I acquired Shirley the goldfish four years ago as part of an employee benefit package I negotiated for a new job. (As a sidenote, the fact that my most significant compensation demand was a goldfish should tell you why I’m lucky to have a smart agent handling contract negotiations for my writing career).
When the economy tanked and I got laid off, I brought Shirley home and symbolically released her from her little glass bowl into the splashy fountain in the entryway of my home.
Like goldfish are wont to do when presented with larger surroundings, Shirley began to grow. And grow. And grow.
In four years, Shirley has gone from being a skinny little one-inch gray fish to a fat, six-inch orange fish with a swishy tail.
You read that right – Shirley changed colors. I didn’t know goldfish did that, but apparently it’s quite common.
I can’t attribute the color change to my great goldfish caregiver skills. I’m ashamed to admit, there have been times I’ve forgotten to feed her. For most of one summer, I thought she was dead and didn’t bother to toss in any flakes at all.
But Shirley was alive and well (and hiding behind a plant, as it turned out).
She has continued to thrive despite my failure to clean the fountain more than once a year. She’s also adapted well to the fact that all other household pets consider the fountain their personal water dish. Instead of cowering in fear when cats and dogs come to drink, Shirley swims right up and plucks tasty bits of kibble residue off their faces.
None of the pets seem interested in devouring her, perhaps suspecting she’s toxically stupid and therefore not worth eating.
I admire Shirley for a lot of reasons. She’s adaptable. She’s resilient. She’s survived crappy conditions, owner neglect, and a hostile environment surrounded by potential animal kingdom enemies.
I’ve tried adding other goldfish thinking Shirley could use company. Without exception, I find the new fish floating belly-up within a few weeks.
But Shirley perseveres.
I can’t explain it, but I do know I’m inspired by it. I admire any creature that thrives despite less-than-ideal conditions. I feel fairly certain Shirley would still be alive if I lit my house on fire and doused the ashes with sulfuric acid.
Are there any animals in your life worthy of such admiration? Please share!
And if you come to visit, please don’t pet Shirley. She’s not a fan of physical affection.