Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Some might consider bullheads (as in the fish) an odd choice of pet. I prefer the term creative.
Besides, we didn't choose our bullheads; we rescued them. They were adopted into our family at a tender age Ð scooped from the shallows of the lake and saved from an almost guaranteed death in the jaws of larger fish. Lake life can be a killer, especially if you are a baby bullhead.
They spent their first weeks with us in an ice cream bucket. We set up their habitat and provided new lake water every few days. It wasn't a permanent situation because they weren't permanent pets.
The more we got to know them (to the extent that humans can know fish), the more we liked them. They didn't bark at the mailman or get into fights with other cats in the neighborhood. As a bonus, they were sort of cute Ð what with their whiskers and all. We had three. One was missing an eye. We called him Blindy. The others didn't get names.
As the days went on, they sort of grew on us. So much so we needed to find them a bigger home. The 10-gallon aquarium demonstrated quite a commitment. Our baby bullheads weren't going back to the lake anytime soon.
That was three years ago. I never thought our bullheads would last this long, Turns out they are tough fish. And smart. They learned to adapt to aquarium life. They cuddled together on the bottom Ð the place they felt most comfortable. They also learned to swim to the top when we opened the aquarium lid because this action led to a sprinkling of goldfish food. (Try looking for bullhead food at the super store. It just isn't there.)
For our part, we learned not to walk too close to the tank (they possess a sensitive startle reflex) and to always drop some food on Blindy's good side.
We hoped the bullheads might produce babies. We looked the process up online and found out bullheads lay their eggs in concave "nests" on the floor of the lake, or aquarium. We used a wooden spoon to carve out nests in the aquarium rocks, but Blindy and the others must not have noticed. Or, perhaps our fish were all girls Ð or all boys. Either way, our nests remained empty, without any bullhead eggs.
When our bullheads didn't have babies of their own, we tried the next best thing. Last year, we rescued more baby bullheads from the shallows and brought them home to our newest aquarium: a 29-gallon Taj Mahal of tanks. We dropped the little guys in. They lasted less than a minute. Our bullheads ate them like they were popcorn. Even Blindy got a couple. Our babies didn't stand a chance against cannibals. Aquarium life can be a killer, especially if you are a baby bullhead.
Or a big bullhead. Ours measured about 10-inches long (Blindy a bit shorter) when we found them floating dead last Tuesday. All three at once. I know, it seems fishy.
Still, no autopsies were performed as foul play was not suspected. (Our fish had no known enemies.) We held the funeral immediately after finding the bodies. You understand how it is with dead fish. You don't have long to fool around with writing eulogies or choosing memorial songs because things go downhill quickly after a fish goes fins up.
I lost three pets last week: Blindy and the other two. They were trusted members of our family. They never vomited on the couch or tracked mud all over the clean kitchen floor, which is more than I can say for the other pets and majority of humans in the house.
In theory, our bullheads have swum on to higher waters Ð ones where Blindy has two good eyes and bullheads occupy a welcome spot at the top of the lake with all the other fish. In reality, they are in the backyard, buried next to the pepper plants. The fish that didn't prove fertile in the aquarium are now getting a second chance at fertilization Ð in the garden.
In death, as in life, Blindy and the other two ask for little and give so much. May they rest (or would that be swim?) in peace.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" at booklocker.com. She also offers writing and design services at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com. Check Slices of Life out on Facebook. E-mail Jill: