Francesco the Relocating Fish!

This is a great story from a current customer, who has posted her "Francesco Tales" on her personal blog page detailing her story on the relocation of her beloved Siamese Fighting Fish (Beta Fish) - Francesco from Seattle Washington to Amsterdam!

I can not do the story justice, so we have reposted it below and please visit her blog to read other exciting tales of a relocating Expat to The Netherlands.

November 29

The Francesco Tales Part I

Francesco and I met a few years ago in Chicago. It was love at first sight. He's got great energy and is very attentive. He lights up when I walk in the room. Oh, and handsome! I mean, Francesco is Hot. Of course, I immediately asked him to move in with me - a decision I will never regret. Although he's not as handy as my ex-husband (he never does the laundry and can't cook), he brings me endless joy and doesn't spend any of my money. For my part, I always make sure that Francesco is comfortable and that there are fresh flowers and warm candles to brighten his days.

So, when Starbucks called and asked me to move back to Seattle it was clear that Francesco would be joining me. This was 2005, mind you. The world was a different place. You could wear shoes in the security line at the airport. Remember? We received a lot of attention in First Class on that long Alaska Airlines flight. Considering it was our first time traveling together, we did great. Although, he did flirt quite a bit with the flight attendants.

He's been happy in Seattle but he's looking forward to the Netherlands. I think he believes we will have more one-on-one time there. There's a logistics issue that I've been fretting about for months. How do I get Francesco to Amsterdam? "Buy him a ticket", you say? As the French are fond of saying "It is not possible". Because Francesco is a fish. Not just any fish. He's a Siamese Fighting Fish. And he's a Sinatra. He must be handled with care. He can't fly in the cabin with me anymore - no liquids on the plane. What, oh what am I going to do?

I could put him 3.5oz of water, send him through the scanner and then give him more (treated) water on the other side. But that's awfully risky. What if he was confiscated? I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I could Fed Ex him. But can you imagine if I were to tear open the box in Amsterdam and instead of my love, I find, well...bouillabaisse? Oh the horror!! I've been asking friends and family for advice. More than one suggests that I set him free. Into the waters of the Puget Sound. "He's a fighting fish, he's got a fighting chance" they said. I'm sorry but Francesco doesn't do polluted waters. He prefers his water clean and treated and well, room temperature. Someone else made a flushing sound, but I'm not sure what they meant. It might not be truthful to say it has kept me up at night, but it does occupy many a conversation.

Then, as luck would have it, I read my contract with Starbucks. There's a Pet Relocation Clause! So, the people relocation company contacts a pet relocation company who, believe it or not, have never relocated a single fish. They've sent dozens of Koi. But not just one fish. They were perplexed. The research department started making phone calls. And the following plan was hatched:

Francesco will be put in a plastic bag with water. Not a lot of water mind you. Some water. Leaving enough room for a lot of air. Because, well, fish need air to breathe too. That bag will be sealed and placed in Styrofoam along with a warming pad. Comfort is key here. He will then be boxed, sealed and I will check him in my luggage along with my shampoo, hair spray and all those other taboo liquids. It will take his bowl 6-8 weeks to reach Amsterdam. So, his accommodations will be more modest. But then again, so will mine. Alas, we will start our Dutch lives together.

The Dutch are very accepting people (legalized prostitution, rampant drug use). We won't get strange looks anymore. I can't wait.

Stay tuned for next installment of The Francesco Tales.

December 22

The Francesco Tales Part Deux

It was a hectic day! The movers were there, packing, moving...

When the man came (I think his name was Ray, but I apologize if I am wrong) I barely had time to think, let alone ponder the gravity of the moment. I would not see Francesco for 9 days. And, I was sentencing him to 9 days of disruption, loneliness and squalor. I don't know if it was to be his first overseas trip. But it surely was longer than the flight from Chicago we had taken together two years (to the week) prior.

Thankfully, he was ready to go. His palatial bowl had already been packed and he was transferred to a plastic bowl with a lid (with a hole in to let in air). I quickly signed the form Ray gave me and they left. I think I said arrivederci, but I don't really remember. As I was signing the form Ray said that Francesco was going to the "Pet Resort". That made me feel better. I immediately envisioned a cabana, on a beach, somewhere warm. There were palm trees. Francesco was in a fluted, crystal bowl atop a sterling silver pedestal. Coco, the cabana boy, was nearby, a linen napkin draped over one arm. Ready for the whims of my beloved fish.

I didn't ask Ray to elaborate on the location or specifics of said Pet Resort. I wanted to hold on to my vision.

Matt, at had not yet been able to identify the documentation required for Francesco's admission into the Netherlands. So, although this was Wednesday (my flight was Friday), it was probable that Francesco wouldn't depart the states until Monday or Tuesday of the following week. I felt guilty. I could have opted to check him with my luggage. But that would have meant fewer clothes and more stress for me. I am a bad mother.

Wednesday night I checked into the Hotel Monaco; the movers had taken all my belongings. I am one of these "elite inner circle" frequent guests at this particular hotel chain and am often upgraded to suites. This stay was no different. The manager had moved me to the Monaco Suite. Being my usual prim Donna self, I inquired if the Monaco Suite included a jetted tub. It did not. But I could move the Mediterranean Suite. It was smaller (only one bathroom and the dining room/living room/bedrooms were combined. But! I could have bubbles in my bath. Since my fish was backstroking somewhere in Bora Bora (his accommodations growing more luxurious in my mind), I said "Yes Please." And then I asked, "Does my room come with a fish?" "If you like," I was told. "I would like and I would like it if his name was Francesco". They said "of course".

