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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

May 5, 2011

Trial by Water

By Elizabeth Creith


"I'd like four tiger barbs, please," said the woman in the denim shirt.
It was my very first day as the co-owner of Animalia Pets. My husband, David, had years of experience in the pet trade. If there was something he didn't know, I hadn't found it out yet.

I, on the other hand, was brand new to the business. I'd never heaved a 15-kilo bag of dog food over my shoulder from floor level and trucked it out to a customer's car. I'd never counted one hundred jumbo crickets into a bag and tied it.

And I'd absolutely never had to catch a fish in a stock tank.
Of all I had yet to learn in the pet store, the wall of aquariums, forty in all, was my biggest challenge. Each aquarium contained two, three or four species of fish. David had carefully written the name and price of every species on each aquarium, which was only helpful if you knew a rainbow fish from a rainbow shark.

I didn't.

I glanced down the aisle of the store; David was at the back, talking dog food with another customer. This one was all mine.

"Sure," I said, in my best customer-service voice, "four tiger barbs, coming right up." I went to get a net and a bag.

At least I could identify a tiger barb. I could go to the correct tank and look like I knew what I was doing. As I scooped water into the bag and clipped it to the side of the tank, I felt a surge of confidence.

I should have cherished that feeling, because it was short-lived. Tiger barbs move at approximately warp speed, and we're not talking warp one, here. No, if tiger barbs had engine rooms, Scotty would be screaming, "She canna take any more, Captain!"

As soon as my net touched the water, those barbs were a blur, zipping around the back of the filter tube, zooming in a group to one end of the tank and then scattering like shrapnel to deke around the net.

As I swished fruitlessly from one end of the tank to the other, my customer, far from being annoyed at my clumsiness, was enjoying herself immensely.

"Oh! He's a fast one!" she said. "Oh! You nearly had him! Oh! There he is, down there!" In between every helpful exclamation, she chuckled hugely. Every "Oh!" made me jump, which triggered a fresh cascade of laughter. Oh, why didn't David's customer just buy his damn dog food and let David come and rescue me?

Galaxies collided, mountain ranges erupted from the earth, civilizations rose and fell before I caught four tiger barbs. All right, it was only 20 minutes, tops. The rest of the school huddled behind the filter tube, snickering. My customer paid and left, still chuckling.
"Did you do okay with the fish, sweetie?" David asked when we were alone again.
"Yes," I said, "but from now on I'm telling people that if they want to comment on my style, I'm doubling the price of the fish. Call it an entertainment tax."
David laughed.

"You go right ahead!" he said.

For some reason, fish-catching is so much more peaceful now.

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Trial by Water

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Reader Comments
This is totally delightful. Much more enjoyable than reading some stale comments about the biology and reproductive aspects of a pet. You have found a real treasure in Elizabeth Crieth.
anna, portland, OR
Posted: 5/6/2011 7:44:48 AM
Delightful. Made me want to be there at the fish catching show! Its always amazing how creatures get their comeuppance even when confined to a tank!
Lucinda, Kings Park, NY
Posted: 5/6/2011 7:18:05 AM
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