It's All Connected

It's All Connected

Saturday, February 12, 2011

FYI: Petco is Not for Fishing

I figure every once in a while I will post these little FYI posts, because let's face it, I think I know a lot and feel it my obligation to share said knowledge with the seven people who read my blog.

Twelve days ago we had to send back a fish to it's rightful owner. We had been fostering him since before Thanksgiving, and being the total emo I am, and Jero being the sweet man who wants to see me not crying over a Betta, we decided to go and get ourselves a fishy or two.

We walked into Petco and headed straight for the fancy goldfish. We thought we'd get two, and maybe a snail. There was one there, the only Telescope Goldfish in the bunch. She had HUGE green eyes and the rest of her was orange. She looked like a fish directly out of a Dr. Seuss book. Then there was another little fat orange one with tufts near her eyes that looked like long eyelashes. Needless to say, picking two was going to be difficult. Especially since Jero has weird eye issues and was bound and determined that if we got the one with the big eyes he'd come out one morning to it grotesquely damaged. We decided to pick a bowl first.

Are you kidding me Petco? Twenty dollars for a two gallon goldfish bowl??

Now, I understand that when picking a pet you shouldn't be thinking about money. If you don't have the means to care for an animal, you shouldn't have an animal. That being said, most pet owners worry about possible vet bills and the like. We didn't go out and buy a thousand dollar Irish Wolfhound (my dream dog) because we could not afford an Irish Wolfhound. We went through rescue programs and found two very wonderful additions to our family because that was in our means to do so. Thinking about the cost does not make you a bad pet owner, it makes you financially responsible. It was never a question of if we could feed or shelter our dogs, and though vet bills do make me sweat a lot, we have always found a way to do what our dogs needed.

Fish are different. Fish are not long term pets. Some are. Some can just keep swimming for years. Goldfish do not fall in this category.

I was an avid fish caretaker in my youth. From everything to a few goldfish in a bowl to an elaborate saltwater tank with a live coral reef. The longest I ever had a goldfish was three years. Which is an eternity in goldfish years.

Goldfish die. Why on earth would I spend twenty bucks on a fishbowl? But, at this point we'd seen the fish and were definitely getting one. We decided to ask the fish person what she recommended as far as size. She looked at us like we were the scum of the earth and said, "you can't put two fish in a bowl!"

We did learn something. We learned that for every half inch of fish you need a gallon of water. Wow. That's a lot of space for two fancy goldfish and a snail.

I still think we were suckered. Now, she was probably right about the bowl. But, we ended up buying a ten gallon tank, with filter, light source, sample food and chemicals. Rocks, Mt. Wannahockaloogie and other decorations. Fish food, net, more chemicals, and an air pump.

Folks, the goldfish that lived three years? I won him at a demolition derby at our local fair. I carried him in that sack all day long. Got him home and stuck him in a glass bowl...maybe it held a gallon of water. He eventually did go into a larger tank when I decided I wanted fish that would need a light source and heater, but that was LONG after I got him. I learned to put Start Right in the water when I had two out of the five other goldfish I bought die of bloat. Kiss This (that was his name) lived through it all. I will admit he was a hearty fish.

Come on! We totally got suckered. But, the idea of getting back into this hobby after a decade and a half away from it was kind of clouding my judgment.

She told us that our tank should be set up and running for 24-36 hours before we introduce fish to it. So, we spent too much money and didn't even come home with a fish.

Twenty four hours later, I was back at Petco. The same girl helped me. She informed me that snails required a heat source, but a Plecostomus did not. So, I picked out Tara (big eyes), Willow (Oranda goldfish), and Angel (Plecostomus that lurks). The lady was very nice, she helped me pick out the right air pump and sent me on my way.

Three days later, on Saturday, Kelly got to pick out a fish for remembering three things he learned that week in school. He picked a larger Oranda which he named Daisy Buffy Squarepants. Jero picked a beautiful Shubunkin goldfish we named Spike.

