Well, Prince is dead. I euthanized him in a large pot that I let sit overnight in the basement refrigerator.

Prince was our angelfish. And when the kids and I bought him nearly two years ago, he really looked like an angel. He was the most beautifully formed tropical fish I’d ever seen. At his passing, he was about four-and-a-half inches long and ivory-white.

But, boy, did he suffer. He’d been sick for four months with a growth that formed on his mouth and got bigger. In September, we Chatterings went to the pet shop and analyzed our options with the man who had sold us Prince. He suggested treating Prince with a solution that would require isolation from the other fish. This meant we’d have to buy a second tank and aerator. Not really a good option. We decided as a family to just keep Prince’s existing water clean and let him remain where we was in hopes he’d get better. This was a bad decision, I guess, because Prince only got worse. He started lolling on his side, actually getting up to eat and then lying down again afterwards. I’d never seen a fish behave this way. In time, he stopped eating altogether.

The pet shop man had told us Prince could infect the other fish. So we discussed flushing him, but all agreed that was a horrible idea. Finally, I said, “Okay, kids, it is time to hospice.” I put Prince in a large pot and let the pot sit on my bedroom dresser.

Always on his side now, Prince’s eye stared at the lights on the ceiling. What did he see?

“Oh, I don’t want to look at him,” my younger son said.

After the kids went to bed, I came online to search for more ideas, never expecting to find the cold storage solution suggested on the Sea World website. When refrigerated, a sick fish just gets sleepy and dies. Apparently, experienced tropical fish owners euthanize with relative frequency.

It was painful to say, “Goodnight, little Prince,” and shut that basement refrigerator door. But he was so sick. We’ll have the backyard funeral this afternoon, with fitting tributes.

I have found a fascinating virtual pet cemetery online that is so crowded its founders are now asking for a small processing fee to help them with the costs of posting the tribute.

Additionally, New World Library has recently published a wonderfully comprehensive book on pet loss called Rainbows & Bridges: An Animal Companion Memorial Kit by Allen and Linda Anderson. The kit includes a journal, set of meditation cards, and three types of pet memorial services, so families can have a ritual to gain closure and honor the pet. What a wonderful gift to give anyone with a dying pet!

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