Thursday, September 1, 2011

The case of the missing snail (Farewell, Stimey)

Generally speaking, I’m a pretty big fan of the Betta fish. They last forever, you can only have one, and they practically ask to live in slightly dirty water. A mother’s best friend in the animal world, I will tell any parent with a child who begs for a pet (“pleeeeease mom, I promise to walk it and bathe it and feed it and brush it and love it everyday and everything!”) that the Betta fish is a very nice option.

We personally have had a few of these colorful fish, all which my children promised to be responsible for and ended up falling completely under my care. Really I didn’t mind, though, because I have fallen in love with our fish of the past, including Curly (the fish who would not die) and Geno (who death caused my son to sob uncontrollably for two days.)

These fish lived happily alone on my kitchen counter, where I would change their water out ever few weeks and feed it every now and then, until that fateful day when we find them peacefully sleeping on the bottom or belly-up on the top. Even so, I still can’t help thinking that there is health in companionship. So when our most recent fish came into our life, I really thought that Spanky needed a friend.

There aren’t many critters that can live with a Betta because these fighting fish will attack and kill just about anything. One such safe little critter, however, is a snail. Even the meanest minute little Betta is no match for a calcareous shell, and so with the purchase of Spanky, we also came home with Stimey, who is none other than a slimy snail. (Yes, it was a Little Rascals phase if you were wondering.)

As much as I have bragged about Bettas, the little aquatic snail quickly became my favorite pet of all. It became a little game—where would the snail be today? Stimey might be on the bottom, on the side, on the decorative little Spongebob character that graces the gravel floor of our aquarium bowl. Oh, the simple joys in life! I played this little game for the entire summer that we had him.

But then we went on vacation for six whole days.

Since snails eat algae growth, Stimey was well fed while we were gone. We left him and Spanky safely stored out of direct sunlight and with plenty of fresh water and food. Secretly I was waiting to come home and see which side of the bowl the little fella had decided to sit to greet me when I returned.

As I unpacked, my son ran up to me.

“The snail is gone.”

“Impossible,” I replied. “It’s an aquatic snail. What do you think he did, just crawl out and run away?”

He sadly brought me the bowl. “Look, mom. Stimey is gone.”

“Impossible,” I replied. “I’ll just go digging in the gravel with this net. I’m sure he’s buried down somewhere.”

Sadly, it wasn’t there.

“I think it ran away,” he said.

“Impossible,” I replied. “Snails don’t have big brains, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t dumb enough to crawl out of the water and just shrivel up and die. It’s like a fish purposely leaving the ocean, to lay there on the beach and go to fishie heaven. Nature doesn’t usually kill itself on purpose.”

Sadly, I was wrong.

A quick search of the surrounding area proved to show a snail shell with a dried up Stimey inside of it, a few feet from the end table where the fishbowl still sat.

When the laughter subsided, the questions began.

What was he thinking?

Was he on the run? From the Betta? From the Spongebob character?

Was he just a free spirit?

At what point did he realize that he had probably made a bad decision to climb over the edge of the fishbowl?

If snails could talk, what would he have said?

And when the questions subsided, we tossed old Stimey in the trash. Can’t quite flush a snail shell.

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