Now, I am going to stop here, because I am about to rip on Petco big time. I know the wonderful things Petco does. I know they help shelter pets until adoption. I understand that when fish are shipped to them they arrive extremely stressed. There is bound to be a high mortality rate in new tanks. Fish who are not hearty cannot handle the stress of new tank after new tank. I get all that.

But I have some justified anger surrounding the way they sold these fish.

The fish food that they sold me told me to feed my fish several times a day in amounts that could be consumed in a few minutes. I did this to the glee of my seemingly always hungry fish. Tara was undeniably my favorite. Her great big eyes and the way she swam made her seem always so happy. She was the first to get sick.

She started having issues with floating. She'd float to the top and would rest there, unable to swim to the center or bottom of the tank. She looked miserable, fins all droopy, big eyes somehow sad.

I went to Petco to get more chemicals so I could change out half the water. I knew she had bloat, and Jero had found that this is a common problem with Telescope goldfish. The site he found online said that you should only feed your goldfish once a day, because they have no stomachs overfeeding can cause constipation. It said to feed her lightly boiled, peeled peas. He did. The young man at Petco was very honest, he said that their fancy tanks had Ick. He told me what treatment chemicals he would use.

I got home, put Tara in her own bowl because the other fish were picking on her, and changed out the water. When I went to put Tara back in, she was dead. I took her to Petco with a sample of my water and was then told that her eyes were far too big, even for Telescopes and that she was probably deformed. They gave me a refund. The nice young man told me what to watch for in my tank to see if I had Ick.

That was last Sunday. I'd had the tank for four days.

Then, on Wednesday, Jero called me at work to tell me that Spike had died. He was having an issue with one of his fins. Buffy, the bully, was really aggressive during feeding times. We had talked to a girl from Petco who told us there wasn't a whole lot of damage goldfish can do to each other, and that he probably wasn't as hurt as he seemed. Spike seemed to perk up the next day, but then when Jero came out of the shower he was dead.

I was furious. I had never lost two fish so closely together. When Jero took him and a water sample back to Petco, they had finally put ONE sign up on ONE tank saying they were under observation. Code for Ick. Jero got to see exactly what Ick looks like. The thing about one sign is that their tanks share a water source.

Our water had a slightly elevated ammonia level, but not high enough to kill Spike. We treated our water to remove the ammonia.

Then, yesterday morning, after picking up Kelly, Jero told me we had Ick.

Basically, due to still not holding down food, I had to pump Jero up to be strong when he went to Petco. We needed the medication to treat the Ick, and I wanted to give that place a piece of my mind through my gentle fiance.

I get the good they do. I get they are a large chain and the bottom line is what matters, but they have a responsibility to sell healthy pets, or to inform a customer of any illness.

We should have been informed that their tanks had Ick. When fish come in, naturally stressed, they should not be immediately put in tanks with healthy fish for sale. They should be quarantined for ten days until they know there is no illness. Tara, so obviously misshapen, should have been sold with a warning that she probably wouldn't last long. A customer should not be told once her fish start dying that they had Ick when she bought them.

Because of these things, we did get the medicine for free, but this is little consolation. Jero and I are animal people. We know fish are not long term pets, but we have had two fish die and two very ill out of the FIVE fish we purchased in less than two weeks.

The moral of this story? Petco is good for many things, but I would not purchase your fish there. If you do, I hope this educates you as to the questions you should ask when you buy your pets (this experience makes me nervous about the rodents they sell as well) there.

When did they come in? Are there illnesses in your tanks? Are the directions on this package correct?

I hope you have better luck than us and your fish just keep swimming on and on.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lakeside Stories: The Day of the Bats

I've been pretty much curled up in a tiny-ish ball for the last two days. I can't stare at the television any longer and I need to take a little break from Stephen King. I decided to write...but what about? I thought about writing of being sick as a child, but the only one that came to mind as worthy of sharing took place in my ballerina year and I don't think you want flu ridden, tutu wearing images of me dancing in your heads. I decided instead to write the first in a series I'd like to call Lakeside Stories.

