He left progress reports each day so staff would know the fish were cared for while they were away.
When Wewahitchka High School librarian Micah Peak returned to her library October 25, she expected to see an aquarium full of dead fish. After all, she had not been in the school's library since Monday, October 8, the day Florida's governor declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Michael.
"As I walked by my planner I noticed that someone had written on it for several days, and that is a big no no," Peak wrote in a Facebook post. "Much to my surprise Deputy Howard had left me daily notes about my fish. As he checked the halls and of course the library at WHS he fed the fish."
These notes were left by Deputy Anthony Howard, a deputy with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) since July 2016. Howard, along with 11 other deputies, three communications personnel, one radio specialist, and one mechanic spent two weeks in Gulf County following the hurricane.
Wewahitchka (or Wewa as it's known locally) is about 20 miles northeast of Mexico Beach, where the eye of the powerful hurricane came ashore. It's a small town that borders Tate's Hell State Forest and is home of famed Tupelo Honey. Peak's school, as well as other schools in the Gulf County community, were damaged in Michael, as were many homes and businesses, according to The Star.
During the two and a half weeks Peak and her fellow educators were away from their school, Howard and others patroled the school, stopping to feed the fish.
His first entry, dated on Peak's calendar as October 17, reads, "I fed the fish while yall [sic] were gone, hope all is well."
He added, "P.S. there's been no power. Hope they make it without the air pump working."
Deputy Howard's entries took a humorous turn starting October 19: "Fed fish," he wrote. "Had a great talk with them."
On October 20, 10 days after Hurricane Michael made landfall, Detective William “Billy” Patten, who's been with ACSO since 2000, wrote that the power had returned. He fed the fish, too.
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Howard's October 22 entry: "Filis is a hoot. She has stories on everyone. She's a gossip queen."
By October 23, the fish in the tank had a full story to tell: "Piper the fish was very active today. Alge was annoyed by Piper. This may be the last day ASO is here. Couldn't tell if fish were crying with the news, due to water." They signed their last entry "Love, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office."
Peak returned to WHS October 25, to her fish and to the deputies' notes. She was even able to meet the fish feeder and friend before Deputy Howard left Wewahitchka to return to Gainesville.
"When I met him, I thanked him for feeding the fish," she said, "and told him it was the simple things that make your days better. Thousands have shared Deputy Howard's simple thing, and it has made others smile."
Alachua County Sheriff shared Peak's story on Facebook, writing "It's the little things that sometimes make the biggest difference."
“It just came naturally – ‘protect and serve’ has been the theme forever,” said Lieutenant Brett Rhodenizer, Public Information Officer for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. “And after patrolling debris-covered Gulf County and handing out food and water at the POD [point of distribution] night and day, Deputy Howard and the others came across Ms. Peak’s fish while checking on damaged areas of the school."
"Everyone in Wewa were our friends and neighbors by then, and they [the fish] looked hungry," according to the deputies, "and it was just the right thing to do. Fish are Floridians, too."
Peak says a new fish will be added to the WHS tank soon. "It will be named Deputy Howard," she adds.