Who’s training who?

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023

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It is well known to this audience that our house is filled with large dogs. You would think that having three dogs would keep our kids happy. They were, at least, until they went to a pet store and saw a hamster. 

A man has to take a stand sometime, and I fought valiantly on “No Hamster Hill.” So instead, the kids caught a fish, named it Spike, and now enjoy taking care of their aquarium acquaintance.

Spike, an immature bluegill, took a little while to warm up to the family. Whenever we passed by the aquarium, he would dart into the long grass the kids placed in the water. A couple times a day, we would walk by, drop in a worm or insect, and wait for spike to eat.             

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The patience of a bluegill exceeds that of my nine-year-old. Spike would easily outlast the prying eyes of my son and daughter. Once they left, he gobbled up the bugs.              

Within a week’s time, Spike stopped hiding from the kids when they checked on him. Instead of hiding in the grass, he looked to the surface for a tasty morsel to drop. My kids saw this as an opportunity to train their fish.             

My kids would dig worms in the yard, bring them to the surface of the water, and wait to see if Spike would eat from their hand. It took about two weeks, but now Spike is eating from our kids fingers three times a day.             

A troubling realization came over me as I was sitting in the dove field this weekend. I surprisingly hit a dove with my shotgun blast and it landed in thick cover. I sent my dog to retrieve the bird. My dog used its keen nose to find the bird and he brought it back to my hand. I took the bird and put it in the pile to eat.           

Then it hit me like a thrown psychology textbook. A fish had trained my kids to be worm retrievers. Just like I could not find a bird in deep cover, Spike can’t jump out of the aquarium and dig for worms. I trained a dog to do something I can’t so I can eat. Had Spike trained my kids to do something so he could eat?           

The next few doves that flew by got a free pass as my brain went into overdrive. How can I keep my kids from being brainwashed by the media when they are being brainwashed by a fish under my own roof?           

Logically, I knew this was crazy, packed up and headed home.            

Pulling into the driveway, I saw Spike’s tank in the window. It was time to prove that I can feed Spike based on my own free will. I went to the flower bed, dug up a worm and sat beside his tank. The red wriggler dangled at the surface and the fish ate. Satisfied, I got up with a big stretch, found my way to a sunny spot in the house, walked a tight circle, and curled up for an afternoon nap.