Pumper’s Charity Rescues Flushed Goldfish

The loss of a childhood pet inspired Larry Andrews to devote himself to finding a way to help abandoned fish

Pumper’s Charity Rescues Flushed Goldfish

Septic pumper Larry Andrews can still vividly recall the day he came home from school to find the little tank of his beloved pet goldfish empty and set out to dry on the kitchen counter.

He looked around frantically, but Copper was nowhere to be seen. Andrews saw that the fishbowl he put Copper in when he cleaned the tank was on a shelf, but it was empty too. He started yelling for his parents, but at first there was no answer. Then he heard a muffled, “In a minute, son,” from down the hall, and the sound of the toilet flushing.

His dad walked into the kitchen and saw then-8-year-old Larry in tears in the middle of the room. He remembers seeing a flash of guilt in his father’s eyes. “And that moment,” he says, getting choked up at the memory, “that moment, is when I knew. Dad had flushed Copper — murdered him — and it was a long time before I could forgive him for that.”

Andrews remembers watching the water dripping off the empty tank, and brushing off his father’s attempts to console him. “He told me Copper had lived a nice, long life and his time had come. But I knew that wasn’t true. He was only six.”

Andrews says he eventually had to accept the tragic ending of his fish and began speaking to his father again. When he turned 9, he developed a guarded relationship with the family dog, but never let the attachment get too strong.

He made it through that difficult time, though never quite forgot the traumatic loss. Fast-forward 30 years and Andrews is now running a successful septic pumping business. He worked for his uncle after high school and purchased the company when his uncle retired. He loves the work: being out on the road each day, working outside and helping people learn to care for their septic systems.

Andrews says his work is incredibly rewarding, and he can’t imagine doing anything else. And then one typical day on the job led him to find his second passion.

Andrews was getting ready to pump out a tank when he glimpsed a flash of orange among the contents. “Oh, the rush of emotions I experienced when I saw that little orange body in the tank. He looked just like my Copper.” Unfortunately, he was too late.

“If only I had scheduled that tank earlier in the day. I might have saved him. But I try not to think about that now. I can only move forward and focus on those I can help in the future.”

That is the goal of Andrews’ new charity organization, Friends of Copper, which aims to rescue and rehabilitate goldfish that have been flushed and abandoned. Andrews has set up various tanks and aquariums in a back room of his shop to house the goldfish. But he has yet to successfully bring home a rescue.

“It’s heartbreaking what a tricky thing it is to rescue these fish. I’ve had so many close calls. I'm looking into some fish CPR classes because I think that might be the answer, but it’s hard to find a reputable instructor.”

Andrews says part of the problem is how difficult it is to spot goldfish in the tanks — but he has a solution for that. He designed a polycarbonate septic tank that’s completely transparent. His patent-pending Septiquarium should be ready for a 2019 release date. Andrews hopes these tanks will eventually be incorporated into every onsite system. He also has plans to reach out to wastewater treatment plant operators about their fish rescue strategies.

“I’m really excited to get this project going. There are so many abandoned fish out there, and they all remind me so much of Copper. I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to help. These little guys deserve a second chance at life, and I’m doing everything I can to make that happen.”


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