Saturday, January 27, 2007

My fishy friends

Last night on the CTV news, there was a story about a kid who had saved the life of a lobster, and now had the lobster as a pet. Slow news night, I guess. About a week ago, I got a call from Darlene, neighbour, friend, gardener, spa therapist and fish feeder here at Ste. Anne's. She was deeply concerned. The heating element that I had installed in our small fish pond at Sentosa had tripped the circuit breaker, and a thick pad of ice had formed. She suggested I go have a look. When I saw what had happened, my heart sunk. The 8' X 4' X 18" deep pond was a solid block of ice. I started to imagine how the final few hours had been for our family of gold fish. They have lived through several winters in this icy pond, but it has never frozen solid before. Oh well, hopefully they were in a better place now. None-the-less, I thought I had better make some effort to thaw out this ice mass in case it might do some structural damage to the brick walls. I suppose in the far reaches of my brain I also thought there might be a slim chance that I could bring the fish back. Off I went to Canadian Tire where I purchased a tarp. I used the tarp to cover the pond, replaced the circuit breaker and installed a small space heater. All the while, the temperature continued to drop - it went down to -21C! There was no hope for my fishy friends. This morning, I checked to see how things were progressing with the big melt. Miracle of miracles, there, through the ice, I saw a small school of rather large, slow moving gold fish! They had survived! Now of course, I don't know if they had come back from a frozen state, or if they had found a bubble of water in which to survive, but I do know that they'll never tell me, and they will never thank me. Regardless, I feel a certain bond with these fish and the lives that I "saved" - perhaps I'm no stranger than the lobster guy? What is it in us living beings that creates this bond - this caring about lives that we are somehow touched by? I remember when I was a kid, I raised rabbits, and we had a dog. Our dog would chase and kill wild rabbits, but if one of my pet rabbits escaped, the dog would gently pick it up by the scruff of it's neck and place it back in it's box. Quite often while looking for something to watch on television, I will pass over one of those ads for Foster Parents Plan. As much as I feel guilt, I don't feel empathy for the images I see on the screen; it doesn't seem to work through the pixels of television. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a heartless person who can only relate to gold fish; I do sponsor a foster child, but my decision wasn't triggered by the same emotional response as the one that made my heart sink when I thought the gold fish were dead, and jump when I found they were alive. I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts about bonding and empathy between living creatures.

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