The Best Friend and I had been living together for a while when we decided to take our relationship to the next level. Our love arrived at a cross-roads looking to a future plateau or inevitable demise. We needed to get serious and fast. So we did what every loving couple does when crisis arises, we looked to procreation for our salvation. A quick trip to PetCo, and we had our answer: two multi-colored guppy gentlemen named Seymour Ashley and Gifford Melrose. They were handsome and exactly what we needed in our undergraduate lives of pre-law text books and Calculus II meltdowns.
Turns out fish are the most high-maintenance pets on the face of the planet. As these were our first pets sans parental units, it was quite a treat. Gifford was particularly prone to scary bouts of depression, losing his coloring, and pacing his tank in worrisome flips and flops. Something as tiny as moving the neighboring ketchup bottle would send Gifford into a panic. And seeing as an undergraduate career is filled with packs and moves every three months or so, Gifford had a tough life. His brother Seymour committed to a life of bullying and would capitalize on Gifford’s weak moments by chewing on his tail. We were a big, happy family.
After almost a year, The Best Friend was providing room and board for our boys over the summer whilst I galavanted in Peru, and Gifford just couldn’t handle it. We lost him almost 3 years ago today, and yes – I did just take a moment of silence.
When I returned, The Best Friend informed me that Seymour needed friends. Guppies are schooling fish, and he was not doing well without his favorite chew toy. We gathered two friends – The Token Estonian and The Lover of all things Food. The two of them aided in choosing not one more but four more guppies to join in Seymour’s bachelor lifestyle. We found them. I honestly couldn’t tell you all of their names due to their short stay in my home – an unfortunate set of circumstances brought on by a single fish. His name was “Just Dennis.”
In the grand visit to PetCo The Friends fell in love with this particular fish. He swam a little funny and had quite the nervous twitch. I told them he looked a little challenged and perhaps a little sick. I suggested we get another fish to avoid problems. Then The Friends turned around with these looks of pure disgust upon their faces and proclaimed me an intolerant fool. They exclaimed that “Mentally challenged fish are fish, too, and you should love them just like you love all the others.”
Now if there is one thing I am not – it’s intolerant. I pride myself on being open minded and a friend to many (except if you lack basic skills with intelligent, witty banter… but let’s not go there). I purchased all 1.99 of the fish and dubbed him “Just Dennis,” since his name tended to be followed by a cute shaking of the head or rolling of the eyes on my part. Just Dennis came home with us along with his buddies, and I tried to make them as comfortable as possible while getting acquainted with Seymour.
That’s when all hell broke loose and challenged the very little we considered our reality.
The Best Friend (and no longer roommate) helped me move in by christening the new room with a Scrabble Game and gossip. During what I would assume was a brilliant move on my behalf was when we began to notice something was not right. Just Dennis was no longer swimming his funky dance and instead had gotten himself suctioned to the side of our new water filter.
So I may be tolerant and love my fish, but I can’t stand to touch them. I also cannot handle fish death, so when it looked as though Just Dennis was struggling I valiantly pushed The Best Friend forward to investigate and aid the fish in distress. She helped the little guy get back into the open water, and we went about our slumber party. The next morning, though, tragedy befell the small dormitory when we found Just Dennis dead. I humbly explained that The Friends should have all listened to my knowledge when I explained the fish was sick. Here he was dead not 24 hours into his life in my home.
Not only that, but he turned out to be a bonafide typhoid mary to the rest of my aquatic family.Within the next 12 hours – fish by fish – they began to show similar symptoms and dying.
Each would start to swim funny, flip around a bit, get sucked up against the filter, and croak right there in front of me. (Note that The Best Friend was required to flush all of these fish, as I refused to… but I looked brave while I made her do it.) Alas, Seymour was again the only fish in the tank.
I began to worry about the water, so I moved Seymour to a small bowl hoping I could outrun whatever plague was smiting the fishy brethren. It was a horrible scene when Seymour began to lose his motor skills like the lot before. The Neighbor came in to check on Seymour and recognized some of his symptoms and googled away for a bit. She came up with a diagnosis that we all feared.
Just Dennis apparently suffered from a disease known as “Neon Tetra Disease,” a deadly sickness that first attacks the nervous system – then the fish cannot swim and eventually drown. As Seymour was healthy when the plague was introduced, he was hanging on longer. The Neighbor explained he must be in a lot of pain and the best way to deal with the situation was to continue with a mercy killing by toilet. —– I just couldn’t do it. Here was my love child, my long term roommate, and my friend in a tiny guppy body… and I had introduced his demise. The Neighbor took care of the situation, and I was left to a room without any pets… without any roommate… and without anyone to cry with. It was a silent memorial, but it was heartfelt.
The Best Friend, The Token Estonian, The Lover of all things Food, and I recently graduated from said undergraduate career. We moved onto worries about senior theses, graduate school, and real people jobs. We will never, however, forget the saga of Seymour and Gifford… or the untimely demise of our beloved Seymour. We became better people, more responsible people. But we lost a small guppy shaped piece of our heart that day.