which, for some reason, is the origination point of many of the weird pet stories I come across.** The article I read about this didn’t include the name of the family involved, but the goldfish’s name is Bob. Bob had what I’ll call a finereal disease. The vet told them that they could either put Bob to sleep or operate to remove a tumor from his fin.
I should point out here that I am not making any of this up. I deem it necessary to specify this because of what I’m about to tell you.
Bob was 20 years old.
Okay now, readers. By a show of hands, how many of you would consider taking a goldfish of any age to a veterinarian for any reason? For that matter, how many of you would even notice a tumor on a goldfish? If you’re raising your hand, you’ve made my point: you are a crazy person. Why else would you raise your hand when I’m not there to see it?
I’ve twice been present when we had to put a dog to sleep. We sat there crying and stroking them as the drug took effect. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. Call me a heartless bastard, but I can’t picture a scene like that with a fish. “You were a good boy, Bob, a good friend. Now close your eyes and go off to fish heaven and…Bob, stop flopping around. Can we put him back in the water to die, doctor?”
In any case, possibly because it would be silly to pay a vet to euthanize a goldfish, Bob’s family opted for the surgery. The vet put Bob under general anaesthesia and, using advanced microsurgery techniques (pictured at right and below), removed the tumor. Bob is now doing well, although I imagine that for a while he was only able to swim in a circle.
See you soon.
*Not really. But we did leave the frog behind. It might still be alive for all we know.
**For instance, longtime readers may recall my coverage of Claire Lennon, who refused to risk the life of her pet cockerel in order to have her $500 diamond earring, which the bird had swallowed, surgically removed.