A sad tail

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The water in the winter pond is as clear as glass. At this time of year, when the weeds have sunk to the bottom to escape the ice and the various algae have ceased to bloom in the sun, you can see the fish in perfect detail. I have been spending a lot of time fish-watching lately, as there is a sick fish in my son’s pond. He does not need clear water to be seen as he spends all of his time on the surface. For a few days, he was floating, belly up.

The golden orfe developed a slight kink in the tail a couple of years ago. We did the research. There was no way of knowing what was causing the problem; it could be anything from genetics, to damage, to disease. We explored all the options, treated the pond just in case and waited to see what would happen; sick fishes seldom do well. We considered removing poor bent-tail fish to an isolation tank, but have found in the past that the stress of taking fish out of their accustomed environment has only one sad end. We read and dismissed the advice to euthanize sick fish. Not only were the methods suggested horrible and would undoubtedly cause suffering… but after my son’s own remarkable recovery from deadly injuries, we have first-hand experience of medical miracles. We never dismiss hope.

Sure enough, bent-tail fish continued to dive around the pond. Granted, he rested more in the shallows, acquiring a stillness that often had visitors telling us that we had a dead fish in there. Bent-tail proved otherwise by zipping off at speed as soon as you approached.

But the kink in the tail grew steadily worse. It still didn’t seem to stop him swimming at speed. He still fed and played in the sun and, apart from the obvious disability and a failure to grow as much as the other fish, he seemed healthy, his scales and eyes bright.

Nearly two years later, things took a turn for the worse. On several occasions we found him apparently dead, floating upside down on the water. Only on close inspection could you see the gills moving slowly. Then, five minutes later, he was swimming around strongly. But not for long. Most of the time, he was upside down. He didn’t seem distressed at all, or that would have put a different pressure on us to find a right answer where there is none. The distress is ours, responsible for his care and wellbeing and having no answers at all. I have felt this before with my son when he was stuck in the coma from which, it seemed, there was no way out. The little fish raised all those heart-wrenching questions and emotions again.

But that was a gift in itself. With an unexpected twist in the tale, my son was able to share with me some measure of those emotions this time, gaining an insight into something he has only seen from the outside and in ‘cold blood’ before. We were willing the little fish to get well again… just as I had willed my son to come out of the coma whole and healthy. We know that bent-tail will never be the fish he once was… but, as long as he is able to do what the other fish do and enjoy his life in the pond, that is better than the alternative. And if recovery was not possible we wanted bent-tail to slip away peacefully without suffering. And there was nothing we could do except watch and hope, for either of the two opposing endings to his story.

Days of watching passed. Each morning, on arrival, my first thought was to check on the fish, watching closely for any movement of its gills. Twice I had the net out and the trowel for his grave… and he swam away. Then there came a final day when he didn’t move at all; he lay on the surface, upside down, with just the faintest flicker of his gills to show that he still lived. I didn’t expect him to last the hour.

There are times in life when there is simply nothing you can do. You can only wait, hope and pray for the best possible outcome, whatever that might be. Sometimes, it is not the one you would choose, but it must be accepted as you give what love and care you can.

 “Resilient little beggar,” said my son as we watched bent-fish zip around the pond today, back to his particular brand of normal. The same could be said of my son. Bent-fish has recovered. It is several days since he was last upside-down and he is giving the cat a good run for her efforts with a flick of his bent tail. He still tires easily, still rests in the shallows…and still plays and feeds with the other fish the rest of the time.

Hope wears may faces. Sometimes it looks like a fish.


About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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72 Responses to A sad tail

  1. Ritu says:

    May bent tale live a long life… 🐡🐠🐟


  2. I can relate to the fish. Sometimes, the magic happens. Nice story!


  3. He needs a right-angled pond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Helen Jones says:

    That’s a lovely tale, Sue. Here’s to Bent Tail – long may he zip around your pond 😊


  5. We have a cat with a bent tail. That’s the least of her problems though. May bent tail fish keep surprising you 🙂


  6. Mary Smith says:

    You’ve done it again – managed to get me emotionally involved in the wellbeing of a fish! I remember blubbing when you wrote about another one, which did die. I hope Bent-tail swims on for a lot longer.


