Friday, March 16, 2012

No alphas, and no bettas either please

I know that dog bloggers are a sophisticated bunch, used to dealing with complicated psycho-social matters like blended families, rescuer martyr complexes, animal welfare concerns, and everything in-between. So maybe you can help me out with this one.
Let's just say hypothetically that a non-custodial Dad wants to give his 13-year-old son everything, maybe because he loves his son very much and maybe also because he feels a bit guilty that he is not the custodial parent, as I believe many divorced fathers do. And let's just say that said Dad is with his son during one visitation weekend and goes to a pet store, and said child begs for a pet Betta fish. A pet fish who will live at the noncustodial house, that the child will see and care for every other weekend, in between which times, the noncustodial father, and more than likely the girlfriend, will care for the fish, feed it, clean its pathetically small tank, and watch it flitter its fins aimlessly in place in a sad parody of what it might do in its native rice paddies in Thailand. 

Now let's say that said girlfriend has always felt a constriction of the chest and a sinking of the heart every time she sees a Betta fish in a store, with no life except to sip air from the top of its tiny bowl, day in and day out, until it dies a premature death of boredom, having lived a life that bears no semblance to what it was born to do. 

And lets just suppose that said girlfriend already feels a burden of responsibility that is sometimes almost unbearable, toward the budgies that also live with her, who were also the result of an impulsive decision on the part of said boyfriend, and toward the dogs who live with her, and toward the millions of dogs and cats whom she is unable to foster, who die in shelters because she is unable to foster them. And let's just suppose that said girlfriend feels overwhelmed at the thought of another life that feels like her responsibility--because let's face it, the day to day work of caring for the budgies and the dogs has fallen almost exclusively to her--and horrified at the thought of living with a creature whose existence, in its tiny bowl, is a daily reminder of how miserably we humans have failed other species. 

Should said girlfriend feel like an ogre for insisting that the fish go to the custodial parent's home with the child, or back to the store, or to the Humane Society? For believing that this child and this boyfriend need a lesson in responsibility? 

Just hypothetically, of course! 


  1. Boyfriend and son need lessons in empathy. Seems like you have all the empathy and responsibility time for the guys to get some very needed lessons. Show this to them if it helps.

  2. My son was hired to clean out a apartment and it had not anyone living in it for 3 months. He found a small aquarium tank with green sludge. He also saw something move in it and it was a painted turtle and it had eaten one of it's front paws off to survive. My son took it to the vet , nursed it back to health and inquired about turning back out to the wild. He was advised that the turtle would not survive. We still have this turtle Rizza it has been almost 10 years now. My son had empathy for this turtle and how it had been living, he wanted it to live a natural life like it should. Sense he isn't able to he has made her quite comfortable, he also takes her outside to get some outside life. He now works a lot so Rizza stays with me . I didn't mind taken her as he is looking out for her because he is gone a lot. He does however makes sure he comes over to clean the tank and resupply her food etc..

  3. Thank you Jeanne, your son is a saint. I love that story and I'll bet Rizza is one happy turtle. I do wish these boys would empathize more with cold-blooded creatures....I am hoping the lesson will sink in with a bit more persistence. Thanks again for the nice story--it warms my heart to think of that turtle and your son helping her.

    1. Ohh he's not a saint he has a few quirks that get to me, but the important lessons in life he has grasped.I am thankful for that. Would I raise another child again nooooo. It was way to hard. Will I continue to teach and train my furbabies yes way easier than raising a child!

  4. We probably aren't going to be much help. But..we hate to see poor fish going round and round in a glass bowl! So yep a lesson in responsability.
    Have a great weekend
    Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx

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  6. Oooh, what a complex situation. My heart goes out to hypothetical girlfriend for having to confront this sad situation and to hypothetical boyfriend for trying to be the best dad he can, whatever that means.

    I don't know much about fish so I hesitate to suggest something that might be uncomfortable for them. But my neighbor takes her menagerie of rats and guinea pigs to her dad's each week. It's part of her responsibility to keep them with her and provide for their full time care, even if she's traveling between her two parents. Of course, the weight of the water for a decent sized tank probably makes moving fish each week a very bad idea, huh? See, I told you I wasn't very good at this.

    I will pass on this awesome article from Karen Pryor about clicker training fish to provide enrichment. Maybe it will stimulate a good conversation for everyone involved.

  7. I'm a firm believer the owner of the pet needs to take responsibility. If the hypothetical dad feels guilty and really needs to get the fish, then it should be his responsibility when the son isn't around.

    The hypotetical girlfriend already has a lot on her plate. Hypotetically of course. ;-)


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