The Bubble Blog » Goodbye, Maestro Ricky
Goodbye, Maestro Ricky
Posted on November 11, 2008 by freshwater

Our beloved Ricky Ryukin died on November 10, 2008 from a long-standing bacterial illness.

I have never been much surprised by the ingenuity of animals. But before I knew Ricky Ryukin, even I would not have guessed that a goldfish could make music.

Ricky at the piano

Ricky was an amiable soul. The day I brought him home from the fish store, he didn’t dart around his new aquarium in terror or hide behind a plant in the corner. Experimentally, I put my hand in the water. He swam right up to it, looked me in the eye, brushed against my hand, then gently nibbled my fingers. It was an unexpected show of trust. In that moment we forged an agreement. He would participate in the curious customs of an air-breathing, warm-blooded giant. I would provide interesting challenges, companionship, and the pleasure of food. We were partners by mutual consent.

Through all the ups and downs that comprised Ricky’s short life, he never lost his remarkably trusting nature. When his health eventually failed, I asked him to endure bad-tasting medicated food, injections, and multiple fittings of the weighted harness that compensated for his faulty swim bladder. He accepted all of that without struggle or panic. He seemed to have an unshakeable faith in me.

I was amazed by Ricky’s willingness to learn. Some of the things that I asked him to do must have seemed quite strange to his little piscine brain. Fish don’t usually spin in place, talk to tank ornaments, or play the piano. But Ricky seemed genuinely interested in the tasks assigned by his crazy teacher. He liked the food rewards, of course, but he seemed to find the “tricks” intrinsically worthwhile. When I was a child, I had to be bribed with a dime before I would practice my piano lessons. Ricky often played his piano all alone, with no audience, just because he wanted to.

As our training progressed, and learning changed the workings of his brain, Ricky became a more aware being. Let it never be said that a fish cannot draw conclusions. When I trained our dogs, Ricky observed from his watery world. He would watch Lumi do a trick, then swim to the corner of the aquarium and stare down at the doggie treat cup just beyond the glass. When Lumi’s reward had been delivered and scarfed down, Ricky then floated back to his front and center seat to await the next canine entertainment.

I will always be proud that my friend, Ricky, was once the world’s only goldfish pianist. We accomplished that together. He stroked that doll piano with the vigour and élan of a concert pro. It didn’t make a sound, of course; it was only a toy. But that’s okay. I felt it. I still feel those rhythms and harmonies measure by measure, the surprising resonance of Ricky’s presence in my life. As I pass by his empty tank, he’s not there to acknowledge me with a demure roll of his calico eyes. But the music persists – unexpected, deep, and lovely. It will be there for a long time.

Play it, Ricky.

Ricky at the piano