Wollf was brought to our house just before Christmas. Everyone at the apartment in the city was going to be away for the holidays, we were told. He could not be left there by himself.
Wolff is my daughter’s betta fish. He’s bright orange with billowy fins and a long wavy tail. His gallon-size bowl is decorated with stones and a fake ornamental plant at the bottom. We placed him in the family room near the window. We said he might like to look out and feel part of a bigger space. We said he might like to be near a bright window too.
Our daughter had decided that her betta fish is male. One can argue that the likelihood is higher as the male of the species tend to have more flowy fins and brighter colors. The chosen name is meant to be ironic. Or is it?
I read that betta fish are also called Siamese Fighting Fish. In Asia, they were once bred for fighting matches with high stakes betting, not unlike roosters bred for cockfighting. These graceful little creatures bite when they fight! They can be quite vicious and they are carnivorous. Hence, the solitary existence.
So much for their background. When we all returned from the holidays, our daughter asked us to keep the fish for a few more weeks until the weather warms up. It turns out that she and her roommates turn off the heat during the day at their apartment when they’re all at work. Wollf stopped making bubbles, she confessed. The bubble-making activity is a sign of good health and happiness. So, she was concerned that the apartment may have been getting a little too cold for him. After all, their kind thrive well in warmer weather. She also noticed he moved around more while in our home.
And so, we are fish-sitting Wollf. I feed him first thing when I get up in the morning. I have changed his water only once so far. He seems quite happy, if the number of bubbles is any indication. I look at him in the bowl. He looks back at me. I wonder how much recognition he’s capable of. I talk to him sometimes, something my husband finds amusing, if not a tad strange.
What do we know of the consciousness of fish? Do they even have memory? Can they pick up inflections in our voices? I guess pet fish will to have to do while my daughter lives in an apartment in the city. But I don’t really see it respond when I call it by its name. I can’t stroke or play with it. I can’t hug it.
I miss my dog.