In my first week of college, I was not expecting one of the first things I would do was host a fish funeral.
My Betta fish of 3 years, Cal, died one week after I brought him up to college. To say I was devastated is an under-reaction. I mean, I didn’t think about how temperature change and moving anxiety will not only affect me but also my fish?
I wanted Cal to go out in a special way, and not down some gross college dorm toilet. So, my roommates and I drove over to Watson Park, got a leaf, and dropped Cal off the bridge and into the Kansas river playing “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney. (Yes, like the scene from Shrek 3, it was on purpose).
It was honestly heartbreaking. The fish that had been with me for three years had just died suddenly. Being allergic to all animals with fur, my fish had been my comfort during the rough times of high school. I was ready for him to be with me on the journey of college, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
But I was not deterred. I needed to move on, and what better way then buying a new fish in Cal’s memory?
So, the next weekend my roommates and I got in the car and booked it over to the PetSmart. I was so excited to get a new Betta fish, and I was already coming up with names based on the color of the fish. My roommate had just turned 18, so she was going to get a fish as well. At the store, we were amazed by all the colors, and there were so many to choose from. But finally, I saw the one for me. A bright red Betta fish, actively swimming and engaging with me. His name would be Karma. (Foreshadowing? Nah).
I thought everything was going well. He was swimming around, having fun in his new tank. I even got him a fishbowl heater so he wouldn’t freeze to death from our Artic dorm AC.
Well, until I walked into my room that night to find him not in his bowl anymore. We had searched everywhere, under his plant, the floor, on the carpet. I mean, how far could a fish go?
He had jumped out of his tank, landed on my desk, and he was hidden under my Harry Potter plushie. Luckily he was still alive, and we put him back in the water. I put a paper plate on the top so he wouldn’t jump again. But questions were ringing through my mind. Why did he jump? Was the water too hot? Am I boiling my fish unknowingly? The next morning, he died.
Losing two fish within the week of each other was honestly scarring. I mean, it was my job to watch out for them, and they died. It was completely my fault, and I thought I had done everything right.
Immediately after Karma died as well, I knew that I shouldn’t be allowed to own pets anymore. Maybe I could have taken care of a snail, but I can’t help but question myself. I mean, I let two fish die within the first week and a half of being up at college.
I’m taking it as a sign from the universe that maybe I shouldn’t own any pets, and I should focus on school work and meeting new people. Freshman year of college can be hectic. It’s only been 4 weeks, but I’m already so overwhelmed. Along with online school, my mind is a hundred places with what is due on BlackBoard, or how my first online exams in college will go. I’m also in new clubs and a sorority, and I’m constantly meeting new people every day (safely with masks). So maybe me losing both Cal and Karma this soon into college is a sign that I should be pet-free freshman year.
Pets can be good for stress relief and something to put your focus into, though. I know when I had Cal in high school, it was my favorite thing to watch him swim around in his bowl while I was working on homework at my desk. There’s something so calming about watching a fish swim gracefully through the water.
My roommate who got a fish with me still has hers. His name is Pluto, a blue and purple Betta fish in a spaced themed tank. I can hear her constantly talking to Pluto throughout the day, and she’s already bought so many toys for him like ping pong balls (they like the stimulation).
My roommate, who’s had Pluto for two weeks now, said, “It really brightens my day every time I see him. I’m one of those people who needs to take care of something, and I feel like a fish is a good pet for that.”
It makes me happy when I see her happy with her fish. But it does hurt my heart a little, seeing that her fish is still alive. But then I remember maybe this was a sign that I shouldn’t own fish anymore. Some people are just better naturally taking care of things, and I never have been (I don’t know how Cal lasted 3 years, to be honest).
I guess overall, some people can take care of pets in college, even in a dorm. But sadly, that isn’t me. I could try again with a snail, I think I could take care of a snail. But no, I think I’m going to become a plant person. I should be able to keep a plant alive. Right?