This story is a re-post of a story written by Barbara Hale.
A few weeks after my husband put in a backyard pond, I was in the Walmart pet department looking at goldfish and Koi. As enthusiastic new pond-keepers, we were always looking for more fish.
While peering into aquariums at the limited selection of fish, I overheard a loud customer speaking to the store manager. “Why can’t you take it? It’s perfectly healthy. I’m giving it to you for free!” she said. “I just want it to go to a good home.”
This exchange peaked my interest so I moved closer to listen. The manager told her that Walmart had strict health regulations and could not take in a donated fish. The woman looked devastated. I approached her saying, “Excuse me, but are you trying to find a home for a fish?”
She told me she had an eight-inch goldfish that was too large for her aquarium and no one she knew wanted it. She’d had it for many years, ever since it was tiny. Due to back problems, she could no longer clean such a large aquarium.
I told her about our new pond and that I’d be delighted to take the fish. What luck! We needed a large fish; she needed a home for her large fish. Her face lit up and she asked me to follow her home. Once there, she netted the fish into a bucket, and walked me with the fish to my car. I thanked her profusely insisting she come visit some time to see her fish in its new home. She told me she’d certainly do that so I gave her our address and said, “Drop by any time.”
Several months later, my husband found the fish belly-up in our pond. “This is horrible,” I said. “What if that nice woman shows up to see her fish? We’ve got to find one that looks just like it!” My husband was unable to talk me out of it, so we drove to a store that sells fish and pond supplies. It was a pond owner’s dream. On the grounds were rows of pond plants and an enclosure for turtles. Under an arbor behind the building was a beautiful pond with lots of large koi and goldfish—a perfect model for those interested in building their own ponds. Inside it, I spotted a goldfish who looked almost identical to our dearly departed one. How perfect!
We told an employee we’d like to buy a goldfish from out back. He followed us out to the pond area which was flanked by several rectangular vats containing various types and sizes of goldfish and koi. When I pointed out the one I wanted in the pond, he said, “Oh, those aren’t for sale. They’re impossible to catch.” He directed me to a vat of goldfish I could choose from, but none were large enough.
So I told him my whole impassioned story about why we needed that particular fish, and how happy the woman at Walmart was that her fish would go to a good home, and how she could drop by any day to see her fish. He was shaking his head back and forth as he listened. Then, after a long sigh, he said, “Okay, I see what you mean. I’ll try.”
With his long-handled net, he scooped this way and that through the pond, stirring up sediment from the bottom as all the terrified fish darted in every direction. I did what I could to assist by continually pointing out the target fish, saying things like, “There he is—no, there. Oops! Oh, here he is. Oh wait—now he’s over there.” This went on for a good twenty minutes but miracles do happen; he finally caught the fish! By that time the pond was a muddy mess and the exhausted employee was soaked. We were so grateful he didn’t give up.
We took the new fish (which looked almost the same) home and named it Replacement. Twelve years have passed and Replacement still thrives in our tranquil pond. His former owner, the woman I met in Walmart, has never come to visit.