My Pet Story: Fish are my pandemic distraction

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My first memory of a dog in my childhood years was when I was maybe eight years old – this dog we called Huat (Hokkien for prosperity). It was an ordinary dog, quite large with light yellow fur.

My father had a small bakery, and naming this dog Huat showed his hope that the family dog ​​would bring him prosperity in his business.

Back in my father’s day, the life of a dog was a long way from what it is today. These days, I am particularly tickled to see a dog dressed in his most beautiful Sunday and sitting comfortably in a dog stroller!

Huat would eat the leftovers from our dinners, mixed with rice – and he wouldn’t be worse off. To my dismay, he choked on chicken bones several times and I felt a sense of panic. But luckily, he always managed to clear the obstruction.

I remember him sometimes sitting near me at the dining table and resting his chin on my lap, waiting for a few pieces of food. It tickled my thigh, but it didn’t bother me at all. He had a way of pulling on my sensitive cords to awaken in my young mind a sense of generosity and compassion.

My father’s business was thriving at that time. But the same couldn’t be said for our beloved family dog. Huat contracted a serious skin disease. Even though I remember my mom had a home remedy for it, it didn’t improve.

He was in great pain and appeared to be beyond treatment. He would have been mercifully shot today.

As his condition worsened, he was not allowed to hang out in my father’s store and he obediently submitted. Finally, one day, some men came to my father’s shop and took him away. I remember crying for him. It was the last time I saw our beloved family dog.

Why is the memory of Huat still in my mind to this day, decades later? Well, he was an obedient, kind, intelligent boy – that’s how he made himself loved by me.

My mother decided that our family would never keep another dog again after the deep sadness of losing Huat. Truth be told, our family was also too busy to take care of it. And that was it.

It would be three decades later that I had another dog, actually two dogs, in my life. This, however, is a story for another day.

Fast forward to the year 2020. A global pandemic has struck that has changed our way of life. Now, as seniors, my husband and I have more free time than we would like. You could say we needed a distraction before the boredom of being confined inside set in. My daughter and son-in-law started a hobby called aquascaping – styling an aquarium or doing underwater gardening. I was immediately fascinated.

It’s totally different from the first aquarium I had years ago. In hindsight, it was minimalist to say the least. It was really a very basic aquarium with the filter and pump to maintain the water quality and the cleanliness of the tank. The only kind of comfort for the fish, if you can call it that, was the beautiful image of the underwater world of colorful corals on the back wall of the aquarium. To enhance the aesthetics of the aquarium, there was a miniature pagoda and a porcelain green turtle, as well as seashells and rocks that I had picked up from the beach in Port Dickson.

Long story short, we now have three bronze corydoras and five blue eyed Gertrudes with long fins happily coexisting in our “new-age” aquarium that my daughter and son-in-law helped set up. The bottom is covered with sand.

A beautiful treated “tree branch” takes center stage, along with pretty aquatic plants that we have personally glued together to create a miniature underwater natural habitat. Yes, it is an old hobby that was revived during the pandemic, a much needed distraction for us to focus on God’s creations, as fish swim happily without caring about the world, pandemic, or no pandemic.


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