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Seattle Designer [Terri Nakamura]

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The End of a Fish Tale


"Verizon Lifestyle Blogger"
This morning, in typical fashion, our silver tabby, enjoyed his favorite pastime, watching our goldfish, Gil.

I recently received a Nokia Lumina Icon from Verizon Wireless, and took the opportunity to record a video of them together, then shared it on Facebook.

Click to view a better-quality video on YouTube
It turned out to be the last video taken of him while he was alive, because Gil died tonight. He was 17 years old.

He came to our home in a bag filled with 25-cent feeder goldfish we purchased to feed our pet tiger salamander.

It all began when our oldest son, Andrew, was in the seventh grade, and decided he wanted to create a "stream" as a biology project. We started with a single tank, rocks, sand, and a pump to create a waterfall and eventually had three fish tanks populated with frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, snails and more!

Then unexpectedly, the salamander metamorphosed from aquatic to terrestrial, and would no longer feed under water. And when that happened, we had one feeder fish left — Gil.


Gil was a survivor. On February 28, 2001, the Nisqually earthquakeshook Seattle. Gil, our dog Rusty, and I were in the kitchen as cabinet doors flew open, light fixtures swayed and the house shook. Water from Gil’s bowl splashed its way onto the counter and into the silverware drawer.

He survived the introduction of two kittens to our household. Hunter had no interest in him, but Grey decided Gill was the most fascinating show on Cat-TV.

Gil lived through Andrew’s four-year absence at West Point, and deployments to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and South Korea. And he lived long enough to see our youngest son, Charley, graduate from the University of Washington, and move out on his own.

Gil greeted each day with enthusiasm. He wasn’t fancy, but he was quite handsome when the sun glittered on his orange scales.

It's kind of weird to feel sad about a goldfish, but I am. I'm grateful to him for providing us with his cheerful presence the past 17 years.

Rest in peace, Gil.
March 24, 2014

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Gill' the goldfish...your loyal & loved pet and part of the family for 17 yrs, - a sad tale for you nonetheless.
My sincere sympathy for your loss, Terri.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Jeanette Joy said...

I'm happy you appreciated your glitter pet. I loved my koi and one morning I found them all dead. The water department had changed chemical treatment without notice. The pond was filled by a slow constant drip for years without problems. Ten days later, my husband died. Sometimes I think the koi dying was a foreshadowing. I'm building a new koi pond and hope you get a new Gil.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute to a constant and peaceful presence. Trusting that he swims now in a beautiful fish bowl in a sunny kitchen window in Heaven. -- love, Lissa

12:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

oh, I'm sad about Gil, too. How special to have a little feeder fish turned family member for 17 years! And I always, always enjoyed your pics of Grey sitting by the bowl (sometimes on it!), just wishing that the lid would magically lift and he could dip his paw in. So sorry, Terri. That will be an empty corner in the kitchen. :(

1:12 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your sweet note.

It's not the same as losing a dog or cat, for sure, but there is definitely something missing now!

You're such a wonderful friend. Thank you for all of your support and kindnesses!

((HUGS)) Terri

1:28 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Jeanette,

Reading about your koi made me feel sick. I was sorry to learn about the loss of your beautiful friends.

But worst of all was to have your husband pass away 10 days later. The overwhelming sense of loss you experienced must have been incredible. You are a strong person to have survived such emotional devastation.

I view Gil's death as a sad event, but I know it is a small thing when put into perspective.

I'm happy you're building a new koi pond, and one day would love to see it!

Thank you so much for reading, Jeanette. I admire your resilience!

((HUGS)) Terri

1:42 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Meliss,

You of all people have been here and seen how much he was a part of our lives.

This morning Grey walked over to the empty bowl and looked troubled with an expression that said, "Where is my fish?"

Thank you for the comment, and your love. You are the best sister in the world!

Love, Tink

1:47 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Jennifer,

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I keep telling myself 17 years is a very long life for a feeder goldfish, but last night I found an article stating some goldfish can live for 45 years!

