In this story, about the things we do for our pets, the phrase “no one left behind” comes to mind.
Q: How many fish can say they flew Northwest Airlines over 4000 miles?
A: I only know of one. His name is Le Petit Poisson.
Early in Lena’s college career, Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, were all the rage. She purchased one with shiny blue-green coloring and very delicate and graceful fins, to keep in her university dorm room. Le Petit Poisson, she named him. Options for a pet in dorms were limited, of course, for obvious reasons. Perhaps she could have used more foresight of the responsibilities required for having a pet. But the comforting need to interact with, to care for, and love a live animal outweighed the inconvenient situations that may arise. Situations such as what to do when the dorms empty out over winter break.
With the dorms closing soon that year, Lena made her decision. Le Petit Poisson was to ride in an Evian water bottle during the flight home for Christmas in Wisconsin. Brings new meaning to the phrase "flying fish", doesn't it? She was determined not to leave him behind under any circumstances. Flight rules prohibit this practice but ever the type to push boundaries, she proceeded with her plans.
The trip took place before our national 911 tragedy after which all water bottles are tossed out before going through security. “Fishy,” his affectionate pet name, would not have survived getting through security in a 3-ounce mini shampoo bottle by today's standards. However, he easily hid behind the label, and Lena's hand strategically wrapping the remaining clear areas of the plastic bottle. Although she never needed to, she was prepared to drink from the bottle should the authorities need her to confirm it did indeed hold drinking water. Luckily for Fishy, the boarding process and flight was smooth, and he enjoyed the holiday with us.
A month later, on a pre-dawn return trip to the Minneapolis airport, Fishy was again placed in the Evian bottle. Using the drink holder near the heat vent on the driver's side door seemed like the best place for him to ride as it was directly in my line of sight. The only problem? It was dark. And my feet got cold. And I forgot about how much less heat blows through the side vents with the vent dial switched to the feet. Lena promptly fell asleep shortly after leaving home, so I played quiet tunes on the radio while my mind drifted as often happens on long drives.
Luckily, the dawn arrived a couple hours into the drive, just soon enough for me to notice Fishy was swimming sideways with only one side fin in use. Imagine my horror! I immediately flipped the vent dial to its highest setting and held him near the two center vents to warm him as quickly as possible. I also said a prayer. I hoped Lena would stay asleep, thinking he would recover before reaching the airport.
“Mom! You’ve killed him!” she exclaimed when she woke up and I commented that Fishy wasn’t feeling so well. Murmuring and watching over him carefully until we arrived at the airport, she decided to continue the flight with him, declining my offer to take him home for the semester. Later that day, she called to say he had survived the trip and was again swimming upright. Whew!
During a later extended medical leave, she flew home yet again with Fishy. Following recuperation, Lena left him in our care as she went off to her next adventure. Unfortunately, he died on my watch one sunny Spring day. I dug a tiny hole amongst the flowering peonies and buried him with a pebble from her collection of Lake Superior rocks.
Today I grieve
My heart is broken
And barren as the empty fish bowl
But tomorrow life will begin again
And we go on
Here is a little poem of Lena's. Her handwriting up and down the sides of torn paper is likely prompted from hearing the news of Fishy's demise.
I hesitated to tell this story as discerning pet owners may feel dismayed regarding Lena's decision to fly with a fish. While this may not have been in his best interests, my hope is she did the best she could given the options available. Lena indeed loved Le Petit Poisson.
So now you also know of one well-loved little fish who flew on Northwestern Airlines.
We sure love our pets, even those we can’t cuddle. Do you have an unusual pet story?