lundi 24 avril 2017

A fish out of water: we nearly lost one again

The lucky survivor

It's a gorgeous April day. After lunch, I stepped outside to spend a moment with the fish and the frogs before doing the dishes and asking my son if I could have the car, or if it was not a better idea to do some gardening and hope he got back in time to go to the barn to ride before the sun set. Indecision can be paralyzing, as my chiropractor instructed me this morning in a lesson on good and bad stress. I think he is also a mind-reader, since he put his finger directly on my bad stress: decisions I don't want to make. I think I will keep him forever. 

The fish are mesmerizing, the most relaxing way to not make a decision. I watched them swim around the base of what is left of the horrible old three-tiered fountain, which one frog has claimed for herself this year, darting in and out from under the lily pads. There are no flowers yet, but there will be soon. They looked back at me, gauging whether I had the food bag or was just stopping by. Fia sniffed at the grass just behind me, and I rose from where I was crouched, my head bent to the water, and looked over at the miniature marsh for frogs. The reeds and grasses I cut down to the mass of roots were growing taller, and there, just past a light screen of them was a mass of light coral pink in the form of one of my dearest goldfish. 

Oh God, I thought, no. No, no, no. 

These are the ones we have had the longest, who have survived a devatstating sudden January freeze, the emptying of the old fountain for repairs, and two bouts of generalized malaise that required several weeks of treatment both times, each fish isolated in a separate, medicated, salt water container. I feel very bound to these fish in particular, and I thought of all of this in the instant it took me to spring to my feet and look down at her in horror. 

No. No, no, no. Not again. 

A fish had lept from one of those containers one day and survived. I felt sick at heart, contemplating her body and having to remove her for a single beat of it, and then the lips pursed and released. A puff of breath escaped her and she sucked another in. She was alive?

I reached down and lifted her. She was dry and stiff from lying there in the sun. How long? She needed moisture and oxygen. I knelt and placed her in the water, rubbing her sides and belly very gently. Her gills opened and closed with her mouth. I stroked her fins and tail, her face, talking to her, waiting for her body to feel more animated, for a struggle to be free of my hand cupped around her. It's amazing, really, how attached you can become to a goldfish. Did she remember me from the days of hospitalization, the feedings and the care? Did she know that I was trying to help her? Would she feel grateful? Closer to me? Her body twisted a little more, and I let her go. She was stiff and awkward, but she did not instantly turn flank up and float.Instead, she retreated to the bottom of the fountain and placed herself against the wall. 

I considered my afternoon. It wasn't likely I'd be wanting the car now. I was on goldfish watch. 

Eventually, she moved up toward the surface, and remained there awhile, inert near the wall, all except her mouth and gills that opened and closed. Others came and left her side. Was there anything they could do? Did they care? Was she suffering? The eye that had faced the sun was clouded, and her skin was begining to peel away. I googled as fast as I could on my phone, looking for help. 

She swam away and returned, and then headed beneath the clump of lily tubers and roots. That wouldn't do. I needed to see her. I pulled it up, and, after a moment, out she swam, stopping in front of me for a few minutes before returning to her spot in the sun at the bottom of the pond. 

Her eye was peeling now, and it was clear again underneath. It was frightful, but promising, right? I had no idea how to search this, typing in strings of words until I came across a post in ALL CAPS filled with ??????? and !!!!!!!! about a fish that had lept from its bowl and whose skin was damaged. Everyone answering was much more concerned about the quality of that fish's water and how to change it out regularly and what size tank to use to bother with the skin much. It was alive. It would recover. If that fish was presumed to return to normal with proper water care, then my goldfish's chances were maybe better than I had hoped. 

I might even need the car, after all. 

I read on, crouched by the plants, glancing at her gills to be sure they continued to open and close. Was it better to leave her there, in her own environment, or remove her and treat the water? I opted for her environment. She hadn't jumped to get out of a toxic one, but what had happened? Nothing had deposited her there. Not the heron, and not the cat. She was not injured, and the heron would not have been so careless as to lose his dinner. Besides, I have this belief that the heron visits in the predawn. In May. 

The only thing that came to mind was that she had pressed into the shallower water above the edge of the clump of reeds, or been driven into it by some energetic males, who believed she had eggs to vent. I have seen, however, the fish try to get into the shallowest water among the roots. I figured they liked how warm it is, like sunbathing in shallow water that just keeps you cool, or, in their case, just keeps you moist and oxygenated. Perhaps she had tried too hard and flipped herself, rather incredibly, through the new reeds, only to get stuck on top of their roots in barely enough water to wet her one side.

I watched her skin sloughing off and thought about the last time. It was also one of the larger light pink fish, and I wondered if lightening had struck the same one twice. She had orange above the orbs of her eyes, and neither of the other two larger pink ones did. The utility of this abandoned blog occurred to me: I had photos. I googled my own blog and "fish lept". 

There, floating in the yellow plastic bowl was the same fish
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