Still, for him each day truly was a gift.

The corner feels empty to me, but I think Grey feels there is something really amiss here.

It reminds me of opening up a secret cabinet space above my office and watching both cats leap three feet from the top of a six-foot ladder to enter an exciting new territory. Once the work was done, the doors were reinstalled, and the space disappeared.

That was a year ago, and Hunter still watches the door wistfully, hoping it will reopen. I suspect Grey will be wondering about Gil's corner for a while.

Lots of love, Terri

1:54 PM  
Blogger mo4 said...

Lovely piece, Terri. And only your kind heart and nurturing could keep a little goldfish alive for 17 years. I'm sure Gil's spirit will be watching over you now. - Paula

3:58 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Paula,

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

Gil required so little from us, and in exchange provided close to two decades of his companionship!

I don't know if it was Pavlovian, but when I approached his fish bowl, he would swim up to the top, waiting for his food.

Sometimes I wondered if he thought, "What? I'm having the same thing to eat AGAIN?!"

He is buried outside the kitchen window, so he isn't far from our hearts or minds.

Lots of love, Terri

1:50 AM  
Blogger John_Lawson said...

I'm not sure if the word pet applies in many cases. Companion seems far more appropriate, and when we lose a companion we mourn. Gil was amazingly long lived, compared to many fish who live in our homes, indicating your family was invested in taking far greater care of him than what many 25-cent fish receive. Gil was lucky to have spent time with you. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

4:26 PM  
Blogger Steven Krohn said...

I know exactly how you feel and you certainly have my empathy. It's never an easy thing to say good bye to any pet. Pets are loyal parts of a family and love you unconditionally. We had a German Shepherd that we had to put down after 12 great years and it was probably the hardest thing I had to sit through. In fact, just talking about it right now makes me tear up. Thank you for your wonderful post and my prayers are with you.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Casey Fahey said...

So sorry to hear about your loss Terri... I've been wrestling with the idea of getting another pet, but still stung from when I lost my kitty Ginger.

4:39 PM  
Blogger RCToyPalace said...

I am told that as long as we can remember, our loved ones still share our hearts.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Yannis Beltekas said...

What a heart warming post this is Terri!

Any living thing that becomes a part of our lives for so many years is meant to leave a void in our hearts when gone. I loved getting to know Gil through your eyes and words. He brought joy in to your lives and I'm sure he was happy with you. At the same time, your remarks, comments (and video) of his interactions with Grey made me smile.

God bless you and may Gil rest in peace!


5:06 PM  
Blogger Bobby Ore said...

My heart goes out to you, as you already know we had to say goodbye to a family pet last week and it is heartbreaking to say the least. Our pets are part of our family, they grow with our children, they bring out the best in our children, through them they learn to be kind, compassionate human beings. I am so sorry for you loss, after 17 years, I am sure Gil made a huge impact on your life. God Bless you and your Family Terri, you have such a warm heart.

5:14 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear John,

Sincere thanks for reading and commenting.

I appreciate the distinction you made between "pet" and "companion." People are at the top of the evolutionary ladder, but often our companions attain a human-like place in our lives.

We were as lucky as Gil in some ways, and you're right—he lived a good, long life!

Warm regards,


10:50 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Steven,

Thank you for your thoughtful response, and for taking the time to read the post.

Dogs and cats are on a completely different level when it comes to the loss we feel when they leave us.

I can imagine the grief of losing your German Shepherd. The love and devotion paid to us is the highest tribute, rarely given so freely by humans to one another.

Our wonderful dog, Rusty, lived through three different bouts of cancer and died at 14. After his death I was deeply depressed for six months, and seven years later, still think of him often.

My gratitude for sharing, and best wishes to you,


11:02 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Casey,

Many thanks for reading and responding.

And I'm sorry about your kitty, Ginger. It fills me with dread to think of the day when we will have to face that moment again.

