Lonely Woodstock Goldfish Seeks Forever Home
Trigger Warning: Dead fish, Bereaved fish.
Actual grieving goldfish, not an actor.
I try not to become embroiled in Facebook disputes, particularly those involving such highly charged emotional events as the death of a pet, but there was a contretemps on a community site recently, and you would have had to have a heart of stone not to jump in and attempt to help.
I am speaking – for it is doubtful you saw it – of a recent post on a Woodstock, New York Facebook site involving a lonely goldfish.
Woodstock is a tender-hearted town when it comes to animals. If a bear breaks into someone’s garage and gets into their garbage, the homeowner will be gently reprimanded (i.e. crucified) for not sealing their garbage properly and reminded that the bears were in the Catskills first. (Noting that you and not the bear pay property taxes will get you nowhere.) If your dog goes missing, strangers will rend their garments.
So I was not entirely surprised, this past weekend, to come across this message, put up by a woman named Cynthia, with the photo above.
FREE TO A GOOD HOME Comes with all of his food. I am giving away my eight-month-old goldfish. I tried to put it up for free on Facebook marketplace and it told me that I had gone against its rules because I’m giving it away, which is beyond comprehension. First come first serve I’ll meet you in the village.
Obviously, this Cynthia – whose full name I am withholding for reasons that will soon be clear – was a kind and responsible person.
She was also, assuming she had adopted this fish young, an excellent goldfish owner. In the household of my youth, which was not far from Woodstock, goldfish lasted an average of two weeks before bellying up. And when they moved on to that fish tank in the sky, even as three and four-year-olds, my brothers and I did not lose any sleep. This was perhaps because of an incident in which one of our goldfish, after delivering its young, ate them. You can’t get too broken up over a death in the goldfish family after seeing that.
Mom Goldfish: Oy*, I am so depressed. Little Sammy, Issac, Howard, Rachel, and Harvey are no more.
Four-Year-Old Joyce: That’s because of you. You ate them.
Mom: Well, yes, okay. That is part of the dichotomy of life. You often destroy the things you love. You will learn this in seven years when you hit puberty. Meanwhile, can you ask your mother to pick up some more goldfish next time she goes to Kingston?
Four-year-old Joyce: Will you promise not to eat them?
Mom: What’s that you asked? I can’t hear you. This oxygen-burbling mermaid is deafening.
If you don’t subscribe to this column, I’m spearing this goldfish. Still only $6 a month! Sign up now.
I tell this rather long story because I wish to confess to a possible bias: I am not 100 percent convinced goldfish have a moral compass. Still, I am touched by the effort Cynthia is putting into finding a home for the little fish so I scroll down the comments.
It can be difficult, when you stumble onto a Facebook thread, to tell in which order comments are made. There is an inquiry about whether the solitary fish comes with a tank (nope), leads about a Facebook giveaway site, and a person who does goldfish rescue.
Early on I notice a possibly judgmental, “Why?”, from someone named Lilah, as in, ‘Why are you giving away the goldfish?’ and a no-offense taken reply from Cynthia.
“I’m dechlorinating water daily,” Cynthia says. “And I think it’s lonely since its sibling’s demise.”
Enter Marci, who appears to be a committed goldfish rights advocate. The better word may be firebrand. I’ve never heard of the woman, but I’m betting that if there was ever a retro fraternity event at New Paltz State, in which pledges were swallowing goldfish rather than, say, lox Marci would be going after the heartless punks with a machete. Unless that’s libeling Marci, in which case forget I said it.
“…when an animal is given away for free, they likely become food for another animal,” Marci scolds. “Is a goldfish too high maintenance for you that you must get rid of it? Seriously?”
“And there should never just be 1 of them,” Marci says in a follow-up, “They get lonely, too.”
“Its partner died,” Cynthia explains, with what I feel is tremendous forbearance.
“One dead and the other one given away to a complete stranger,” Marci says. “Real nice!”
(I know there are those of you thinking, “Joyce, this is how you spend evenings? Trolling the Facebook groups of communities in which you cannot even afford to buy?” To which I have to say, “Sometimes.” Also, on this particular evening, I was down with COVID and was perhaps more fragile, more sensitive to the pain of others. Not merely the goldfish, who I am starting to think of as a fellow living being, albeit one with a brain the size of a sesame seed, but Cynthia, who’d wandered into this with an open heart. Although Cynthia, I have to say, seemed able to take care of herself.)
“I’m guessing you don’t want it,” Cynthia tells Marci, after Marci’s crack about Cynthia being willing to give the fish to a stranger.
“I’m guessing you’ll give it away to anybody who wants it,” Marci shoots back, “Even if they feed it to their cat.”
“Truth be told,” Cynthia says, “When its partner died I did in fact offer it to my cat. She was thankful.”
Whoa! Things are heating up. I may cancel MHz.
Meanwhile, you’ve got the side comments – sort of like the audience getting into fist-fights at Superstars of Wrestling.
“It’s a fish…”, an Amanda says.
“Yes. It is a fish,” a Susan replies. “A living sentient being that deserves to be protected and cared for.”
Okay, I’m not a Woodstock resident. I own only a meager parcel of land there. But this post has moved me; it has shown me the difficulty of responsibly placing a goldfish in a good home. I jump in and post a list of screening questions for goldfish owners:
Do you currently own goldfish and if so, has your goldfish ever demonstrated hostile behavior i.e., eaten all or part of another goldfish?
What are the dimensions of the tank in which you plan to house this goldfish? That’s not big enough.
Does the tank have a little castle? Castles are symbols of monarchy, oppression, and inherited wealth. Lose the castle.
Do you agree to allow a goldfish adoption team to come to your house and inspect your tank, cleaning, and food supplies?
In a short essay, of 2,500 words, explain why you should be permitted to adopt a goldfish, which can live up to ten years.
Fill out the attached New York State Goldfish Care Proxy stating who will care for the goldfish in the event of your death. Have it witnessed by two adults and notarized.
Then I scoot behind my castle and wait for Marci to come out and eat me.
“Joyce Wadler, your lack of compassion and coldness is striking,” Marci writes.
I prefer to think that somewhere upstate a sad little goldfish, in a tank overlooking a computer open to a Woodstock community page, feels a tremor of hope.
“Bless you, Joyce,” it thinks.
*I grew up in a Jewish resort town, where fish quickly picked up Yiddish.