Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go, fish! To the Ocean! Be Free!

By Lauren Wood

Gus was allergic to dogs. Mom hated cats, and denied the existence of domestic rodents. My father isn't allergic to anything, but for some reason, cared enough about the others to not invest. Joe had not yet joined the household.

And so, for several years, until Gus miraculously got over his allergy, I had fish. And as I have never had easy access to a body of water, they were kept in a tank. Remembering this sad time in my life makes my heart swell as I look down at the delightful Q (my dog, my real pet).

When Gus was born, I wanted to name him "Fred." It was something of an obsession. At the last minute, my parents decided to go with some horridly sentimental combination of my grandfathers' names. And so I was given a fish to name "Fred."

This, in my experience, has been the pinnacle of a pet fish's purpose. A place-holder for a name. Indeed, a place-holder for personality. I only imagined that "Goldie" was in love with "Fred" and had to ward off the advances of the evil "Al." Of course, there was no way of knowing gender, ages, or even propensities toward affection or reticence. In fact, there are hardly any signs of such qualities at all. No femininity, masculinity, wisdom, self-awareness, personality. They simply exist in their little world, until that dreaded day when they go belly-up.

I'll never forget the moments when I would discover a fish at the top of the tank, floating like a soggy, multi-colored french fry. "Goldie" was dead! Never was death so apparent! And just when I had seen her swimming alongside "Fred" (thus confirming their nuptials). It was all rather more than a child should be subjected to. Even now, I am filled with sadness as I consider the nooks of the plastic castle she never got to explore. Alas, poor "Goldie"! I knew her...for a week.

Not only does this form of domestication subject children to lifeless vessels that expire before a proper life story can develop, it is cruel to the animals themselves, too! Now, I am no activist for animal rights, but I must acknowledge that it is highly unnatural and ridiculous to confine living creatures to any sort of box. It matters not how you stuff it with hypercolored gravel or bubbling plastic ornaments, the fish are trapped like rats.

It's no wonder that once, in the course of one week (true story) five of my seven fish leapt out of the tank and died on my bedroom floor. Though, if I remember correctly, it was the influence of the evil "Al" that drove them.

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