“The average human attention span was 12 seconds in 2000 and 8 seconds in 2013-a drop of 33%. The scary part is that the attention span of a goldfish was 9 seconds-almost 13% more than humans.”
— Ashwin Sanghi, Indian author of bestselling fiction-thrillers
A month or so ago my pond goldfish died. All of them. They were somewhere around 8 years old which is not old for a goldfish. It’s like maybe a person would be in their thirties. The goldfish were fantails; they looked elegant with that tail fluttering like an angel’s wing. The largest one was about the size of my hand; the others a tad smaller. One I called “Goldie” because she was a light gold color while the others were brilliant.
Then one day I found them belly-up in the pond. We speculated the cause of their demise, but we’ll never know for sure. I vowed I would not get any more goldfish. Losing a pet is hard. At first, you’re positive you’re not doing it again. Then you think about how much joy they brought and then you think well maybe you could do it one more time but that’s all. I missed sitting in the garden among the flowers and trees and watching the goldfish. They’d come over to their feeding spot and wait for me to cast the fish flakes. Then they’d dip and dive. It was peaceful watching them and it made me smile. A week later I drove to the fish store.
At the store I was told I couldn’t buy their goldfish. They were in quarantine. You’re kidding me? She was not. The goldfish were being treated for ich. I came back a week later and bought 10 goldfish. I was hedging my bets to make sure I at least ended up with some goldfish.
The goldfish were released into the pond after acclimatizing them to new water. They immediately dived deep and hid. Building a relationship with a pet is something I love, only I love it to go quickly. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. The goldfish were taking longer than say a kitten or a puppy. Every time I went to feed, I’d see them playing; then I’d get close and they’d hide. Still, I scattered the fish flakes near the dripper. I’d step away and the brave ones would dart at the food then disappear. This went on for weeks then I started to talk to them when I fed. I came about the same time every day so they’d expect me. The braver ones would quickly surface for the food and stay longer. Then the others started to trust the hand that fed them until all the goldfish gathered at the food under the dripper. Now we were getting somewhere. I’d sit on the bench beside the pond and watch them. Goldfish can be taught to eat from your hand, but we’re not quite there yet.
There was a time when ancestors of my goldfish lived in East Asia. It was 2,000 years ago when goldfish were considered ornamental and only members of the Imperial family of the Song Dynasty could own them. Once they arrived in Europe a new tradition began. On their first anniversary a husband presented his wife with a goldfish as a symbol of prosperity. The practice died out quickly. Today you can purchase a healthy common goldfish for about 38 cents.
Columns by Shannon Bardwell of Columbus appear in The Dispatch weekly. Email reaches her at [email protected]