Casey Nabavi, Allegheny Campus Staff


For days, my sister Julie and I had been bugging our parents to get us a pet. It was the summer of 1964. I was seven years old and more than anything I wanted a dog. Julie, one year younger than me, longed for a cat.

There were nightly discussions in our house about what was the most appropriate pet for us. My parents went over all the pros and cons of each pet. Dogs were loyal and friendly, but they had to be walked. Cats were low maintenance, but they shed their hair all over the house.

My parents made it clear that getting a dog and a cat was out of the question. As a compromise, they offered to get us a rabbit. As far as Julie and I were concerned, that was the worst option of all, absolutely positively a lose-lose.

One day, my father came home with a vase about the size of a basketball. The vase was half filled with water and a gold fish was swimming in it. Julie and I were mesmerized by the shiny creature. The puny little thing was about two inches long, orange on the back, yellow at the belly.

My father placed the vase on the dining room table. He told Julie and me that if we could take care of that fish, then we’d decide on a bigger pet. He then gave me a small tin jar and said, “This is his food. Every morning, you sprinkle a little in his bowl.” He gave Julie a small glass container about the size of a bottle of nail polish, and said, “This is his vitamin. Every morning, you drop two droplets in his bowl.”

First thing first, Julie and I needed a name for the new arrival, and Goldie was the obvious choice. And with that, Goldie became our first pet.

Despite our parents’ admonishments, warning me against overfeeding, and warning Julie about giving Goldie too much vitamin, we could not resist. Every few minutes, I sprinkled more food, and Julie added a few more drops of vitamin into Goldie’s bowl. We went to bed that night, convinced that Goldie was well-fed and well-nourished.

The next morning, Julie and I ran down the stairs and rushed to the bowl. To our shock and dismay, Goldie had succumbed to his fate and his lifeless body was floating in the vase. Mortified, we asked our mother what should be done with Goldie’s remains. Thinking that that was a teachable moment, our mother suggested that Goldie should have a proper memorial.

My mother put some cotton in a match box and placed Goldie’s body in it, pending his imminent burial. Julie and I went around the neighborhood and invited our friends to come to our house.

That afternoon, a dozen or so kids from neighborhood gathered in our backyard. When it was time for the ceremony, Julie and I held the makeshift coffin in our palms. The neighborhood kids lined up behind us. Then, the procession of mourners began to move.

In a somber mood, we went around the yard several times. Then, we dug a hole, presumably Goldie’s final resting place, and placed Goldie’s coffin in it. We covered the hole with dirt. Using twigs, I made a cross and placed it over Goldie’s grave. Julie and I said our prayers, paid our last respect to the departed, and the event came to a dignified conclusion.

My mother watched it all from afar. Satisfied that everything had gone without a hitch, she served us cookies and lemonade. When the treats were gone, my mother told us to play nice and went inside the house.

Soon, Goldie’s tragic and untimely death was forgotten, and a game of dodge ball broke out, girls versus boys. Within minutes, there was a dispute in the game, something about who was in and who was out. We quarreled and squabbled. The dispute escalated into an all-out war. Insults were exchanged and objects were thrown. Then, in the midst of chaos, Julie turned to me and screamed, “You killed Goldie by feeding him too much.” I screamed back, “It was you who killed Goldie by giving him too much vitamin.”

Julie put her hands on her hips and said, “I want Goldie.”

“Goldie is not yours alone. He is mine too.” I retorted.

The only solution to the quandary was to divide the remains. While I fetched a knife from the kitchen, Julie dug up Goldie, and we proceeded to cut him in half.

Julie and I bickered over how the remains should be divided. Julie insisted on getting the head section. I reasoned that if she wanted the head, she’d have to give me more of the tail section. We haggled over where the cut should be made. The kids from the neighborhood got involved, girls wanting more of the head, boys wanting more of the tail. The knife moved back and forth several times. Finally, the cut was made to everyone’s satisfaction.

Next, the boys lined up behind me, and the girls lined up behind Julie. Two separate procession of mourners went around the yard, and we each buried our half of the unfortunate pet.

The anger was palpable. Julie and I knew that considering what had just happened to Goldie any prospect of us getting another pet was probably doomed. So, just cutting Goldie in half wasn’t satisfying enough. The rage got the better of us, and we attacked each other’s grave site mercilessly. Girls dug up my half of the fish and proceeded to kick it around the yard. The boys, with me in the lead, attacked Julie’s half, dug it up, and retaliated in kind.

Suddenly, my mother, alarmed by all the commotion, ran into the yard. She immediately saw Goldie’s body parts scattered all around. She yelled, “Go to the end of the yard, all of you.”

As we cowered at the end of the yard, my mother meticulously collected all of Goalie’s pieces. She ran inside the house and into the bathroom. She threw Goldie’s mangled body into the toilet and flushed. Poor Goldie, who had started the day with so much dignity and respect, ended up in the sewer lines by that afternoon.

For weeks after the Goldie debacle, every time Julie or I asked our parents for a pet, we always got the same answer, “A pet so you two can kill it?”

My parents eventually relented, and we had several pets growing up. However, Goldie’s memory is for ever etched in my mind.