I’m not an animal person.
In fact anyone who knows me will probably tell you that’s a gross understatement of the facts!
I don’t hate animals – I’m not some heartless hater of all ‘lesser’ creatures, who can be found stonefacedly scrolling right on past all the videos of high-on-catnip cats, ‘talking’ dogs, and cats who think they’re dogs. I can appreciate all animals from the cute and cuddly to the powerful and ferocious. My oldest friends will even recall a long-lived obsession with a certain type of sea-faring mammal.
So actually, let me rephrase that – I’m not a pet person. I realise that many, many people get great joy out of their pets, they enjoy looking after them and love the loyalty and affection that they get as a reward. In theory I completely understand this, but personally, I’ve just never seen the appeal.
Its not because I don’t want to look after anyone or anything – I am a complete mother at heart and adore looking after my nieces and nephews. I grew up in a family of 6 kids and am not afraid of snot or slaver or poo. The truth is, animals just freak me out!
We never had pets when we were growing up (my Mam had her hands full enough with 6 of those human-animal hybrids that we affectionately know as young children). So I never really got comfortable with the reality of animals in the house. My Dad had 2 black cats and we stayed there every weekend but this didn’t really help much. I was never a massive fan and as I got older and started to be left in on my own on occasion, I would shoo them out of the living room on account of the fact that they made me really uncomfortable. Slinking around with their slightly-too-intelligent eyes and what I still swear would qualify as smug expressions! And as for walking up the stairs while they were poised on the banister at the top, trying to psych me out by looking like they could pounce at any second… no chance!
Okay, so I probably sound pretty insane to all but a very niche group of animally-awkward people like myself. But there is a point to why I’m telling you all of this.
Due to recent circumstances, I have for the first time in my life, at 24.5 years of age, become solely responsible for another creature.
His name is Sherlock and he’s a goldfish.
Now somewhat predictably, very soon after this happened I had a small panic about my ability to keep this goldfish alive. To understand why, you need to know a little of Sherlock’s back story…
It was Easter-time back in 2013 and I was living in London whilst doing an internship, like so many other evenings we paid a visit to the local Polish supermarket, which was basically like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, containing all sorts of sweet and savoury treats that you would never find in the likes of Asda. Including sugar-coated peanuts and every flavour of ‘Milka’ chocolate you can imagine! What it didn’t usually sell… was fish.
But, fatefully, as a kind of random birth/life/Easter celebration, on this day they were selling just that. Now I’ve explained that I’m not exactly a pet person so I wouldn’t usually have bothered too much about this. But even I couldn’t bare how those poor little fish were being kept. In a tank that looked like it was designed for one or two, there were no less than 50 fish, cramped together and looking thoroughly miserable. So we found the most sickly looking specimen and bought him for £1.
In truth we expected him to die pretty much instantly, but after a few days he was looking far more chirpy (if indeed a fish can look such a thing) and once he was set up in his own proper tank, complete with decorative gravel and ornaments, he thrived! He even survived the journey up North to Sunderland on the train in a (very large, the largest you can buy, and thoroughly cleaned out) coffe jar.
Since then he’s survived another house move and a week-long bout of barely moving or eating whilst a bizarre white thing hung from his side (very glad that went away).
He’s almost 2 years old now and as far as I know that’s a long time in goldfish years, so you can see why I don’t want to be responsible for killing the little guy now.
But unfortunately, if you’d been witness to my first attempt at cleaning him out last week, which involved me backing away into the corner while my younger sister fished him out of the tank with the little net, all the time saying “I feel like I’m doing a bushtucker trial,” you would understand that its a very real possibility!
As for now, Sherlock is all set up in a new, bigger tank donated by the aforementioned little sister, with some nice clean new gravel and a lovely spongebob ornament. After having a pretty mental 5 minutes where we were genuinely scared he would jump out of the top and had to scramble to put the lid on, he seems to have settled in.
So it doesn’t look like I’ve done him any harm so far – touch wood!
Oh by the way, that childhood obsession? It was dolphins, I always did love those guys!