When bad things happen to good fish

Months ago I related the tale of my daughter’s MIRACLE GOLDFISH, Sunny & Blackie.  Who, though small in stature, survived hours in the back of a bouncing UHaul truck in a cracked aquarium w/out water.  Who, though shaken and scarred, not only escaped the icy grip of death but went on to thrive & grow.

sunny and blackie

Until 4 weeks ago, when we moved.  In order to get the fish from our apartment to the new house, we had to drain their hefty tank and transport them in a modest glass bowl.  The fish seemed fine the first day.  We cleaned their tank and got it filled, but during the next 48 hours, they began to struggle.  Days later we woke to find Sunny gone.

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15 minutes after a proper burial in the yard, our younger daughter was READY TO FILL THAT VOID.  By evening, my husband had whisked her off to the nearest pet shoppe for replacement/s.  They quickly returned w/ three tiny goldfish, and by bedtime they were swimming in the tank with Blackie.

The following morning we knew something was wrong.  One of the new guys appeared to be sick.  He’d developed some sort of spot on his side.  It didn’t look good.  In fact, it looked seriously bad.  My husband scooped him out and placed him in the quarantine bowl, and for good measure, added his two comrades.  By the next day, all three were exhibiting signs of the same illness.  ANCHOR WORMS.  Neither nice nor pretty, Anchor worms are seriously nasty parasites.  They burrow into fish and expel their eggs out through their sides.

anchor worm

We were horrified to think we’d not only brought home fish that were infected, but had also exposed our own (mourning) Blackie to the disease.  My husband took the 3 fish back to the pet shoppe from whence they came.  After explaining that he’d just purchased 3 parasitic fish from their store, and that he expected a refund, they very grudgingly gave him back the money, but were not going to take back the “merchandise.”  John stated firmly that he was NOT leaving the store with the fish.  After several iterations of I DON’T WANT THEM< YOU TAKE THEM, the manager finally took the bag.  Mostly b/c other customers were beginning to take notice.

In the ensuing days, we have watched Blackie develop one lesion after another.  We have seen the sprouting of at least a dozen anchor worm egg sacks, trailing from his sides and tails like streamers on a newlyweds car.  This morning I resolved to take photos and write this post, in an effort to spread the word.  FISH OWNERS TAKE HEED!!  Do not make the same mistake we did.  When purchasing new fish – even from a reputable pet store chain – never EVER put them directly into your established home tank.  Sure, we waited for the water temps to equalize, but we didn’t quarantine the new fish.  Being fairly new to fish ownership, I didn’t know this was customary.  But that is no excuse.  Please, don’t let THIS happen to your pets.

blackie

blackie2

We have been trying to treat Blackie for the infection.  First (and unsuccessfully) w/ an over-the-counter remedy from the pet store – Ironically – the same pet store that sold us the infected fish.  We have attempted to cure him by NOT FEEDING HIM & subsequently, not feeding the parasites living off & on his flesh.  No Luck Yet.  Tomorrow my husband is obtaining some Potassium Permanganate from a chemist at the university where he works.  It’s a poison, and is supposedly a foolproof way of treating the disease.  Historically it was used to disinfect drinking water.  I will keep you posted as to the results.  Till then, send Blackie your well wishes.  The poor guy needs them.

My friends are the BEST.

THANK YOU, everyone, for your incredible expressions of sympathy. I cannot tell you how much it cheered me up. Seriously. you guys are the BEST.

The past few days I’ve felt like something on the bottom of a shoe, but today the sky is blue, the birds are singing and all seems right again w/ the world. It stings to look out the back window and see Prudence’s lonely hutch there w/out her. But I made arrangements to pick up her ashes in a couple weeks, and returning her to the place she loved will bring closure to the circle. I didn’t realize it would take so long to have a private cremation for a rabbit. But for only $85, who’s complaining? That wouldn’t even cover my toenails at a funeral parlor.

The insurance companies are handling the accident claim. It’s good to know we’re getting something out of allll thatt moneeeyyy spent on insurance.

SO. I have been unbelievably busy the past couple weeks, and feel like I haven’t been blogging, or even reading blogs. I have no time. NONE. I’m only on the computer b/c I snuck away. My daughters are now both home for the summer. The next 11 weeks. I counted.

C’MMMOONNN August 26th!!!!

Who knew two sweet girls could be such ruffians? I am not joking. These kids fight all day long. If one of them isn’t complaining abut the other, it’s probably b/c they’re plotting something else. SERIOUSLY, I need one of those tiny tape recorders so I don’t go hoarse. W/ the touch of a button I’d simply start the playback loop:
QUIT IT!!!
I DON’T CARE WHAT SHE DID.
TIME OUT!
WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP TOUCHING ME.
YES, I HEEEEARRRRRD YOU. THAT IS THE THIRD TIME YOU ASKED> I SAID WAITTTT.
LEAVE YOUR SISTER ALLLLOOOOONE.
STOP IT. NOW. I MEAN IT. CUT IT OOOOUUUUTT. NOOOOOW.
PICK UP YOUR [insert item].
WHERERRE ARE YOUR SHOESS???????????????
NO – MEANS NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,
ICE CREAM IS NOT BREAKFAST, and BY THE WAY DID you have to leave it out on the coffee table??? ARE YOU SLOW?? Did you not think I would be pissed that a) you were eating ice cream at 6 o’clock in the morning??, and b) THAT YOU LET IT MELT?? all over the effing table. next to a PILE OF CHIPS. You two stink at this. You have to be SNEAKY. SNEAAAAAAKKKKY. That means putting it ALL BACK before I come down here in the morning. But no…
.

