Thursday, January 22, 2009

R.I.P. Chubby and Wubby

Well, there was a surge of excitement yesterday evening around our house when we went to pick up our first African Dwarf Frogs. They were promptly and affectionately named "Chubby" and "Wubby" by the kids.

We acclimated them to the tank, and although we discovered at that time that Wubby obviously had a crushed claw (poor thing...we're 98% certain it was pre-purchase), Chubby at least seemed in good spirits and eager to explore the tank. She was extremely cute! We sat and watched the two of them for a half hour or more as they acclimated, and after the kids went to bed, and the frogs were in the tank and swimming around, I went and watched them for another half hour or more. They were mesmorizing, and I worried about Wubby but had a good feeling that Chubby was going to do just fine. She was alert and active, but also seemed comfortable.

Besides, we'd done all the "right" things for the tank preparation. The tank water had received a dose of "de-chlorinator" and sat there for a week, which was plenty of time to get rid of the chlorine. The water temperature was set automatically by a thermostat. We'd covered the filter intake feed with a clean and rinsed old nylon sock so the frogs wouldn't get sucked in.

I decided to wait until the morning to feed them, as the pet store said they did feedings everyday, and I didn't want to overwhelm them in their first night. I went to bed feeling optimistic.

This morning G. informed me that she went to check the frogs and that they were not looking good. Neither was moving. Wubby was at the bottom of the tank on his back. Chubby was floating at the top (which African Dwarf Frogs often do, as it makes it easier for them to "come up for air," so I wasn't convinced yet). So G. went back in and poked Chubby, and she did not move but simply sunk. They were dead.

Poor, dear frogs. I am feeling pretty heartsick.

My research ahead of time had indicated these little guys are fragile and really put through the ringer prior to coming home. It is rather stressful for them, all the transitions, and they may be sick even before coming home. I had heard they often die in the first week or two (maybe even month), but after that, if they've lived that long, they typically do quite well. So I was prepared that we might have a death on our hands, but I had not thought it would be overnight. I feel awful.

We haven't decided what to tell the kids yet. I'm taking the frogs back tonight, but before we get the new ones I think I may need to clean out the tank and put in new water just in case there is no bacteria or fungus in there from these frogs. On the other hand, the frogs we would get tonight would be from the same batch that the first ones came from, so they'd likely have all the same issues anyway.

I don't know.

I never would consider lying to the kids about this except that our dog Blue's death was pretty hard on M., and he had mixed feelings about the frogs from the start because he was worried about them dying (K. on the other hand was thrilled out of her mind). I also know that they'll have to face frog deaths at some point, and I'm just not sure *how many* I want them to face in a row, given how quickly these deaths occurred. Ack! This is one of the toughest mama decisions for me in recent history.

Edited to add: I did end up telling the kids. M. asked me tonight if the frogs were out of their pet shop bag and in the tank yet (I think he had a feeling something was up), and I looked at him and didn't have the heart to lie. I told him that the frogs had died overnight. He asked where they were. I said they were stored in a container in a closet until I could bring them back to the pet shop (which was supposed to happen tonight, but now it will have to wait for first thing tomorrow because the kids took too long going to bed). He asked why and I told him that I had to take them back so we could get new ones. He wanted to know how the pet shop would bury the frogs. I told him I didn't know (which is true, though I didn't mention that they don't likely bury dead frogs). After that, on the surface he took it in stride. I hope this just means he didn't get too attached. K. also took it in stride, but I think that is partly because she has no clue as to what exactly death means. Not that M. really "gets" it, but he gets it enough to not want it to happen to his animals.

This experience does make me glad I discouraged M. from the names he most wanted for the frogs: Nikki and Blue. Those were/are the names of our dogs, Blue (rest his soul) and Nakara (who sleeps by me as I write this now). I would have felt very weird having perished frogs with the dogs' names. But I do wonder why M. wanted them to share the names, and if it had anything to do with his worry that the frogs would die and his feelings about Blue's death.


sf said...

OH Sad.

Sara said...

Sorry to hear that. It's so tough to keep small animals alive, especially the ones in the tanks. We went through a whole series of "Darth Vader" fish, that Carbon just kept giving the same name as the one that had just died - and there's a small Darth Vader cemetary out in my yard.

It's hard on the kids, but it's hard to avoid if you're going to have little pets around. :(