It was a crisp autumn day. It was a Saturday, to be precise, and we had our normal bevy of errands to perform with an extra errand to boot. It was the extra one that almost cost a fish named Goldie to lose his life.
The particular Saturday in question happened to be the Saturday before Sandy (the hurricane) struck our region and the community was in full alert mode preparing for the possibility of more devastation like the kind exacted on us during Irene (the hurricane of 2011). Not being as focused on the emergency preparations as I could have been, I saw a more pressing need to address: the dog was out of treats. Yes, Merlin (a rapacious, albeit slightly overweight, pug) had finished all his treats and the most important supply I could think to stock during our storm preparations was dog treats (it is unimaginable to think about what our lives would have been like for an extended period of time without them).
So, we hopped in the car and began our Saturday routine with the extra stop at Petco. Once there, we all (Meredith, the kids and I) proceeded into the store to find and secure the essential item, view the assortment of fish, and smell the wonderful smells. Before I could procure the aforementioned essentials, I had succumbed to one of parenting’s most feared questions, “Daddy, can we get a fish?”
Yes, I was peppered and hounded (by the kids, not the dog) all morning long in anticipation of our visit to the pet store. Once there, I collapsed under the weight of their enthusiastic pleas, their charming gazes, and their glowing admiration for God’s aquatic flyers. I said, yes. With the very deft help of the manager (who happened to be a former student of mine; a delightful student, I am compelled to add) we decided that we would get a betta fish (also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish). Relatively low maintenance was a must, and this fish seemed to fit the bill. I was also noting the temperature at which the water must be kept for various fish, as I had little intention of keeping our house at a tropical climate level for the sake of one little fish. The betta claimed to be able to survive water temperatures ranging from 65-72 degrees and while a little warmer than intend to keep the house this coming winter, I figured it would survive.
I set the children to the task of selecting a fish that they would both agree on (with secret hope that they might not agree, thereby postponing indefinitely the purchase of the fish because it is not possible to put two betta fish together in the same tank or they would destroy each other) and I went about the business of getting Merlin’s all-important dog treats. The children managed to agree upon a gold-hued betta and promptly named him Goldie. Fortunately, we remembered to purchase food for the young fish and we carefully brought him to the car and the rest of our errands.
The rest of the errands included the library to return and select movies and books, and the grocery store (yes, on a Saturday…I know, I am somewhat the fool for my timing, but most times, time is not under my control) where I was intending to pick up some spring water for our newest family member. Well, as is typical for me, I forgot.
It wasn’t until we pulled into the driveway at home that I realized the error of my feeble mind. So, in a crack decision – that any commanding field officer would be proud of – I sacrificed the quality of our frozen and refrigerated grocery items to the needs of our beloved Goldie and turned the car back onto the road and drove off to get him fresh spring water.
When we arrived at the store I flew toward the entrance being mindful, not just of the precious life of Goldie that hung in the balance, but also of our costly goods thawing and souring away in the back of the car. It was then that I remembered, our community was in full lock-down mode in their preparations for Sandy’s impending visit. The shelves of water were nearly bare. I gasped. Would there be any for Goldie? Would he survive in his little container from the store for the upcoming days (maybe weeks)? Picking up water for my family never really crossed my mind at that point.
I grabbed a couple of gallons from the few that remained and careened back to the car at top speeds (noticing, oddly enough, that the expiration date on the jugs was from 3 days prior and wondering to myself, hmm…will “expired” water be okay for Goldie? And, why is expired water on the shelves at the grocery store? And, why are these jugs of water so cold?).
We arrived safely back at home, put away the groceries in the nick of time, and prepared Goldie’s bowl (one that we had from a previous relationship with an aquatic friend) to become his new home. We gave the bowl a seat of honor on the hutch in our dining room so that he would always feel apart of our family (and possibly be reminded that if he acted up that he might end up on the table instead of the hutch). I poured Goldie’s water into the prepared home and gathered the children to watch as we put him into his new surroundings.
With great ceremony I poured Goldie from his small, cramped, store-container environs into his spacious, lavishly decorated, and homey environment. Immediately, upon entering his new surroundings, Goldie twitched two, three times and then seized up and ceased moving altogether.
What had I done?
It was then that I remembered. The desired water temperature for a betta was a minimum of 65 degrees. I had no idea what the water temperature was of the gallon that I had just purchased, but I remember thinking on my way out of the store, “hmm…this feels like it’s been refrigerated.”
The water was too cold!
I was frozen in a moment of panic (very un-field-commander like of me, I know). The kids were perplexed. What was wrong with Goldie, they wanted to know. Why was he not moving and floating on his back near the surface of the water? I was thinking, “I just spent $7.49 on this thing and I just killed it? Well, not the worst investment of my money ever.”
Then I snapped out of my frozen fish stick reverie and sprang into action. I scooped Goldie back into his plastic store container (forever known now as his life saving container), filled a pot with hot water from the sink, and rested his container in the larger pot of simmering water and waited. We waited for the hot water to bring the cold water to a more survivable temperature for our little friend. The seconds passed, ticking slowly and loudly as we waited with dreaded anticipation. Would Goldie survive? How much longer before full-fledged hypothermia set in and froze his little heart from beating ever again?
One tiny gill moved. Then another. Could it be? The fins began to quiver. Yes! Goldie was alive!!!
Although we…okay, I may have shaved a year off of Goldie’s life with my insensitive hastiness, he now resides happily on our hutch, watching the comings and goings of our family and we hope enjoying our meal times as much as I do.