The Pet Lady


I was extraordinarily disappointed with your recent answer to “East Village Fish Lover” [The Pet Lady, Nov. 29]. Rather than spend your time waxing poetic about the etiology of the name “Geoff” and feng shui, you could have given real advice about the care of pet fish. Fish do not “simply die a lot” if they are well taken care of. I’ve kept fish for over 20 years, and for the past four, I haven’t had a single one die out of about 50, because I took care to pay attention to basic principles like not overcrowding.

One of the reasons some of this reader’s goldfish died is that they were kept in a bowl, a common myth held by people inexperienced with fish. Goldfish need a lot of room, not just for swimming, but because they produce more ammonia than other fish. This was a very simple answer to this reader’s inquiry, yet you chose to give a flowery answer that really had no factual information in it; I’m wondering if you have any experience with this type of pet? I’m not trying to be scathing here, but it just seemed like your response was more about aesthetics and cute writing than about real pet care.

Cecilia Chen


Oh, dear Cecilia Chen, scathe you do, and rightfully so! The Pet Lady is in the abject throes of devastation, having done wrong by our finned friends and been chastised by many other Pet Readers as well. From the depths of the well of her shame, the Pet Lady must protest, however, that she did not wax nor even wane whatsoever about the etymology (ahem!) of the Chaucerian appellation Geoff, though it certainly crossed her mind.

The P.L. does in fact have fairly extensive experience with fish, dating back to her earliest childhood memory of a vengeful Pet Brother’s deliberately overfeeding the Pet Family goldfish to kill it in retribution for some completely unrelated wrong. Then, in her halcyon college days, the P.L. kept a gorgeous fantail goldfish by the name of Pete, who, despite having many choruses of “Lovely Rita” (rest in peace, sweet George!) sung to him, became morose, responding to a cocktail party held to cheer him by slowly turning black from his tail forward. More recently, the P.L. bore horrified witness to the Pet Companion’s inability to maintain a tropical fish tank, which became a sort of aquatic Chamber of Death despite much testing of water and fretting on all parts (except the unknowing occupants, who seemed to go peacefully). The P.L. also recalls an attempted resuscitation of Walter, a large and long-lived goldfish who succumbed to unknown causes in the Pet Family’s outdoor fishpond and ultimately went to his rest under a flagstone.

A recent shopping expedition found the Pet Lady purchasing a betta-type fish as a birthday gift, and an extensive discussion with the Pet Store Clerk about the betta being the only fish appropriate to a small bowl as it is capable of breathing at the surface ensued, which the P.L. really should have remembered when answering dear “East Village Fish Lover.” Alack, memory is not the P.L.’s strong suit, and research is wholly beyond her grasp and must be carried out by the charming but occasionally torpid Pet Secretary. It is all quite inexcusable, and the P.L. begs the pardon of everyone, everywhere and must now go drown her sorrows.

The Pet Lady

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