Yes, I am going a little insane. For some reason, these kids want to be entertained 24/7. They think I am Julie, your cruise director from the Love Boat. I guess it’s my fault. We have been renting the first season of Love Boat episodes from Netflix and MAN, my daughters are HOOKED. My husband has given up. He was patient for a little while, as long as I plied him with a steeping quantity of wine and/or whiskey, but no more. He says he has reached his Love Boat limit. Granted, the shows are a little formulaic. And YES you do know what is going to happen as soon as the passengers board. The acting’s bad. I know it’s not PBS. BUT He just doesn’t understand. I spent hours watching the Love Boat as a child. It was **MAGICAL**.

ANYWAY, John graduated Saturday. and now is the proud owner of a masters degree in Information Science. We’d made plans to attend commencement, but at the very last minute John changed his mind. so we went to the Borgata instead. I have to say, WAY TO GO JOHN! a MUCH more pleasant way to spend a Saturday night. After stuffing our faces at the Buffet, John & the girls hit the beach and Mom-Mom & I hit the slots. LO & BEHOLD, those sneaky tricksters at the Borgata played a shell game w/ my secret luckiest winningest machine and MOVED IT. Damn! Oh well. I won $47 on another machine, and John’s grandmom won $94. I like winning money. Almost as much as being sent UNBELIEVABLY MARVVVELOUS PRESENTS IN THE MAIL when I least expect them! WOW.

JUST LOOK at this absolutely STUNNING scarf I rec’d yesterday from my brilliant pal Tracey. Who soooooo totally ROCKS!!! Thanks so much Trace!!!!!!!! As you can see, Kiwi has already made herself comfortable. I LOVE IT.

Untitled.

My heart feels like a flaccid orange and my mind is numb. W/out exaggeration, the past 2 days have simply SUCKED BEYOND BELIEF. YES I know I joke about a whole lot of things, but for once I am totally serious.

Yesterday morning I got into a car accident. My daughters and I are all fine. The car is okay. But I saw first-hand how emotionally charged people can be following a collision, and road rage is a DAMN good reason why handguns should be outlawed. W/out rehashing all the details, I got rear-ended. It was a stupid accident. The driver of the other vehicle did not want to be at fault. Rather than take responsibility for her error in judgment, she wanted to take it out on me. She & her large male companion threatened me repeatedly w/ bodily harm. They screamed. They cursed. I do not like being threatened. I do not like being cursed out by two enraged human beings hell-bent on being right when they are wrong. and especially NOT IN FRONT OF CHILDREN. It was ugly. Very, very ugly.

If I saw these folks on the street I’d think they were a lovely family – an attractive mom & dad w/ a beautiful little girl. But the time I spent w/ them. The threats. It was totally surreal. Is it normal for a grown woman to threaten to KNOCK ANOTHER WOMAN OUT?? I haven’t heard this kind of stuff since I was in high school – and even then, it wasn’t ever directed at me. People I know do not act like this. It’s barbaric. INSANE. People who try to look like middle-class America, driving around in a fancy SUV, dress well, and then act like street thugs? Is this real? For the LOVE OF GOD what are people doing to their kids in this day and age?? When you teach your children to hate first and think later – to play a race card – you are as good as crippling them. They will never be more than that. They will never see more than that. Here in Philly – people act. and they think too late.

I spent all day yesterday dazed. Feeling off-sorts. Saddened. angry. sad again. even scared. Trying to reconcile everything. And then, Last night, after dark, raccoons crept into our rabbit’s fenced-in pen and attacked her. We didn’t even know until after the fact. Our good friend & neighbor, Jim, saved her from being mauled. Locked her in her hutch. Broke the bad news. One look, and I knew she was hurt badly. I could see visible puncture wounds on her right side, and she wasn’t moving her one arm.

6 months ago, I spent weeks nursing this rabbit back to health via syringe feedings. You simply cannot stare into the eyes of a creature that close to death, feeding them as a child, holding them, encouraging them, without seeing them as your own. Prudence had been just this side of the pearly gates, wagging her cotton ball tail through the slats for fun. She bid adieu to St. Peter, and rejoined humanity – for what. For THIS? The indignity of being mauled by a hungry raccoon trying to feed her young. I know that God exists, and I know that nature is cruel. But the injustice is too much.

