This week I nearly killed the goldfish. His name is Boots, named by a few years ago by a child in the thick of Dora the Explorer fever. Being someone who grew up with a variety of pets, I understand that pet deaths are mostly inevitable, though sometimes due to carelessness. The most striking example of this from my childhood was the short-lived Yabby the yabbie (a small crustacean) who lasted exactly one change of water in the tank. While it was great that my brother was so proactive cleaning it out, he forgot that Yabby was a saltwater creature, not a freshwater one. In case you had any doubt, it matters.
So why do I feel particularly guilty about Boots? Well, Boots is a survivor – he outlasted his original companion Dora, who went off exploring into the sky on week one, then Tico and Benny (the golden snails who were supposed to clean the tank) and a much later companion Swiper, who lasted a couple of months. He’s been through so much over the years, and I really sort of bonded with him. He watches me in the kitchen and begs against the side of the tank for me to come and drop the manna from heaven. I don’t really expect the child who “owns” him to actually feed him, so I have really assumed responsibility for it. And I forgot. For I don’t know how many days. He was limply flapping around, barely moving. I thought he was gone. And that was when I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I sprinkled those fishy smelling flakes to his gaping little mouth.
This week I’ve been assuaging my guilt by nursing him back to health. Today, he was almost back to his old perky self, flipping his tail around with only a hit of dorsal fin droop. In my guilt spiral, I flirted with releasing him into the wild, where he wouldn’t be adversely affected by an inattentive owner and could seek out his own food. Then I realised what a ridiculous though that was – a goldfish in the wild? Surely it would last mere moments. We keep creatures in our houses that are completely reliant on us, bred to be unable to survive on their own. They are as reliant on us as we are on technology, helpless if it were taken away. Without my phone, computer, tablet or more basically, dishwasher, washing machine, etc I too would struggle. I am Boots.