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Lifestyle // The Wild Side
Dr. John Kaya

It’s A Fish-Eat-Fish World

Treating exotic animals requires creativity and a “why not?” philosophy. New ideas are shared openly in the exotic animal community so that patients benefit.

To this end, I have traveled across the U.S. in search of every tidbit of knowledge available to help these critters.

One of my recent ventures saw me returning from a koi medicine and surgery conference in Georgia.

Walking through the entryway of our house, I breathed deeply the familiar smells that made my travel-weary body truly feel at home.

I dropped my suitcase at the front door, knowing deep down inside that by doing so, I’ve condemned it to at least five days of obscurity.

I, in turn, will be reminded regularly by the love of my life to disembowel my luggage and unfetter the path to the front door.

After three days of intensive fish anatomy, diseases and surgical techniques, however, I was willing to risk the ordeal to plop my tired body onto my favorite couch.

As I plodded past our freshwater aquarium, something caught my eye – the right one, to be exact. Looking closer, I noticed that our koi Kramer had his mouth frozen in an open position.

My wife saw me gazing at the aquarium, and soon both of us were peering intently at Kramer.

“Honey, I think he has something stuck in his mouth,” she says.

“Please,” I respond, “if he had something in his mouth, don’t you think I would have noticed it?”

After all, I am the veterinarian in the family.

Slowly, however, I realized that my wife was correct. Oops! After a bit of backpedaling, I apologized for my curt reply and turned my attention back to Kramer.

My wife asked, “What did your conference teach you about removing a catfish from a koi’s mouth?”

I didn’t know what he was she talking about.

Soon, however, I realized she was right again.

Kramer had our little armored catfish, George, in his mouth. I suspected someone (I wasn’t about to mention who) didn’t feed the fish regularly while I was gone.

I quickly opened my suitcase and thumbed through my notes from the koi conference. After a few minutes, I came to the realization that I was on my own.

Catfish extraction, apparently, is not a common procedure for koi.

As I scooped up Kramer with an aquarium net, I saw that George had spread every fin on his body and was really wedged in Kramer’s mouth. This must have been a self-defense mechanism to stave off the predicament of being swallowed by a larger fish.

I needed something, and fast. I rushed to our kitchen drawer and pulled out my favorite chopsticks.

Gently, I wiggled George back and forth until I loosened him from Kramer’s maw.

Placing both back into the aquarium, Kramer immediately began swimming while poor George sank to the bottom.

I was too late.

Chopsticks … who knew?

What is usually used for eating fish ended up saving a fish’s life. Now I occasionally will salute my sashimi with a pair of chopsticks.

To onlookers, it just looks weird.

For me, it signifies the spark of creativity and reminds me of George and his sacrifice.

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