I grew up...well, really I only a third grew up, between two homes on North and South Twin Lakes near Inchelium, Washington. I was a very lucky kid. Growing up as I did, with so much outdoorsy goodness right outside my front door, I feel as if I had a particularly adventurous childhood compared to kids today.

Ahem, we're going to pretend that didn't make me sound old.

It wasn't always rainbows and puppies. No, I am not about to talk of walking barefoot, uphill both ways. I took a bus, though the walk from the stop to our house wasn't short, it was flat, and I always had shoes even if I chose not to wear them.

If any of you know me, you know I am just about scared of anything that crawls, has big claws, or tries to dive bomb you from the sky. The cabin we lived in had an abundance of all of these things. As a matter of fact, I blame most of my fears on those years by the lake.

One day that stands out in particular I like to think of as the day of the bats.

Our cabin had a huge bat problem. They lived in the little arches of our metal roof, and you could hear them in the low hanging ceiling of our bedrooms. The squeaking was enough to drive you crazy. You couldn't help but wonder if that one right by your head had figured out a way inside.

My mom repeatedly had an exterminator to our house, but the suckers just weren't dying. When confronted by my mother, the exterminator actually replied, "it's not a tumor, I'll be back" just kidding, but he did say, "you want me to kill them?" He argued that bats eat bugs, and are therefor good things. My mother informed him that they were not eating OUR bugs, as will be revealed to you in a later story, he was then told that as an exterminator he was expected to exterminate.

He applied this goo into our roof. The goo would get on a bat who would carry it back and the others would clean him and the goo would spread. But, the goo was not lethal, it got in their wings and kept them from flying. Our job was to bop them on the head and scoop them up into garbage bags.

I was the designated bag holder.

This worked for a while, until they moved from the roof of our house to behind the backboard of our basketball hoop, into the eaves of our garage.

At least we didn't have to fall asleep counting bats anymore.

One bright, sunny day, my mom and dad told my brother to go outside and put a hose behind the backboard to flush out the bats.

Now, this particular big brother looks the least Native out of all of us, reddish hair, freckled up the wazzoo (just an expression, we aren't those kind of rednecks) but he did things according to Indian Time better than Sitting Bull himself. Everything in good time seemed to be his motto.

So, my mom and dad decided they could wait a while before going out to help him, because it wasn't as if time was of an essence. Then they heard screaming.

My brother had decided the best way to go about this was to climb the ladder and stick the hose in with the water already running. As soon as he did so, bats came flooding out of the rafters.

Now, I don't really know if I was there. This story has been told and retold so many times in my life, it becomes hazy as to where exactly I was while all of this was happening. But I remember it as if I was standing in the center and everything was happening in a slow motion, floaty sort of way.

My brother was screaming and waving his arms, "BAAAAATTTTTTSSSS!!!"

My mother was waving a broom, her weapon of choice, as you will also learn in another story.

My sister was yelling and waving a baseball bat, which we were ducking along with the winged kind.

My dad was calmly standing there, his arms raised to try and ease our stress saying, "everyone needs to just calm down, they're just bats. Just calm down."

My mother points to his chest, "Bob..."

Stuck to my dad's chest was a big, black bat. Had it been back lit in yellow, he would have looked JUST like Batman, except for the sheer look of fright in his unmasked eyes.

Here I remember my dad screaming in a much higher pitch than I am sure is accurate while saying, "get it off! GET IT OFF OF ME! GET IT OFF, PLEASE!!!"

My mother brushed the bat away and by this point, the bats had fled to the trees. When we all looked around we realized that the entire resort, which our cabin neighbored, was standing along the fence line watching the spectacle. Perfect.

This may be why, while camping or whatnot, whenever I hear that familiar squeaking coming from the trees, I may say, "they're just bats" but the calmness doesn't quite reach my eyes.

Because it's only a matter of time before someone gets a purple nurple from Dracula.