They’d been dead for months—magnificent gold and black Koi, each a good foot and a half in length, along with our multi-colored fantail goldfish. All forty of them came to an untimely end in our pond because both pumps quit working in the middle of a long, frigid winter.
Not only were our hearts sickened each time we caught sight of their frightful, glassy eyes staring up at us from beneath the pond’s frozen surface, but we grieved the loss. Some had graced our pond for close to twelve years. They had names. They were family.
But over time, anxiousness to get on with the dreadful business of clean up crept into our hearts, replacing our sorrow. We caught ourselves counting the days until spring forced the thick ice cap to release its prisoners from cold storage. Until then, our hands were tied. We avoided the pond.
That fateful day announced its arrival through Maggie, our Welsh/Wirehair Fox Terrier mix, with her head submerged eyeball deep into the pond. Water poured off her beard like a waterfall, it shot from her snout like a jet sprayer when she came up long enough to gasp for air. I watched her dipping and snorting and bobbing for a few moments and smiled. How adorable she looked; how intense when she was on a mission. Then it hit me. She was bobbing for fish!
Although we’d been given oodles of time to prepare, the abruptness of our call to action thrust us into a state of frantic brainstorming. What does one do with forty sizeable carcasses? Certainly not toss them over the fence into our neighbor’s yard as my husband first suggested. Neither could we bury them in the back yard for Maggie to disentomb. If we decided to scatter them throughout the countryside for nature's scavengers to dispose of, how would we transport them? Stuff them into trash cans? Trash bags? An imposing dilemma, to say the least.
We decided to just figure it out as we went along. The clock was ticking. Rolling up our sleeves and pant legs, we began with the time-consuming operation of siphoning one thousand gallons of water from our pond. Black, reeking, cesspool-type water flooded our once beautiful lawn, insuring rich, luxurious grass for many years to come. Our crazed Maggie was enamored with the stuff pouring from the hoses. When not trying to guzzle it, she rolled in it till she was drenched to the bone and quite unrecognizable. For hours, we schlepped slimy bodies back and forth from ice-cold water to trash can, scrubbed and scraped slime and algae from the heavy-plastic sides of the pond.
When, at last, our long and grueling day of clean up ended, all forty stinky fish had been retrieved. The tripled, quadrupled, quintupled trash bags—with their erroneous boasts of Heavy-duty and Leak-proof—were stuffed to the gills and crammed inside one bulging trash barrel. An exhausted Maggie was shampooed, perfumed, (and perfumed again) and had retired to her bed, where she twitched her way through some robust doggie dream. Our reeking clothes and shoes were in the garage, awaiting their yet-to-be-determined fate. After showering, we finally breathed a sigh of relief. It was over.
Before calling it a day, I chanced one last peek through the living-room window at the trash barrel at curbside. The moon’s reflection across the metal lid assured me that the bungee cords still held our precious stash secure. A suspicious pool of liquid seeped from the bottom, bearing eastward toward our neighbor’s sewer drain. Our hopefully tasteful note of apology to the trash company remained duct taped to the handle. All was in order.
I turned from the window, and with a big yawn padded off to bed.