  7. Very moving, Sue. It is hard to watch anything fighting for its life – even a little fish in the garden pond.


  8. Determined fishy, never giving up. Long may he play and splash with his finned friends.


  9. Glad your tail had a positive twist to it. Thank you for sharing, hope the little fish enjoy a long life.


  10. What a heartwarming story, Sue. Goes to show, there is always hope and reading this, maybe that hope or is it the positive energy, gives us strength to go on–even a fish. 🙂 ❤ ❤


  11. What a touching story, and what a fighter that little fish is. Just keep swimming little fish!

    You can’t do more for him than you are, and he’s lucky to have people like you who aren’t going to force an ending to his tale.


  12. Lyn Horner says:

    Touching story, Sue. I am well acquainted with the pain of watching a beloved animal struggle to keep going. Eventually, they and we all lose the battle. A week ago tomorrow, Casper, the oldest of my feline babies, crossed the rainbow bridge. One day I hope to meet him on the other side along with all his adopted siblings who went before him. May Bent-tail keep fighting the good fight for a long while.


  13. Thanks for the post and i am sure bent tail would be thanking you for the enviornment that you have created for him. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” (Dory from “Finding Nemo”)


  14. A beautiful story of hope and faith. Glad to hear bent-tail is still with you ❤


  15. adeleulnais says:

    We had a gold fish like that with a twisted tale. The pet shop worker said “Oh he won’t last” those sort never do. Well, ha ha to you Mr.. He did last for a long long time and had a happy life. So more power to your fish may he live to be a ripe old age.


  16. What a great story, I hope Bent- tail enjoys a long life!


  17. Lovely tail 🙂 He’s obviously a fishy little fighter, I reckon he’ll survive this and surprise everybody!


  18. Do fish get scaliosis instead of scoliosis…sorry for that.


  19. Eliza Waters says:

    Bent-tail seems to have a strong will to live despite his challenges. That indomitable spark of life. No coincidence he has come to live with Nick, who has the most inspiring willpower I have ever seen. Both are inspirational. 🙂


  20. My pug, Precious, back in GA, had a puppy born with a bent tail. His little boy loved her anyways.


  21. willowdot21 says:

    This is a lovely post Sue, it is full of wisdom too. Hey bent fish Ruby and I are rooting for you!! 🤗💥💟💞


  22. Widdershins says:

    Bent-tail, swimming his own Path! 😀


  23. Bun Karyudo says:

    From the pun in the title, I was expecting a tragic ending, so I was delighted to read that Bent-tail is still cheerfully defying all expectations. 😀


  24. That was a happy ending, if only temporary. My husband is recovering from a case of malnutrition. His caregiver tried to get him to eat but had a fight on her hands. His throat had possibly swollen inside as he had difficulty swallowing. He started to swell in his legs and arms and be very weak The doctor warned he might not have long and to be prepared. We put him in the hospital and they found what nutrients he needed, gave him a liquid intravenous to replace sodium and protein, and a feeding tube to be kept in for several weeks, and he’s improving. He’s 86 years old. You don’t give up on some fish or people, especially the stubborn ones. 🙂 — Suzanne


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’m sorry to hear your husband is unwell, Suzanne, but I know from experience that the stubborn ones can work miracles with their recoveries 🙂 Hope he is better soon. x


  25. May Hinton says:

    I have a bent tail in my orfe and when we go to pond shoots off. He or she is still eating very well. So we have just left it alone. 👍👍


  26. Anonymous says:

    Such a caring and gentle post. Thank you for sharing, this was very touching to read on a number of levels. Thank you and wishing your family and fish every happiness. Genette 😊🐡🐡🐡🐡


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