When we visited shelters for find a kitten, we were advised to take two. Cats are social creatures and enjoy being in homes where there is another animal — even a dog. If there is no one around during the day, it's nice to think they have a friend around.

You'll know when you're ready!

Warm regards,


11:10 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...


Thank you for the comment.

I feel exactly as you do—and know we keep our loved ones alive through our memories.

All the best,


11:11 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Yannis,

Thank you, my friend, for reading and commenting.

Gil and Grey had a symbiotic relationship. I really believe Grey's fascination from outside of Gil's fishbowl, provided Gill with an equal amount of entertainment.

If there had ever been a harrowing experience, where Grey came remotely close to a physical encounter with Gil, I think there could have been anxiety on Gil's part. But they were always safely separated by glass, metal and plexiglass!

His longevity was remarkable, as was his gentle presence in our family.

Warm ((HUGS))


11:19 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Bobby, Roslyn and family,

I was so very sorry to learn about your dog earlier this week.

While is is sad for us to lose our finned friend, few things compare to the loss of a a beloved family dog.

It is amazing how an animal can teach so many things to our children. Compassion and kindness are at the foundation of all of our relationships. And the values of being responsible and dependable will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

I'm so glad we have become friends over the past two years, and one day hope we cross paths in real life. I know there are some incredible stories to share!

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to share, and please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss.

Warm hugs, Terri

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Terri,
I just finished reading your essay about Gil and watched the two videos. Thank you for sending them. You are such a good writer. It was very touching but not saccharine. You beautifully captured Gil's role in your family over the years. I think that sparkly little goldfish might have been a record breaker. 17 years is a very long time for a goldfish to live. It's a testament to the type of care you give the non-human members of your family--who, incidentally, are true family members, no matter their species. The video of the cat ever so carefully balancing on the covered fish bowl is fabulous. These little animals come into our lives, journey with us for a while, and leave behind indelible memories. We love them.

3:19 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Suzanne,

Thank you so much for your friendship and support.

Many years ago, you gave me some glass fish attached to fishing line and clear floats.
Grey seemed so confused about Gil's disappearance, that I took out your glass fish and put them into Gil's fish bowl.

Grey investigated at first, lost interest once he realized they were inanimate.

Did you ever see Jerry Maguire? In the film, Tom Cruise's character takes the company's goldfish with him when he is let go from his job. He tells everyone, "This fish has manners, and I'm taking him with me."

When I was feeding Gil the morning he died, I looked at the fish food and thought to myself we had only a few days' worth of food and needed to get more. It was like he didn't want me to buy another container.

Lots of love, Terri

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Eunice said...

Such a sweet story...Pets are family. Thank you for sharing Terri.

3:34 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Eunice,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post and to leave such a sweet comment.

And thank you for our connection on Twitter. You've been wonderfully supportive.

Sending positive vibes to you and yours, and again, my thanks,


1:22 PM  
Blogger chinneo said...

Terri, sorry to know about Gil. My apologies for the late response as i have come to know this late.

I have seen photos of Gil through you and feel like i knew him too. I have a lot of pets myself and i can only imagine how you must be feeling. A pet is a pet no matter how small and they become so much a part of the family in the course of time.
My sincere sympathy to you and your family.

4:31 AM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Dear Chinneo,

Many thanks for reading and for your kind comments here.

I've always enjoyed our conversations about our lives, work, families and pets. So I appreciate your expression of sympathy here.

Gil was an ordinary goldfish, but extraordinary in how long he lived.

We all miss him, but I think our cat, Grey, misses him the most.

Warm regards, Terri

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Chicago Graphic Design Company said...

As a fellow graphic designer who recently lost a few fish, I feel for you. I lost 3 goldfish in 2 days.

2:53 PM  
Blogger terrinakamura said...

Gosh, Chicago.

I'm very sorry to read your comment. Even fish can occupy a place in our hearts. I hope you're alright.

Thanks for the comment, Terri

1:01 AM  

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