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Goldie + Zen (watercolour on paper Paul Fairweather December 2016)

Many of our friends have recently purchased puppies. The success of these introduced family additions is inversely proportional to the size of the dog. When it comes to suburban canines, less is more.

Our daughter is desperate for a puppy, but our son’s allergies mean her dog-owning ambitions will never be fulfilled in her childhood. On the plus side, we’ll avoid the expenses of doggy hotels and the inevitable arguments between husband and wife over the ideal size and breed of dog. My wife’s side of the family’s preferred pets were miniature fox terriers, whereas I grew up with large and loveable labradors. Let’s not even start on whether or not a dog should be allowed inside.

No longer satisfied with puppy cuddles with a friend’s pet during breaks in soccer training, our daughter insisted that we needed a pet. We relented. We decided to get a pair of goldfish instead. After having to replace a succession of deceased goldfish, we ended up with one very tough fish: Goldie. After the initial enthusiasm of caring for her fish, our daughter’s interest soon waned and it was left to me to feed the fish and clean the tank. Goldie had lost her sparkle in more ways than one. Sadly, I too was not that diligent on the cleaning front and more often than not the water was green. I rationalised that the colour and slime were all very natural and must be good for Goldie, but I did notice that she was losing her colour. The name ‘Old Yella’ would be more appropriate. All that doesn’t sparkle is no longer golden.

Goldie had to go. Our son suggested that the perfect place would be a lovely pond in the forecourt of a historic house on the edge of our suburb. He had visited the site as part of a school excursion. It already had a couple of goldfish and it wasn’t a natural waterway. I should probably have asked for permission from the caretakers, but I didn’t have a Plan B. Early one morning, we rocked up and let Goldie free into her new home.

On the way to visit my parents early on Sunday mornings, we’d visit Goldie and her new family. Within weeks, she’d grown much bigger and healthier, and resumed her deep, gold colour. One Sunday morning, we arrived a little later than usual. One of the house guides and a caretaker were already out feeding the fish. I gave the kids a look that said, “Don’t say anything!”

The caretakers told us that all the fish had names. They were surprised to notice an extra fish in the pond. Much speculation was made about the mysterious fish. Had it been born there? Had someone donated it?

“Why don’t you kids name the new one?” the caretaker suggested.

“Goldie!” my daughter exclaimed.

“What a lovely name! Okay. She is Goldie.”

When Goldie was in the tank, she looked bored and often agitated. Now she is the image of a Zen Japanese watercolour as she glides gracefully around the pond with her fish family. We are all very happy for Goldie, and I think she is much happier too!

(Article originally published as How to enter a suburb in New Farm Village News December 2016 )

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