The death of a pet is hard on the family that loved it. When we said goodbye to Goldie this weekend, it was a difficult situation, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it, but there are resources to get help. Goldie was a goldfish – I know that was not the most original name – but my son was four years old at the time, and we left it up to him to name her. Ten years later, we all find that parting was not so sweet a sorrow.
How We Got Goldie
Back in May 2013, my daughter attended a school fair during school hours. She came home smiling and holding a plastic bag filled with water and a little goldfish. Apparently, she threw a few sacks into a slot and won the fish as a prize.
My son reached for it, and as the magnanimous big sister that she was – and still is – she gave the fish to him. This is how our 10-year love affair with this little fish began.
The First Tank
We did have a fish before Goldie – Otto (a blue betta fish) – so there was a small tank in the closet, some gravel, and a pirate ship with holes in it. So, we filled the tank with distilled water, and put Goldie into her new home. She swam in and out of the holes in the ship and swam in circles around the little tank. My son noted that she looked happy in her new home.
Unlike Otto, who was small and never grew beyond about three inches in length, Goldie started to grow exponentially. I looked into what kind of tank I should get because Otto’s old tank clearly was not going to be big enough for her, so we went to the store and chose a nice five-gallon octagonal tank with a filter system.
I bought new gravel, a Squidward Tiki mask – from SpongeBob SquarePants – and some plastic plants because I had read that goldfish like to sleep inside the plants. We went home and set up the tank, and Goldie swam happily around it and through the holes in the mask. This would be her home for the next 10 years.
When we took long trips or went overseas, we would bring Goldie over to her grandparents’ house – my in-laws – where she would receive TLC. On road trips, we did take her, so Goldie went to Montauk, Rhode Island, and Niagara Falls.
On the way to the Falls on an inclined road, her travel tank (a big clear bowl) tipped over and Goldie swam along the car mat like she was going down a water slide. My kids quickly recovered her, poured bottles of water into the bowl, and saved the day.
Comfort and Joy
While many pet owners enjoy cuddling with their dogs and cats, that is not an option with a fish. However, Goldie still brought us lots of comfort and joy. When I would walk into my son’s room – where the tank was on his desk – to feed her, she would swim up quickly to the surface of the water and almost wag her little tale. She was genuinely happy to see me.
When we played in my son’s room or he did his homework at the desk, Goldie’s presence brought him joy. I would look into the room and see her swimming around as he worked, and I felt joyous knowing he and his fish were together.
When it got dark, I had a blue light feature on her tank. I would switch that on and she would move sleekly through the artificial plants and around the back of the Tiki mask. I felt a sense of peace watching her, and sometimes I would sit there and enjoy seeing her moving around the tank. I was glad to know that she was happy.
We would sometimes talk about how long we had Goldie, and a little research turned up that the average goldfish lives 10–15 years. So, when Goldie turned 10 earlier this year, I was thinking about her longevity but hoping that she would last longer.
About a week ago, my son came to me and said that he thought something was wrong with Goldie. I went in to feed her, and she was floating sideways with her tail bent. When I tapped on the tank and showed her the food container, she perked up and swam to the surface. I was thinking that she probably found a new way to sleep.
The next day I went in to feed her, and she was bent out of shape again and floating near the bottom of the tank. This time when I tapped on the tank and showed her the food, Goldie didn’t move. I realized that she was gone.
We took Goldie outside and prepared a place for burial in our garden, under the shade of our blooming peach tree. I dug a deep whole, dropped her slowly into it wrapped in a small cloth, and covered her up. My son found a stone in the garden, and I wrote her name on it and the years she was born and died. We gave her a respectful ending, and she deserved that for all the years she brought joy to us.
In the last two days we have allowed ourselves time to grieve quietly. We haven’t talked about her loss much, but I have told my son I’m here when he is ready to talk about Goldie. Since she is gone, I sometimes go into my son’s room and stare at the vacant place on his desk where her tank once stood. I know it may sound crazy, but I miss that fish. I miss feeding her and watching her. My son misses her too, even though he has more space on his desk to do his homework, because he has a space in his heart that a little goldfish no longer fills.
Rest in peace, Goldie!