JOLIET – To be fair, it does look like a big fin, so the cops and firefighters had been relatively serious when they were told about "a shark in a retention pond" Tuesday morning.
But as a firefighter and animal control officer climbed in the fire department's inflatable boat to investigate, someone started singing a movie theme by John Williams and almost all of the first responders had joined in before the craft was launched.
About 8:45 a.m. Gerald Francis was on his back deck facing the Heritage Lake retention pond when he noticed a large fin circling in the water. Francis's first thought was "shark", his second was "that's foolish" and his third was that people sometimes do crazy things.
"I've heard somebody once dumped an alligator in a retention pond and I wondered if some dummy had put something like a bull shark into this one," Francis said. "A bull shark could survive in fresh water and there are kids who come down to the shore."
Mary Ann Francis also didn't initially take her husband's concerns seriously.
"I said 'Get out of here' and then I saw the fin," she said. The couple called emergency services, who sent police, firefighters and Joliet Township Animal Control.
"We had the Shedd Aquarium on standby. Animal Control was going to take a picture to send them if it was something they'd have to deal with," Police Lt. Dennis McWherter said.
Animal Control Director Sarah Gimbel said Tuesday marked the first time the agency had been called for a "shark spotting."
The large fin disappeared under the water as the boat went out - prompting Gerald Francis to yell "You guys scared my fish," from his deck.
Though Francis had concerns, another Heritage Lakes resident, Liz Popek, informed firefighters the fin has been a common sight for three months at the other end of the pond.
"It feels like you're taking our pet away," she said. "It's been swimming around at the far end and goes under whenever a duck or something lands on the pond."
Realizing it's unlikely a shark could survive three months in an Illinois freshwater pond, the fire boat was called back. Residents and first responders speculated what resembles a shark's dorsal fin is actually the tail of a large grass carp.