Curie in her tank [DCL photo]
The caller ID said it was one of our friends on the phone, but, to my surprise, it was their preteen daughter Violet. Violet was calling to ask a favor. They were leaving town, and, because she’d had no luck asking kids in her neighborhood, she wanted to see if I could take care of her fish. I felt flattered and said sure. We made arrangements for her to bring the fish over before they left.
Violet and her mom came over the next afternoon. The fish was called Curie, so named because it seemed Curious about the world when it left the pet store in its plastic bag. Curie is a betta fish – fairly large, black, with big shimmering fins. Violet’s mom explained that male betta fishes are more colorful, but that Violet had wanted a female fish. Violet gave me all the instructions -- they weren’t that complicated. I expressed some nervousness, but she reassured me that Curie had been taken care of by children much younger than her, and she was certain I would do fine. Running through my mind was a bad experience many years ago when we had left our tank of tropical fish in the care of our 85-year-old non-English-speaking upstairs neighbor. The water filtering system in the tank failed, and all the fish died. My neighbor left the dead fish for us in our freezer. He was mortified and apologized to us for at least a year, even though we insisted that it wasn’t his fault. I promised Violet that if her fish died I would replace it. She said she wasn’t sure she wanted another fish. So I said I would get her a dog. But her mother balked at that. Katja suggested maybe we should put the fish in the kitchen window, but I didn’t think all that sunlight would be good for it. We told Violet and her mom to have a wonderful trip and that they shouldn’t worry about Curie. They said they wouldn’t.
Curie lives in a little plastic tank, about 7” long, 3.5” wide, and 4” tall. I put her tank right next to our sheepdogs’ food container on the kitchen counter where we would be certain to see her at least twice a day. As a further precaution, I put the dogs’ hip and joint pills on top of her tank. Violet had shown me how to feed Curie eight little flecks of fish food twice a day. To be on the safe side, I’ve been giving her ten. Curie gets quite excited about this and darts at the little flecks as they float to the bottom. Aside from feedings though, I haven’t given her much attention. I feel badly about that. Her world seems very boring, since it consists of swimming slowly for a couple of inches in one direction, then turning around and swimming slowly a couple of inches in the opposite direction. She never seems to sleep, so she repeats this routine incessantly twenty-four hours a day. She does have a tiny brain, so maybe that’s all she wants in life. I have tried to give her some stimulation, putting my nose up to her tank or doing a few line dancing steps. But she doesn’t seem interested.
Compared to the sheepdogs, Curie is a different sort of pet. On the one hand, she isn’t as much fun. You don’t take her for hikes in the forest or play ball with her. You don’t even get to pet her. On the other hand, she doesn’t bark loudly at random noises or throw up on the carpet. You don’t have to walk her when it’s raining out, and she doesn’t take up space in your bed. There are no vet bills; she doesn’t need to be groomed. Her food costs are ridiculously low. When you spell out all the details, it turns out that a betta fish has a lot more advantages than drawbacks. I am getting more confident that Curie will survive until Violet returns. So far, so good.
-Jennifer M (7-14): J