Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Day I Almost Rescued a Baby Catfish

When I come across a loose dog or cat, I immediately pick it up off the street and take it to Champaign County Animal Control after I drive it to the nearest vet's office to see if it's been microchipped (because let's face it they never have tags on their collars). If it's been chipped, usually the clinic is happy to hold the animal after it makes contact with the owners or I'll drive the animals to the appropriate homes and meet the owners there. I do this because it's what I would want others to do if they saw my cats or dog roaming around in the street where they could get hurt, hunted or sick.

A few years ago, I was out for a walk when I witnessed a wild rabbit get hit by a minivan in Prairie Fields. Son of a bitch didn't even stop. I'm sure he had some kind of angst ridden story about the damn things eating his bulbs, but really, it's a bunny. I approached the bunny slowly, picked it up by the back of its neck, carried it home two blocks, put it in a cat carrier and took it to the Wildlife Animal Clinic. It was stunned and a bit bloody but breathing. I figured if they couldn't help it survive, the least they'd do is euthanize it so it wasn't in pain. Because I definitely don't have what it takes to put something out of its misery.

But today I had to deal with something out of my realm. Something not cute and fuzzy, and as I've been reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer  I'm trying to realign my priorities that all living things, even when they're not cute and fuzzy, shouldn't suffer.

Our house backs into Dana Colbert Park in Savoy, and since we moved here in 2007, there has always been a drainage issue between the entrance to the park and our subdivision. The entrance to the park floods along the east side of the road. It looks like it's overflow from when the water level in the lake gets too high. Then it spills into one ditch and then into another. The second ditch happens to run right behind the plastic fence that borders the empty lots across from my driveway. When that second ditch gets too high, the water doesn't have anywhere to go, so it rushes over the sidewalk in the middle of the fence and then runs into my street and down the grate.

Sitting on that grate gasping it's big, ugly, whiskered mouth today was a small catfish. (No, this is not an actual photo of the fish on the grate.) It was thin, but about as long as my forearm, and it was stuck.

Well, crap. I sat in my car and stared at it for a minute and then my dog/cat knowledge sunk in. If there's a dog or cat that I can't get to, or if I have my child in my car (because I don't put strange animals in a car with my child present), I call animal control. But do you call animal control for a catfish? Do you call a wildlife group? I am not a fan of catfish. The idea of touching the fish repulsed me. But I felt compelled to help the poor thing, so I looked to see if SuperShawn's truck was in the driveway, in case I could pass on the handling to someone less squeamish. No luck with the truck. Why couldn't it have been a bluegill?

Sigh. I stepped out of the car and into a shallow part of the giant puddle, when suddenly a dozen or so SMALLER fish shot from the river that was flowing down and around the sidewalk between my wet shoes and into the grate. Ooooh, the fish are coming from the lake at Colbert Park. That's not good at all. the Parks department would NOT be happy.

My brain suddenly decided to use older brain cells from when I fished as a kid. I decided I'd just fill a bucket with some of the water spillage, put the fish in the bucket and drive it over to the lake to let it go. Sweet idea, right? Why didn't I do that 5 minutes ago?

But when I returned, the fish had managed to flip vertical so his tail was in the air and his big ugly mug was in the grate bars, it wiggled hard and then -- swoosh -- off it went down the sewer.

Now, I know (as I mentioned before in my anti-lawn chemical post) that we don't want send foreign things down the grates. Things like washing cars in our driveways or putting pesticides on our lawns is harmful because when it rains, the water rushes all the dirt, grit and pollution into the drains which go directly to our rivers and streams, where it does more environmental damage. So I kind of hope all those little guys make it to somewhere better than a bunch of crazy pipes laced with TruGreen chemlawn crap.

When I got home from work, I sent an e-mail to the mayor of Savoy about the situation. He responded to me and forwarded it to the appropriate folks with the village within an hour, so I'm waiting on their reply. Hopefully there won't be a next time, but at least I won't sit there like a moron in my SUV wondering what to do about rescuing a fish. Now I know. Get the bucket... take it back to the lake... but before then I should buy some freaking rain boots so I don't soak my feet and socks.

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