Monday, May 5, 2008

Death 101

Yesterday, we had a good-bye ceremony for the two goldfish Tony had gotten for the kids several days ago. They died after just two days. I was so creeped out by the very thought of the fish floating belly-up in the water, I couldn't even look at them. Tony said he's glad the kids are taking this better than I am.

I never really had pets as a kid. We had a little kitten once that followed my brother home. My sister and I spent our entire life savings buying cat food, kitty litter, kitty bed, shampoo, and medicine. After just a few days, Kitty died in my arms. I swore I'd never have a pet again. It seems an unnecessary heartache.

Animals have a shorter lifespan than we do, so any pets we have are only going to die on us. So why have them at all? Don't tell me about unconditional love, companionship and all that stuff. I don't need animals for that, especially if they're just going to die on me.

I don't want our kids to have any pets either, for the same reasons. But Josie and Toby said a little prayer, flushed the fish down the toilet, and skipped away to play. I couldn't even look.

I know you're all thinking about fish-death, Shin-death and the connections the kids might be making, the lessons they could be learning about life and death, and all of the obvious associations.  Many parents say pets are a good way to introduce children to the concept of death.  Less traumatizing than say, the death of a mother.  All I can say is, I'm glad I won't be around to see me belly-up.

I know Death is an important lesson in life. But when it comes to pets, I guess I've failed the course.  But as Tony said, I'm glad the kids are passing. 


Anonymous said...

A parrot or a tortoise might solve the problem :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,
Yes, pets may die on us, but weren't you saying yourself we should not be afraid to invest our hearts no matter what risk? Arguably, pets are not human beings and human companionship holds much greater value. I used to have abolutely no interest in pets just like you. Until I witnessed the transformation a little dog brought about in my nephew who went through a difficult time with his parents' divorce. He suddenly became so much more balanced. From there I decided to get a little Maltese puppy for my own children. We have had her for a few months now and I can't begin to tell you how much my children have gained from taking care of this little bundle of energy. Just recently my son said "mummy you know what's the nicest thing about having Fluffy? Whenever I feel sad I just cuddle her, and I feel happy all over again."

Deb said...

Shin how can you forget your other pet? The stray kitten you brought home so lovingly and fed tuna to, only to threaten to throw him out a week later because he didn't appreciate what you were doing for him.

Anyway we can't forget him because he's still with us ten years later, terrorising the dogs and causing general havoc around the house.
With a name like Kimchee what more can we expect from him.

You'll remember too that seven years ago we were told he wouldn't last the weekend (feline leukemia).

I know he's not going to be here for ever and it will be so sad when he does eventually pass on but he's brought laughter and memories and they'll be no regrets.

By the way where do you want us to send the bill for the last ten years of upkeep and various repatriations?


leighbee said...

Nooooooooooooo don't say that......the story my husband could tell you about HIS tortoise would make EVERYONE vow never to have a pet! BUT in fairness.I think the issues were HIS rather than that of the tortoise ;-)
Anyway, on a more POSITIVE note......I can in some respects understand Shins feelings, especially after having watched my Mum moarn the loss of her 14 year old Collie with almost as much love and pain as moarned my daughter..........its because of teh "unconditional love" etc that Shin mentions that the passing of a pet is so painful.....I "adopted" two 2 day old kittens that were being dumped in a plastic bag by a VERY inhumane Singaporian outside my daughters school. Not able to leave these poor creatures to suffocate to death I sent the home with the intention of having them homed through the SPCA. That was all well and good until I discovered that the SPCA would also send these poor creatures to the gallows.............Hence, 7 months on I am the proud Mummy to two adorable (and extremely naughty) cats! The kittens had to be bottle fed every two hours (even through the night), burped and their genitals stimulated to help them "pass waste" for 6 weeks and all this time the vet assured me it was unlikely they would survive..........In my mind I was "prepared"?!?!?! Well, thats what I told myself! Here I am now however, 7 months on in England, worried my husband and helper are treating my "babies" well, I even phone to check they are alright in the same way I do about my children.....sounds a bit "pathetic" now I read back on what I have written (in fact VERY pathetic!) BUT the fact is......those little creatures have helped me in so many ways....The time I spent caring for them gave us time to "get to know each other" and gave me less opportunity to think about my problems etc. The children learned how to treat babies etc and now as a family we all have talked about how much joy they have brought over all. How many times we have laughed when they have grabbed the end of the toilet roll and unrolled the entire thing around the they've had us in hysterics when we've seen them PLAYING cars with Frazer and Heather thinking themselves more human than cat due to their upbringing etc! In short, pets aren't for everyone BUT they do bring a whole new aspect to our lives and even through death lessons of loive to be learned. I fear the day my "babies" don't return home BUT would I swap that fear for all the love, smiles, laughter and happiness they have brought to us all? No is the simple answer...... NO!

leighbee said...

THE HAMSTER..........

