There’s a New Fish in the Family

. November 1, 2013.

There is a new man in my life.
He’s only been around for a few months, but he’s already made a lasting impression. He’s the first to greet me in the morning for breakfast, and keeps me compa- ny while I do dishes. He comes to me when I call, and when I walk by him, he flirts to get my at- tention. Most importantly, when the aquarium light shuts off, he doesn’t make a

That’s right—Mr. Right is a fish. A blue
beta fish, to be exact, named Mr. Blue Sky for a piece of ballet choreography my oldest is learning. After years of saying “no pets” to my kids, I finally relented and allowed a five- gallon filtered tank to take up space on the kitchen counter. After weeks of various fish dying off, I finally took the advice of the pet store people and got a low-maintenance beta

I’m no fish expert, but he seems pretty happy
and—dare I say it—fairly needy for a fish. Walk by the tank and he comes up to the glass to see what’s going on. Run your finger along the glass and he follows it. Open the slot to feed him his special beta food and he waits, performing acrobatic jumps to snatch the food the second it hits the water. We were gone for a few days, leaving Mr. Sociable alone with a dissolving food pellet. When we came back, I swear I saw
him smile.

You might think this is just a fish. But it is also an important road into the “no pets” clause of the family contract. I’m not a pet hater – in fact, cats and dogs gravitate towards me for no discernible reason. I grew up with mostly cats, but a little doxie named Spooky remains my favorite childhood pet. He would bark at my mother when she would yell at me – who wouldn’t love a dog who did that? When I got my first job after college, the first thing I did was adopt a cat. Unfortunately, years later she had to be put down due to illness right before we adopted our first daughter.

Once I had two toddlers in the house, however, I had no desire to be re- sponsible for another life in the form of a pet. I decided pets were too much trouble, and too much responsibility. Now my daughters are 13 and 11, and I can see the day when the “no pets” clause might be relaxed. There is already a special loophole built in for my sister’s dog, a gentle black lab who loves cucumbers and sleeping. We even dog-sat for them when they traveled for two weeks. Aside from the unfortunate combination of black lab and cream carpet, it went just fine.

Now, of course, my daughters want a dog. Or maybe a cat. Most of my children’s friends have pets and it’s getting harder to stand my ground. Mr. Blue Sky was a good first step towards pet companionship. Am I ready to jump into having a dog? Probably not. But the dam has been breached by a little fish with a big personality.