Sure, enough! Within 30 minutes there was knock on the door. A smiling, slender man was there with a classic fish bowl. He set it on one of the tables, situated the name tag precisely and departed. I was left alone with a Francesco-wannabe. (Actually, the card said Francisco, but a few pen strokes later the misnomer was forgotten).

This Francesco was a gold fish. Not the classic sleek gold fish. But the thick kind. I think it's called a Red Roykin. We said our how-do-you-dos and I continued with my evening (complete with a bath in the aforementioned tub and dinner-en-suite with a couple of girlfriends). I actually had difficulty sleeping that night as Francisco/Francesco had a habit of sucking up the little rocks and spitting them out. He never slept and all night long I heard the clink, clink, clink of rocks hitting glass.

A Fake Francesco

As I laid awake, I was reminded of Christopher. Christopher was "the one that got away". A man who spiked to 10 on every scale. I fell quick, hard and further than I ever had. I thought he was (and, oh god, I hope I was wrong) The Love Of My Life. Things fizzled when, it seemed, he didn't fall in love with me. After several fits and starts I moved on. And dated Christopher #2. Number Two had one other thing in common with Number One besides the name. He was bald (a particular weakness of mine). #1 was slender yet beautifully muscled. Breathtaking really. #2 was, well, scrawny. Today, they are referred to as Hunky Chris and Scrawny Chris to avoid confusion.

I had picked what became a grossly inadequate substitute. It ended. In screams and tears.

I never let Francesco Two under my skin or close to my heart. I simply paid my bill and checked out. A clean break.

I landed in Amsterdam which is a story in and of itself. Suffice to say the punch line of that joke is "Dutch hospitality".

The days wore on. I got busy with my new job. Yet there was something missing.

I received regular updates. Apparently, it was true. No one, ever, had moved just one fish. Authorities on both sides of the pond did not know what was required, which approval, which form...I was told that Francesco was awaiting clearance from the USDA. The Department of Agriculture? My Siamese fighting fish was lumped with artichokes and sliced meat?!?!

At work everyone had heard of Francesco and the inquiries were daily. "No, not yet. Maybe tomorrow" I found myself saying. Then I got a call. He may not make it until after Christmas. I was distraught. Tuncay (the man I had met and seen romantically a few times in the five days since my landing in Nord Holland) was leaving on Thursday for Istanbul. And my other friends, Amal and Pat, were leaving for Italy and Canada. I was going to be alone for Christmas. In a foreign country. Christmas without Francesco made that a very bleak and desperate "all alone".

And then, on Thursday the call came. Francesco had received his clearance . He would be back with me on Friday!!!

Friday, I received a call from the receivers in Amsterdam. Francesco was ok. He was lethargic and they had cut a hole in the bag because they were afraid he couldn't breath. I said "don't worry, he'll be ok". But I could hear the concern in the woman's voice. If I was crazy enough to ship this fish across two continents and an ocean, what would I do if he didn't make it? But I had read somewhere that the Beta, in it's native environment is often forced to live in mud between monsoon seasons. So I knew, my Francesco, would simply slow his metabolism so he wouldn't require much food or oxygen. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea. But it helped. A lot.

I had asked that Francesco be delivered in the evening, after work. The Dutch don't work long days and I was surprised when I was told yes. But not surprised that "evening" was defined as no later than 5:30pm. So, I left work early, took the 4:10 shuttle to the 4:39 train and walked the 10 minutes home. At 5:05 on Friday (a full 9 days since I last saw Francesco) I was fumbling for my keys outside my temporary apartment. A man jumped out of a giant delivery truck and asked in rudimentary English "You, fish?" And I said yes. He was early and clearly unamused that he was delivering "just a fish". I asked him to carry the special package up the stairs to my apartment. He had in his hands a box that was about 12 inches square. It had a "Live Animals" sticker with a picture of four species: Dog, bird, turtle and fish. The fish was circled in barely visible ballpoint pen.


Francesco the Fish Arriving in Amsterdam

The boxed Francesco was set on my kitchen counter and I signed yet another form. As I was signing he received a call on his cell phone. The conversation was in Dutch except one phrase I understood "a very special fish". I detected a facetious tone. But I was ok with that. Together we opened the box. There was a Styrofoam liner. A layer of crumpled newspaper (the Gazette) and a big clear blue plastic bag. Inside all that was a gallon Ziploc bag. And in there, floating in some pretty funky water, was a very haggard Francesco....

Opening the box...

There's Francesco!

I put him in a kitchen bowl of clean and treated water. He didn't move. Then I bundled up (it was minus 5 Celsius) and walked to the shopping street nearby. There I paid 5 euros for a very pretty, stemmed bowl that stands about 15" high. I transferred Francesco to his Mediterranean Suite. He looked at me, puffed up as if he was about to fight a male beta to the death, and then turned his back to me. That was one pissed off fish.

Francesco in his European home!

We are so glad to have reunited Francesco with his owner, all before the Christmas Holidays! Enjoy your travels Jill-Ann and give our best to Francesco!


PetRelocation Team




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