Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 3rd 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Squawking, squealing and all kinds of unhappiness was coming from outside.   The cats and I went to the back door and watched the squirrel launch up the birdfeeder pole only to slide back down to the ground.   Each time the squirrel hit the soil, it chattered, […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday June 3rd 2018

Very young Goldie on left

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Squawking, squealing and all kinds of unhappiness was coming from outside.   The cats and I went to the back door and watched the squirrel launch up the birdfeeder pole only to slide back down to the ground.   Each time the squirrel hit the soil, it chattered, sat and contemplated the situation, and then tried again.   The morning rains had made the pole quite slick, much to the squirrel's chagrin.   Adding insult to injury, another squirrel climbed the tree, ran along the branch and dropped down on the top of the birdfeeder.   The ground squirrel looked up in disbelief.   You've all had this happen at one time or another.   I could so empathize with the grounded wet squirrel.

The thing about spring is the wildlife become careless, ecstatic, or fail to think of the consequences of their actions.   In this respect they are very much like people.   Last night from behind the aquarium issued the loud chirps of a cricket.   This young eager male cricket was rubbing one forewing against the rough serrated edge of the other wing.   He had somehow gotten into the house and made his way to the glass door, probably thinking it was the way out.   Making the best of the situation, he began to chirp, hoping to attract a female.   He did attract two females.   I started to get up to capture the cricket, but Cleo, our female cat, bounded past me, spotted the cricket as it jumped and grabbed him in her mouth.   The fish became excited thinking they too might be get food and swam wildly back and forth in the tank.   Cleo carried the insect to the carpet and ate him in two crunchy bites.   It was as fast as the snap of the fingers.   We don't have a big problem with most bugs since our Siamese mix is a superb huntress.   Sammy, the older cat, sat on the couch and watched her, actually perking up his ears. He prefers his food canned or from the sack.

Soft and dry Cleo

The day before Memorial Day, Goldie died.   The night before I watched the goldfish struggle to get to the surface to eat pellets, but the effort was too great and he would sink to the bottom.   Pearl, his companion, would swim down and nudge him to try again, but the swim bladder was too corrupted.

Months ago I used to pitch small insects and spiders into the aquarium tank.   The two fish loved their treats. Made them feel like they were in the great outdoors.   Either one of the insects was toxic or it was just Goldie's time for the air bladder to conk out.   Goldie spent an inordinate amount of time laying on the gravel.

According to goldfish aficionados, stopping food for three days may help.   Starving both the fish, much to Pearl's chagrin, somewhat returned Goldie's buoyancy and he could hover in the middle of the tank for a few days.   Soon he rose to the surface and bobbed around like a cork.

My next idea: perhaps he was ingesting too much air when eating pellets.   Flake food was reintroduced into the diet regimen and, again, Goldie seemed to swim with ease in the tank.   For months I regulated Goldie's buoyancy with food.   Today would it be pellets or flakes?   When he gobbled pellets he also gulped air which kept him afloat.   He took in less air when he nibbled flakes which allowed him to sink down into the water.

The last week nothing mattered.   Poor Goldie swam like a mad dog fish. around the tank and then would hit the bottom with a thud.   Pearl and I knew he was in trouble.   The morning he died, Pearl was with him.   I wondered if fish care about each other.   After all they are fish, not cats or dogs.   Did they experience feelings?   I think they do.   I watched Pearl butt her head under Goldie to raise him higher in the water.   She pushed him from side to side and swam in and out of his favorite cave, always going back to where he was.   The pink fish would come and park herself right by his side on the gravel for long times as he languished.   When Goldie knew his time to go had come, he wedged himself into the narrow tube ornament just his length beside the cave.   The constricted area would not allow him to open wide his gills to keep him alive.   I looked at him and he at me.   It was a goodbye and within a minute, my little Goldie was gone.

Okay, you must realize Goldie was with me when the earthquake hit in 2011 and nearly sloshed out of the tank.   He survived roaring Bob the tornado two years later.   The fish would startle at any loud noise or vibration.   We have had several small earthquakes during the interim. Once he jumped out of the tank, but I managed to get to him before Cleo the cat.   The fish probably suffered from PTSD.   I talked to my fish each day.   They would cluster together at the front to send me telepathic messages of how their day was going.   Well, they could have.   More likely they wanted food.

Goldie has a new temporary home in terra firma between the blueberry and raspberry plants beside the mower shed.   I will miss that brilliant orange fish with the beautiful long fins and tail.

Pearl is still hanging out in one corner wondering what has happened.   Her world has changed twice.   She lost her friend but gained two new tiny buddies.   At the pet store I studied the tank of goldfish.   So small.   The largest one I pointed to, but in the process of being netted another gold and white baby swam in.   The two were put into a plastic sack with water.   They acclimated in the home tank for a few hours floating inside their plastic bubble.   Pearl studied these new things with interest.   When the sack was punctured the two dive bombed to the bottom and hid out in the cave.

The next two days Pearl guarded the entrance to the cave.   The strange fish were forced to hide in the plants.   The third day Pearl relented and all three surfaced to eat and swim around the tank.

Drama in the tank.

Pearl checks out the newbies