Many years ago..........Amy was just 5 (17 now), we had a hamster......

The hamster was clever.... to clever for his own day I found the cage door open and the hamster GONE!

After several days, I noticed the cat behaving strangely, sitting for hours on end in front of the oven..........Its ok...don't panic.....I hadn't cooked it!!! In fact, it was hiding under the oven so with a bit of effort, it was soon looking pretty much unscathed back in its cage.....UNTIL the next day.....I am not sure if the few days without food, the heat from the oven or the terror of being stalked by the cat was to blame but the next day, sadly, "Hammy" was no more.....Fortunately Amy was at school so I did the necessary and removed "the body" and cleaned out the cage. Now, call me inhumane, but where would YOU put a hamsters body? (I so hope you don't think badly of me!?!) Well.........I put it with the contents of the cage (and my ashtray) in a black sack out for the rubbish!!!!

When Amy returned from school I hoped she wouldn't check the cage (which she didn't) so I could pick a suitable time to tell her the news.....(by the way, there never IS a suitable time!) anyway.....having plucked up the courage and spurted out about the Hammy having "eternal sleep", she said something I wasn't planning on....."Mummy, I need to see hime one last time. I need to see that he really isn't alive anymore and isn't hurting..." UH OH! Anyway....after blowing as much of the saw dust and cigarette ash as I could off the poor little chaps now stained fur, I managed to get him in to a small dish and cover him in flowers so as to soften the blow (and of course avoid the "stain" questioning!) I thought that would be enough but NO! At 7pm on a Friday ight (just as everyone was walking past our house walking their dog or returning home from work) I could be found digging a small hole in teh front garden whilst Amy demanded we sung "All things Bright and Beautiful" at the top of our voices so as to "do things properly".............I hope this tale brings tears of laughter not of sorrow, the little chap didn't suffer......I DID!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,
Me.... not a pet person either but Kim is and crazy of Fishes... We had Lo Han, Parrot fish and African fighting fish.. They all never live long and I think maybe I've contaminated the tank as I never have the courage to remove the dead fish, always wait till Kim is back from work and by then, the dead fish was in the tank for hours..

The only attachment I had was when we reared a baby Lo Han to about Kim's palm's size for 2 years.. It seems to be quite 'vain' as whenever I have friends over the house, it would swim up & down and as if dancing in the tank to get attention, which was quite amazing.

The reason why Kim wanted to keep this kind of species was hoping that as the Lo Han grow bigger, there will be 4 numbers on his body for us to buy lottery. Well no numbers appeared but we grew quite attached to it. That was the only fish which I gave a proper burial & offer prayer under the palm tree @ my condo when he died of 'old' age.

Deb said...

Ward and I discussed this further and he pointed out that a life is not less meaningful just because it ends before yours.

Chances are Shin that you will die before your parents and by rights that shouldn't be happening either. We don't not have children on the off chance we might have to watch them suffer.

I do hope that Josie and Toby have pets because I think caring for animals does make you a more thoughtful and compassionate person.

It is also impossible to go through life without some form of loss and often from losing what we value dearly makes us grow stronger.
Life really is one big roller coaster and we learn from all the ups and downs, it's what makes us who we are.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't be without my animals. I love them and need them and often I prefer them to people. Perhaps I was an animal in a past life or something? Can you guess who this is, Shin? Xxxxxxx Lots of love, and I'm SO glad the latest chemo regime is working.

Shin said...

Dear pet lovers,

I'm going to risk alienating all of you to say this.

I can't stand the thought of animals or any helpless anything being harmed in any way. I couldn't even stand the thought of goldfish dying in my house.

But I will never, ever understand how people could care more about animals than about their fellow humans. I've seen people treat their pets with love and their loved ones like shit.

I know you're going to say animals deserve more kindness than people you know. That's cruel.

Americans spent more than 41 billion dollars on their pets last year. FORTY-ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

Think of all the children that money could have saved.

So sorry folks, but I'd rather save a child from poverty than a spotted owl from loggers.

And Deb... of course a life is not less meaningful because it ends before mine. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it IS less meaningful than mine if it's a fish.

Deb said...

Shin you twisted the meaning behind what I wrote.

We have had many talks about teaching your kids the values in life and saving the environment but to me that also means the value OF life human or animal. It should all be respected and by having pets in our life I think we learn that.

When we've finished logging all the forests and there's no owls left we'll just have to show the kids pictures of what us great human beings destroyed.

Anyway this is an argument that could go on but we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

You know that I'd have every homeless kid come live with me if the laws allowed it, sadly they don't so I have my animals.

Love ya XX

Anonymous said...

Why is a human life more important than an animal's life? Does the fact that we are more intelligent and resourceful mean that we are for some reason better and more deserving?

Shin said...


I was just having a big of fun. I know you weren't actually comparing a fish's life to a human's life. I guess I should have put in some smiley faces so you'd know I was kidding. ; )