This morning the ladies and I took Prudence to the vet. I knew what they would say. I knew the options. But I took her all the same. How could I do anything else? To keep something I love in pain, safe, at home? To allow her to suffer b/c I could not bear to lose her would be abject cruelty. But taking her…. In my heart, I knew that I was leading her to death. The chance – however slim – that she had or would contract rabies from the bite. that was all that mattered. How could I live w/ myself it it happened? If she bit me. My children? My heart aches. My beloved rabbit, Prudence, my friend. Who’d been at death’s door and had overcome, blossoming into better health and spirits than she’d ever known.

I’ve written before about my love of pets, and I’ve written briefly of their loss. I’ve introduced you to several of our cast of characters – most notably, Kiwi (my crazy ass bird) – but this post… this is a tribute to Prudence.

Spring through fall, Prudence lives/d in the backyard in a wooden hutch w/ her own fenced pen. It had become sort of a joke, that she was a “free-range bunny”, b/c most days we left the gate to her pen open and she would hop in-and-out at will. Although our yard has open fencing, and Prudence could have escaped if she wanted to, she never did. The most she ever did was hop over to our next-door neighbors to sample the clover. So most days I would gaze out the kitchen window to find a Teletubbie-esque scene, with Prudence hopping from spot to spot in the yard, munching grass. Although we have a ton of cats on our block, none of them ever gave Prudence the slightest grief. In fact, the total opposite. These cats would (no joke) actually come to hang out w/ her. Our one cat Bixby would sometimes laze up on top of her hutch, and our other cat Milkshake slept INSIDE of it. Prudence seemed to think this was just fine, and somehow here in West Philly, it WAS normal. They all just got along. Different. But happy. Prudence was as close to a “wild bunny” as a totally domestic fed pet could get – she’d even felt inspired to recently begin digging a burrow in the corner of her pen, like her rabbit forebears. Somehow she just knew. She knew how. She wanted to. And it was okay.

Tonight, my heart aches. Tomorrow we will bury our sweet bunny’s remains in the burrow she’d been digging these past weeks. A fitting tribute to her work.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone?

A friend once sent me one of those email quizzes where you have to answer a long list of personal questions. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these yourself? I see quite a few of them posted on other people’s blogs, and I think they’re sort of interesting. Anyway, these quizzes tend to ask many of the same questions (mostly about favorites, what you’re wearing, listening to, etc.), but the one my friend sent also had the question: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

Vertigo is a little something like my friend’s quiz – a semi-illuminating answer that only hints at what’s below. I can describe to you what it feels like, but until you experience it firsthand, you’ll never really understand. Up until a week ago, I had a really good hold on my Meniere’s symptoms and had the feeling that I was in control of the disease. I don’t know what being on that boat did to me – whether it was the food, the motion, or some combination thereof, but this past week has shown me that control is an illusion. We simply can’t control much of what happens to and around us.

Yesterday evening, 2 teenagers with a sawed-off shotgun assaulted a man right around the corner from my home. They tried to rob him, but he didn’t have any money or valuables, and that really pissed them off – so they blew an enormous hole in his leg. His blood is still pooled on the front steps of the house behind mine. It made me think of my husband’s response to the same quiz question I listed above: What is the first thing you notice about someone? Whether they’re packing [heat].

I guess that’s life as we know it in Philadelphia, November 11, 2007.

Not funny at all.

We can’t control much of what happens in our lives, but we can all make choices. Today I am well enough to be out of bed – and I’m making the choice to share with others something I learned this week.

If you’re waiting until everything is *just so* in your life before allowing yourself to really live and be happy, you’re destined to be one sad sack. Things will likely never be perfect. So do the best you can with what you’ve got – because I can guarantee there are people who have it way worse than you. And surprisingly, many of those people have a better attitude. When terrible things happen, don’t look to the heavens, shaking your fist at God and wondering why you’ve been cursed. Look inside, believe in yourself, and understand there are things beyond your control. We may never understand why horrible things happen, but I do believe there is a greater plan. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it, don’t sit around complaining that things suck. Fight against injustice, DON’T be a part of the problem. And always, always, embrace the positive. Love and respect yourself and those around you. And for the love of God, get over yourself already (No, it’s NOT really “all about you”), take time to share and be a servant to the world, rather than expect everyone to bow down before your sorry ass. Despite what your tee-shirt says, you are NOT royalty.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of my post. Well, I guess in my own roundabout way I’m trying to make a point. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it their eyes? Their crutches? The gun pointed at your face? What do we see when we look at others? What do we see when we look inside ourselves?

I was about as low as I’ve been this week, but illness is not necessarily a bad thing if it renders you a wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. If you can laugh at pain and hold strong in times of fear, then you’re no longer captive to either. And that is a worthy goal.

RIP sweet Hammie

Yesterday was a sad one for our family. Hammie, my older daughter’s beloved hamster, died. I know that some people think of hamsters as disposable pets, but he was a really special little guy, a truly sweet and gentle friend, and will be greatly missed. Death is hard to reconcile at any age, but especially hard for children, who so unabashedly appreciate life. The irony of Hammie’s death coming right on the tail of our mouse eradication plan isn’t lost on me. Cruel cosmic justice, how you speak to my soul.