Today I have some exciting news from the field of pet orthodontia. And yes, pet orthodontia is apparently a field, but it’s making nobody’s mother proud.
Apparently, according to a recent news article, there’s a fish in Pennsylvania who just got braces. The goldfish, who lives in Allentown, is named Hot Wing, which you might think is an inappropriate name for a fish, but then I could argue that maybe Zev, Dov, Leib, Yonah, Tzipporah and Rachel are inappropriate names for people.
Anyway, Hot Wing’s owner noticed that it wasn’t eating. So he brought the fish to his vet, Dr. Brian Palmiero, who took some X-rays, and then everyone had microwaved fish for supper.
Okay, so apparently there’s an “underweight goldfish” setting on his X-ray. This vet specialized in fish. But anyway, the doctor came to realize that Hot Wing had been born without a lower jaw bone, which made it impossible to open its mouth properly. So they had to do surgery. What other choice did they have? It’s not like you can just replace a fish.
So Dr. Palmiero made a brace from a small slice of credit card. It doesn’t look great, but it will allow Hot Wing to eat, breathe, and be made fun of by the other fish in his school.
It might seem ridiculous to make braces for this creature that does nothing but eat and doesn’t know you exist and is going to be gone in a few years, but I bet that’s what people said when they started putting braces on teenagers.
He ended up charging $150, which is cheap for braces, though it’s about $149 more than a new goldfish.
But this whole thing got me thinking about my most recent fish situation. Ever since we got our first goldfish a couple of years ago, my kids have been occasionally bringing home fish. I don’t mind it so much, because pets teach kids responsibility. Like once every two weeks, my kids go, “Oh, we should really feed our fish!”
And I say, “I’ve been doing it every day.”
One fish belongs to my sixth-grade son, Daniel, who got it at a camp carnival. Not as a prize; Schmutters don’t win things. He was given the fish for running one of the booths. The other two fish belong to my fifth-grade son, Heshy, who got them as a reward from one of his rebbeim, who, in response to the yeshiva’s anti-nosh policies, gives out small pets. But Heshy’s fish live in their own bowl, for one simple reason:
When I was growing up, I had 14 fish, and then one day my sister went to a carnival and won a fish, which is weird, because Schmutters don’t win anything, and then within a week, all of our fish had died under mysterious circumstances. Point is, whenever I get new fish, I don’t like to put them in with the old fish, so I keep them quarantined for a while, and then I never feel like it’s the right time to integrate them. So we had two bowls.
Then my eighth-grade daughter came home with two fish. She didn’t win those either. In fact, the fish were the contest.
It seems that every year, at the beginning of Adar, each eighth-grade class is given a pair of fish, and whichever class keeps theirs alive the longest gets a prize. The school gives out fish because it’s the mazal of Adar. I figured that in Nissan, they give out a pair of sheep. Then Iyar is bulls.
Anyway, out of her whole class, my daughter was somehow elected to bring the fish home. So now it’s on me to win this entire class a prize, and I don’t even know what the prize is.
So my daughter showed up one evening with two fish in a tiny glass receptacle the size of a paper cup. So first off, they needed a bigger bowl. And I couldn’t put them in my current bowls, because I didn’t know if these fish were diseased. I figured the school wasn’t buying the healthiest fish, because how long did they want this contest to go on for?
So for the time being, we put them in a vase. We didn’t have a third bowl. Who owns a third fish bowl? This was our third time getting unexpected fish.
Anyway, one of the fish didn’t look so good to begin with. One of its fins was shredded, so it had a hard time staying upright. It was constantly flopped over on its side, which made it float to the top, with half of it sticking out of the water. We kept thinking it was dead, and poking it. And every time we did, it yelled, “I’m alive!” and swam down further in the vase.
We had a feeling that this fish wouldn’t last long, which led to my question: Should I put it out of its misery? On the one hand, letting it live like this was tzar baalei chaim, but on the other hand, if I killed it, my daughter’s whole class would come closer to losing.
And while I was deciding whether to bother anyone with this shaylah, the other fish died. So now, until we had an answer, we had to keep this fish alive. Sideways.
My point, though, is that maybe I should have taken that injured fish to the doctor. I thought even trying would be expensive, especially for a fish I didn’t ask for, but if braces are only $150, how much could a new fin be? Or some kind of gyroscope that keeps it upright.
Of course, even $150 might not be worth it, because I don’t know what the prize is. But maybe I could call all the parents in the class to chip in. We get those calls every other week. We could say it’s like a goldfish fund or something. If everyone gives $7, we have $150. Plus we should collect for postage, because I’m not driving out to Pennsylvania.
By Mordechai Schmutter