Fish hospice and other pet tales that hurt

In late October we noticed that the spine on our Siamese fighting fish, "Blue-jet," had curved and he could no longer swim up to get his food.

We lowered the water level so that now, with precision pellet placement, Blue-jet manages to clumsily find his food.
We also positioned his bowl under an incandescent lamp so that the water would be gently heated 24/7.

This set-up, along with daily cheering for him to "swim" up and grab his pellets, became known as "Fish Hospice."

Blue-jet is two and a half years old now and seems to be doing pretty well.

So, when little one called me at work today with a pain in her voice, "Mom, I think Playful is dead. He is not moving and I don't feel his heartbeat," I was so very sad. In addition to fish hospice, we had said goodbye to our dog of twelve years recently, and had also said goodbye to loved ones, childhood homes, and cities we loved.
"Now, Playful?" I thought. Our sweet 2 1/2 year old hamster from Santa was on deck to go.

When I arrived home, we hurried upstairs. There was Playful, convincingly dead. Both of his eyes were glued shut. He had no quick rise and fall of breath. He was cold to the touch. And showed no sign of reflex. He was completely unresponsive.

I picked him up and noticed a small tremor. I prodded him to check whether I was "seeing" right. Sure enough after a minute or two, just as we were lowering him into his shoe box casket, we determined that perhaps he was still alive.

We took his water bottle out of the cage, filled it with warm water and put it to his lips. After several drops of water to the tongue, he began to show some consciousness. We repeated this step over the course of a couple of hours, with little one on the wood floor under blankets with him, raising his body temp and talking to him.

We then put a salt lick against his teeth and rubbed it back and forth so that something of the mineral might be ingested.

What else?

I checked him over: Cleared his eye discharge with saline, then removed the packed clogs from his bottom. Not fun, but all the while I was aware that I was modeling (on some abstract level) how my daughter might someday react in the face of uncertainty.

I don't know what little one is and isn't learning about life from this experience of loss, but I believe that love is the foundation of the framework. And love is a verb, especially when you are parenting.

Funny thing is, that deep down I believe Playful is dying. In fact, he may already be dead upstairs as I write this out. We have not bottle fed him since 8 PM. Nor has he moved from his cozy spot since we placed him there. We'll see what today brings, and we are prepared to accept it now that we've added our own little comma.

But whatever happens, I'm using the comma to spin the narrative thread colored, "When Playful was dying." I'll take that thread and weave it right into our tapestry of life at home, our life in the world. These murky hues are some of nature's most dramatic colors, after all. And when used sparingly, offsetting a more vital palette of life, aren't things rendered more vivid, perhaps even crystal clear, for a passing moment or two?

1 comment:

  1. Letting go of Playful...
    His life was small but brought
    such joy.