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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Ugly Goldfish

When I was a teenager, I worked for several years at a local pet store.  From this employment, I was blessed with all sorts of "special pets" which included fish with scoliosis of the spine, a blind canary with cataracts, and footless lizards just to name a few.

One day I went to work and it happened. I discovered the strangest goldfish I had ever seen swimming among the feeder fish in a large tank.  The feeder fish tank contained a large population of small "comet" goldfish that were intended to be purchased in large quantities to be fed to turtles, lizards, snakes, etc.  They were densely packed when the new shipments came in.

Feeder Fish Tank Image from LINK

Our weekly shipment had arrived.  Among this mass of golden shimmer, I could see a strange little creature.  He did not seem to fit in with the rest, and I was right.  His strange little body was different than the long and lean goldfish.  He did not fit in.  As a matter of fact, for a goldfish, he was quite ugly.
He was not a goldfish, and he was not ugly.  He was a tiny tadpole that would soon be a beautiful swan... I mean frog. Tadpoles occasionally joined the shipment of feeder fish.  The ponds where feeder fish were raised were apparently accessible to frogs.  I have no idea where these little guys originated, but here he was in the feeder tank...but he would not be there for long!
I had seen images of the evolution from tadpole to frog in my science books, but never in real life. 
Metamorphosis of a Frog Image from LINK

I took my new friend home and placed him in a small two and a half gallon filtered tank equipped with a lighted hood.  He resided there with some goldfish friends as I awaited his metamorphosis.  He progressed wonderfully!  I loved watching them swim around the tank!  The goldfish's movements were so smooth and artistic, while the tadpoles movements seemed mechanical and uncoordinated at times.

My cats would sit next to the tank watching them.  They would occasionally drink from behind the light on the tank, but they never violated the fish's space.  The tadpole went from tiny to robust in no time. 

Tadpole Image from LINK

Eventually he began to sprout his hind legs.

Tadpole Image from LINK

Soon his front legs began to sprout and I knew it was going to be time to provide him with a safe place to climb out of the water.  This would mean separating him from his fishy friends.  This was probably a good thing as soon these fishy friends might become his Sunday brunch!  I could not wait to see what type of frog would emerge from this fish-like body!

I planned on finding another small tank and adding a shallow amount of water.  A flattened rock with its top above water level would serve as his new amphibious resting spot.

One day I came home and I could see as I walked into my bedroom that the tank was cloudy, very cloudy.  From a distance, I could not tell if anything was swimming around in there or not.  I approached the tank wondering what on earth could have happened, dreading what I might find.  Did the filter quit working?  Did a cat grab at the tadpole or fish and kill him?  What could make the water so murky so quickly?

I was saddened to see that the inhabitants of the tank had indeed expired.  I was gladdened to see that none of the bodies in the tank had any signs of cat mischief.  The unfortunate truth was that one of the cats had gone to take a drink, and simply vomited into the tank.  The pollution was enough to stop my science experiment/friendship with my tadpole and his fishy friends.  Thank goodness that I am fully aware that all frogs go to heaven!

Angel Frog Image from LINK

I did love my job at the pet store, and as I stated in my previous blog, "A Zoo Unlike Any Other", I would do it all again in a heartbeat!  But I would do it just a little differently.
I have learned alot about domesticated animals, including captive exotics and pocket pets, in the past twenty years.  I know that their abundance is a danger to them.  They, like dogs and cats, are over-bred and you can find whatever species you are looking for, available in a local shelter or rescue group. There are many times when the 4-H kid has completed the rabbit program, and his or her rabbit sits in a cage alone outside or in a garage, forgotten.  This rabbit may find a new home if the owners are dedicated enough to persist at re-homing him, or he may sit lonely as potential adopters purchase newly bred bunnies from a pet store.  The pet store where I worked took in many small animals/pocket pets needing to be re-homed, and I am grateful for that.  Some pet stores sell only one gender of the small animals/pocket pets, and I applaud that as well.  But I would take it one step further.
My pet store would be different.  It would be a collaboration of qualified rescues helping to re-home those animals that have been outgrown, forgotten, lost and found.  I would request that the Iowa Parrot Rescue display their adoptable birds in my store. I would request that the Iowa Reptile Rescue display their adoptable snakes, turtles, lizards, etc in my store.  The animals would not be sold, but would be adopted after a counseling session with the interested parties so they fully understand the needs of the pets they are hoping to take home.  Our kittens would be from people who have brought the Momma and Poppa cats into our low cost spay neuter program that is run as often as it is needed in a clinic behind the store.  All the animals would be representatives of local shelters and rescues.  Profits would be from the pet supplies not from pet sales.  The rescue groups would still receive their adoption fees and their animals would be easily viewed in one place by many people during normal business hours.  What an ideal situation! 
Perhaps it is too ideal... idealistic?
I have the will, I just wish I had the way...

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Brighte said...

I think that your kind of pet store is perfect! Imagine a shop full of animals just waiting for a second chance! I have found that second chance animals actually make better pets. It's almost as if they know what they've been given <3

deborah said...

When I win the lottery I will back you!!!!! Great idea.

amanda said...

Sounds Wonderful!!! I would love to visit and work with your pet store!!! Let me know when you start the fundrasing:) We have a couple ideal buildings for your perfect pet store here! Ready to relocate?