True stories with a twist!

Posts tagged ‘pets’


I was ten and he was eight. I was the big sister and he the little brother until the day I turned forty. From then on, by mutual consent, more mutual on my part than his, he became my big brother.

Back then we acquired a pet hamster whom we shared and cared for. One of us cared and shared more than the other, but that’s not the point of the story.

We named the hamster Sniffy because of the funny way his nose twitched. When his nose twitched his whiskers twitched, making him appear to be sniffing. Or having a bad case of St.Vitus Dance.

Sniffy lived in a luxurious cage by hamster standards consisting of a spa quality running wheel and gourmet food and water dishes. The cage had full time security in the form of a lock and key. Hamster ownership was a serious responsibility not to be fooled around with. We chose a hiding spot for the key, and promised never to allow Sniffy to roam free without supervision.

We, of course, were the supervisors, the jailers and the feeding and cleaning staff. We alternated tasks and vowed to do our jobs diligently, regularly and timely.

So sincere were we about our service to Sniffy that we drew up a contract. “We the undersigned to solemnly agree to keep the location of the key to Sniffy’s cage secret from plundering eyes and other destructive forces. If either of us reveal the location of the key we would forfeit our share of Sniffy.

All precautions considered, somehow one day we discovered the horrifying fact that our hamster had escaped from his barred apartment. How did this happen? How did he get out of the cage? Whose carelessness allowed this mysterious event to occur? Where was Sniffy now, and how will we ever find him?


Our fearless sibling team put together a plan based on the Hansel and Gretel story of our youth. Even though at ages eight and ten, we thought of ourselves as grown up.

We set a trail of bread crumbs leading back to his cage. No matter where in the house he is hiding one sniff of the crumbs will roust Sniffy onto the trail and lead him right back to his cage.

But we didn’t take Tippy into consideration. She was our six year old dog who was usually asleep: was never a threat or particular interest to anybody or thing.

But somehow the presence of breadcrumbs on the floor challenged something in her hunting dog ancestral background and she lapped every one from the floor.

So poor Tippy got tied up in her own home (the indignity of it all!) while we set the breadcrumb trap again. It proved to us that only dogs, not hamsters, greedily eat bread crumbs from the floor. Tippy was freed when no hamsters near of far showed a crumb of interest in crumbs.

The mystery was never solved, but some interesting theories evolved.

  1. Perhaps Sniffy found a home in a mouse hole, developed a love of cheese, and lived happily ever after with mouse friends.
  2. Maybe Sniffy squeezed under the door and made her way outside and to the bright lights of Broadway, where she became star of the Hamster Circus.
  3. She became the pet of a wealthy old codger, who plied her evermore with riches beyond a hamster’s wildest dreams.
  4. Perhaps she died.


They say in sports that “almost” doesn’t count. Don’t waste the fans’ time with lame excuses such as in “I almost got that ball into the hoop.” “We almost won that game.” “I almost stopped that puck.”

Having said that, I admit that I am an “almost” murderer.

Readers who have read my “Little Blue Fish” story know that Sparky is my Siamese Fighting Fish. He is now blind, living in the equivalent of a one room condo, underwater as many post-storm homes are.

He can no longer appreciate the landscape of his tank. The pretend palm tree goes without his appreciative glances, the pretend castle remains uninhabited by Sparky’s imaginary friends. The blue pebbles on the bottom no longer delight him.

Feeding time for Sparky is frustrating. I drop one piece of pink flake fish food at his nose. He seems to look right at it, but it slowly drifts away, down to the bottom of the tank. Try another piece. One single flake just to the left of him. He remains in one place, unmoving and unaware of the succulent snack gliding past him. Now two flakes sit at the bottom of the tank. Sometimes he snaps at food, but misses the piece. Down it floats.

Every piece of food on the bottom of the tank causes pollution in the water. That pollution translates into many more time consuming water changes. The water must be spilled out of the tank, tank walls scrubbed, plants and decorative structures cleaned. Then with fresh water with a few drops of “R.O. Right”, a chemical that puts minerals back into the water, the fish and fancy furnishings go back in.

