Jul 25, 2010

The Catfish Rescue Society (Or How I Saved Two Lives Before Breakfast)

It rained a lot yesterday here in my area.  The creek behind my house flooded its banks and took over the whole park.  Even the footbridge was completely submerged.

When I took the HyperHund for his morning walk today, he stopped abruptly with his nose in a puddle and jumped back several feet.  Upon closer inspection, I noticed a foot-long catfish under his nose, in all of one inch of water, its back out of the water and its gills flailing to try to absorb whatever it is fish need to get from puddle water.

The whole back area of the park was covered in dead catfish from the river overflowing.  They were actually harder to see than you'd think, because they were not moving, were roughly the color of mud, and mostly because they were dead-but-not-yet-stinky.

In this small puddle that was slowly drying up, though, were two live, roughly 5 lb. fish (I could tell they were alive because they were right side up) and one dead roughly 5 lb. fish.

Now, I am not some poor unrealistic sap who thinks she can save the world, one animal at a time.  I stare reality in the face.  When I see a half-squished-but-still-twitching animal on the road, I bravely squash it all the way with my car, albeit not happily.  And when my dog and I get out of the car afterwards and he rushes to the tires and starts licking all those leftover flavorful morsels off them, I smile bravely through my tears and sing songs from the Lion King to soothe my guilty conscience.

But, watching an animal die slowly while it is fighting so tenaciously to stay alive is hard to stomach.

I needed to Rescue The Catfish.

The creek was 1/4 mile away, and all I had with me were my leash, two plastic Ultra Foods bags (for picking up poo), one with a hole in it and one not.  I also had a dog and my keys.  I figured my best bet were the plastic bags.  I filled the non-holey bag with a bit of puddle water and attempted to use the other one to guide the more lethargic of the two fish in there.  Not pleased with my attempt at rescue and tough-love-for-living-creatures, he slapped me with his tail, did a few back flips with the last remains of his strength and flopped around threateningly.  My dog was intrigued.  I shoved the bag over the fish's head and trapped him.  He settled down remarkably quickly.

Fish number two was far more feisty, being that he was still more upright and breathing-ish than Sleepy the Tail Slapper.  He was also clearly disgruntled at being shoved into a tiny plastic bag with Someone He Didn't Know Well and a centimeter of stagnant puddle water.  After an epic showdown including slime, tail-slapping, and writhing, Feisty was forcibly cuddled up to Sleepy.  The struggle died down.

At this point, I figured I'd better haul-tail to the water (1/4 mile, remember).  I was wearing flip-flops, had the dog with me, and was carrying a bag that I really hoped wouldn't break, with ten pounds of angry fish inside.  In order to get to the creek, I had to cross a soggy field of puddle at least 2 inches deep in some places.

I began to run.  It was truly epic.  My flip-flops kept sticking in the ground, and then when they'd come up, muddy water would spray all the way up my back, leaving a brownish splatter on the back of my shorts and shirt and getting into my hair.

Feisty became disgruntled and began to honk.  No, I am not making this up, and I had no idea that a catfish could honk.  It sounded like I had a flat, wet, surly Canadian goose trapped in my bag.  He got louder and more irate as the bag swung faster.

I felt quite noble and heroic, like maybe I was some piscean form of Braveheart, but I assume in reality it would probably have looked something like this:

Luckily, there were no hot-shirtless-guys-playing-frisbee in the park at 7 a.m.  Luckily, the only person in the park was crazy, fish-saving, mud-spray girl running in slow motion to the creek.

Luckily for Honky and Sleepy, I got to the creek in time and released them and they swam away.

They didn't even turn around to say thanks.

(Edit: When I first wrote this post, I was under the mistaken impression these fish were carp.  I changed the text once I was told by my father that they were probably catfish, as catfish do in fact honk.  Had I know they were catfish, I would not have picked them up because apparently they can slice your fingers, and have a horrible painful bite that involves puncture wounds. Thankfully, I used the Ultra Foods bag with holes in it to protect my hand.)