LAUGHLINES: Moms Master of Pet Funerals

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I just spotted a Facebook post by the friend of a friend (do we really know all the people we “friend” on Facebook? I think not.) about the death of her child’s fish.

If you have kids, you have pets, and when you have pets, well, death soon follows. The smaller the pet, the bigger the chance you’ll end up having a funeral.

Fish are especially short-lived. We had a fish aquarium when we were growing up, with lots of exotic fish, but they ended up dead despite the fancy heater, humming filter, cool plastic rocks and fake plants. In one case, my mom turned the heater up too high, and they boiled to death. We replaced them, and soon, some of the new recruits were committing suicide by jumping out the tank. Perhaps they anticipated their demise and wanted to die on their own terms?

We also had a few newts in the tank, and in an effort to help their plastic lily pad stay afloat when they piled on, my mom cut a few pieces of sponge and adhered them to the underside of the lily “raft.” Unfortunately, the sponge came “pre-soaped,” so the newts started going into what we assumed was cardiac arrest. And there was Mom, our hero, doing chest compressions on the little slimy things, but they slipped away despite heroic efforts that would’ve done any professional EMT proud.

Our parakeets bit the dust on a regular basis, too. They would stop chirping (which drives you crazy anyway), and then stay on the bottom of the cage a few days, then kick. In one case, we had a murder-suicide, when we accidentally bought two males (anyone out there know how to tell a girl bird from a boy bird??) and one of them pecked a big hole into the other’s head. The pecker then died of guilt or embarrassment, the latter if you ascribed to my mother’s theory that the killer had made moves on what he thought was girl bird and killed his potential paramour to shut him up.

However that soap opera played out, it meant another funeral. We’d break out the cigar box, or whatever was on hand, tossed in some flowers, a couple of Kleenex as a shroud, and find another spot in the backyard.

Sometimes, a funeral is impossible. My cousin’s guppies ended up being incinerated in the garbage disposal when my poor aunt accidentally dropped a couple of them in the drain while cleaning out their tank. She tried to retrieve them but, alas, she hit the disposal switch instead of the light switch, and in a few seconds of grinding metal, the fish were history.

The downside was the death of Gizmo and George. The upside? No need to find another backyard plot.

Was my aunt suspected of engineering the entire terrible episode? As the mother of eight children, she had been undertaker at dozens of pet funerals, so yes, odds were this gentle, wonderful woman knew exactly what she was doing when she threw the switch.

And I suspect the millions of moms who have done CPR on guinea pigs, fed ailing lizards with eye-droppers, and spent sleepless nights monitoring terminal canaries wouldn’t have blamed her a bit.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.