Last month, my friend Jerry was painting a vacant rental house for a friend. I stopped by to visit him in the middle of his workday and he said, "Hey. You want a fish?"
After giving him a puzzled look, he took me by the hand into another room, pointed at some cloudy water and said, "Look. Sucker's still alive too."
Barely. It was a betta fish abandoned in the house weeks before that would only slightly wiggle when you forcefully tapped the tank.
Great, I thought. Just what I need. Something to take home, show Dennis and break his heart with.
When Den was little, we lived in Spokane and for years we had a betta fish named Bob and Dennis treasured that thing. Bob was part of our family. We found a good home for him when we relocated to the lower valley, but Denny never forgot that fish.
There's no way I expected this Grandview fish to survive. Its body was curved no matter what move it made and those movements were few and far between.
What with Jerry's bird, dogs and cats, I knew the fish was coming home with me.
How could I say no?
When I brought it home, I told Dennis not to get his hopes up and that we'd just make it comfortable while we could. He said, "You never know Mom. He just might make it." Again, I told him not to get his hopes up.
Dennis happened to have betta fish food in his room from a short-lived (literally) Christmas present the year before. He dug that out and the listless fish managed to take a bite.
The people who abandoned the fish left food pellets sitting next to it on the shelf. The fish was having nothing to do with those. But the flakes from Denny's room did the trick.
Next, I filled a pan with water and set it out to get it room temperature. I told you, this fish's water was cloudy.
At that point, company arrived, including a six-year-old.
"Ohhhhhh...why isn't he moving?" she asked.
"Because he's very sick," I answered.
"Oh no! What if he dies?," she said in a voice filled with worry.
"I'm trying to help him get better," I said, reassuringly.
"But he might die!," she persisted.
All I could say was, "I hope not, hunny."
As soon as those words left my mouth, I realized I meant it. I hoped he wouldn't die.
The next day, I cleaned the tank and gave him new water. After the initial 24-hour period, he still wasn't very active, but he'd managed to eat a few bites a few times.
Once he had clean water, he began to kind of come-to. After about 10 days of routine feedings and replacing his water a couple of times, he began to get more active. Slowly, we realized he wasn't a black fish, but rather a dark blue. Soon, the permanent curve in his body was gone.
That was several weeks ago. Today he's an active fish and when my little houseguest comes over, she squeals with delight and begs to feed him.
Left alone in a vacant house, with no heat and no food for God only knows how long, I marvel at how this thing survived.
I also marvel at how easily some people can cast away what was once a treasured pet, with no regard for that animal's welfare.
I guess we've truly become a throw-away society.