What You Can Learn from Pets

November 19, 2008
By Max Zhou, Bloomington, IN

My first pet was a goldfish I got from Wal-Mart. When the man first put the goldfish in a bag with water, I was worried that it wouldn’t have enough water, or it would get squished when someone accidentally sat on it, or the bag would get undone and the fish plopped out, or the bag would leak, or the fish would die because of the heat. When I finally got home, I rushed to put the goldfish in a bowl of water. I watched it, satisfied that I had saved it from potential danger.

The next day, I woke up and was shocked to see that the fish was floating on the water. It had died. We hadn’t bought Ph drops to neutralize the water. “Sometimes you can just try too hard.”

What happened in my first pet experience was a sign of what was yet to come. Other animals that I’ve had include gerbils and other fish. Sadly, most animals I’ve taken care of have ended up either dead or severely maimed for life. There is actually a lot I have learned from these experiences. Here are some:

After the unfortunate incident with the first fish, I decided to revisit Wal-Mart and buy another one. I bought one of those baby sucker-fish that can eat their own poop. I also came upon a friendly looking snail, and decided that it would keep the fish good company and make a unique pet.

We got home, and this time put in the Ph drops. We also hooked up a nifty fish tank that circulated oxygen. We fed the fish and snail some pellets, stared at them adjusting to their new homes, and said goodnight to both of them.

When we checked on them the next morning, we pretty surprised. The fish was nowhere to be seen, and the snail was still sitting there as if nothing had happened to his roommate. It was obvious, though, when we spied the small skeleton of the fish near the snail. The snail had eaten the fish. “Sometimes friends will just backstab you.”

I also had a particularly memorable experience with our two gerbils. We had owned these two gerbils for many years, but at the time, we were getting sloppy with our cleanup. We would bathe the gerbils regularly, and clean out their cage, but not quite as regularly as before.

It came back to bite us. One day, we woke up and tragedy struck. We literally saw a half eaten carcass of a gerbil, and the other one just romping around in its cage as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Soon the other gerbil died too. We were horrified, dumped both outside, and washed the cage many tens of times with bleach. We concluded it was because cannibalistic gerbil didn’t care for his life companion’s ticks/smell. “A little bit of effort now will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.”

Perhaps I am not the best animal care-taker, and I should never go near animals for the rest of my life. But, my experiences with animals have taught me some valuable lessons. Most of all: “Crazy things sometimes happen.”

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