My husband, fish fancier and hobbyist since boyhood, informs me that “Serious collectors euthanize fish requiring so much extra care.”

“Well, I could never do that,” I assure him.

“If you want me to do it just tell me.”

The time costing routine continues for a while, until one day I lose my patience and say, as I leave the house, “O.K.; do it. Just don’t do it while I’m home.”

He understands what I mean when I say “do it.”

Late that afternoon I return to an empty house which seems quieter than usual. Don’t be

ridiculous. A Siamese fish doesn’t make any noise; why should the house seem quieter?

Yet the feeling remains. “Oh, he did it. Sparky is gone.” I sidle up to the tank and see nothing but a plastic palm tree and a little castle.

I never wanted this creature but I feel surprisingly sad.

My fish-experienced husband probably matter-of-factly swished a small aquarium net into the tank and swooped Sparky out. I imagine a splash of water and hear the sound of a toilet flushing.

Sparky is forced through the sewer line and comes out right into a treatment plant.

“Oh no.” What a cruel end for a little creature whose only fault was losing his eyesite.

And it’s my fault. I wished this fate for him. What kind of human being am I?

As I stood near the tank a small blue fish waved its fins and swam up to the top.

Sparky is alright! Nobody swooped him out of the tank. Nobody threw him into the toilet bowl. Nobody sentenced him to ending his life in a treatment plant!

There must be a way to feed him. I will figure it out. It just will take a little more time. But never will I cause such a sad ending to the life of my blue Siamese Fighting Fish!


I didn’t want a fish. I don’t want a fish. Anything but another fish in this house. How many do we have, thanks to my husband’s hobby?

He has two salt water tanks, two fresh water tanks, and a koi pond outside. So a fish of my own was not what I longed for.

But it was my friend’s big birthday, she loves animals and critters, and I thought a small unobtrusive tank with one colorful Siamese Fighting Fish would be a cheerful addition to her kitchen. Her kitchen decor is overwhelmingly  blue, so I bought a blue one with long, sensual, diaphanous fins. She would love it.

But before I could present her with this sensational and thoughtful gift, she said to me,  “I’m tired of taking care of everything. As of this birthday I don’t want one more thing to take care of.”

Not even a little blue fish,? I think. After making her wishes so clear I can’t possible give her the one thing more she doesn’t want to take care of.

So here I am, stuck with fish-sitting HER fish for a few years. How long do Siamese Fighting Fish live? I wonder.

I call him/her (?)  Sparky and set its little tank in the center of the kitchen counter, surrounded by my white begonias and red kalanchoe. Suddenly my kitchen is quite bright and patriotic: red, white and blue! “OK, Sparky: dinner time!”, I say, as I drop one pellet at a time into the water. Sparky zooms up to the top to fetch his reward. He zeros in, flapping his little fins with joy, as he consumes each pellet.

Every morning I come into the kitchen and put the light on at the top of his tank. “Good morning, Sparks,” I find myself saying. “How are you today?”

He zooms to the top, recognizing a human presence nearby, hoping in his little fish heart that the human has a treat for him. His fins are working overtime. They remind me of a car’s windshield wipers adjusted to run at maximum speed.

It’s almost a year since Sparky’s arrival, and I notice a change in his behavior. Now when I drop a pellet into the tank he wanders around pathetically, trying to find it. “It’s up here, Sparkles,” I say reassuringly. I even tap lightly on the tank cover, trying to help him locate his food. I see him snap at something, only to watch the pellet float down to the bottom of the tank.

Sparky seems to be blind!

I didn’t want a fish, and now I have a handicapped, special needs fish. I feel sad and sorry for such an innocent harmless creature, who cannot even find his pellet of food in a tank the size of a basketball.

But Sparky is part of our family now, and he can expect good care in every way I can give it.

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