Thursday, October 2, 2014

E-I-E-I-ACO

As an animal control officer I am suppose to only deal with domesticated dogs and cats. That being said, I've handled all kinds of animals -- and they always come with a story.

This one was NOT plastic
In my last work stories post I told you about the plastic alligator. That's how most of my wildlife calls are: part ignorance, part exaggeration, part paranoia (remember, everything is rabid). So when I got a report of an alligator in the retention pond on Sarah Circle -- again -- I didn't believe it. I'd received the same call three or four times a year for the past six years. However, true or not, I have to check out every call. I went to the retention pond and didn't see anything. I walked around the bank and half-heartedly looked for tracks. Nothing. I heard a splash from the storm drain three feet to my left. Instead of the turtle I expected, I saw a snout. A gator snout at least five inches wide! I peed my pants, screamed like a girl and ran back to my truck. I was able to snap a picture -- from a distance of course. I would guess the gator was at least six feet long. I don't have the tools or training (or guts!) to handle gators over three feet, so I called FWC (the Florida Wildlife Commission) to arrange a trapper. Unfortunately the gator was gone before the trapper came out. To this day I have no idea where it went.

I spent two weeks looking for a raccoon with a peanut butter jar stuck on it's head. It was spotted around 7th Street a dozen times, yet I never found it. I never found a raccoon skeleton stuck in a peanut butter jar either, so I'm hoping for the best.

Me and the horse -- of course, of course
A few years back the police station got a call about a woman on horseback "riding while impaired." (I'm not making this up. Honest!) The police detained the woman and called me to impound the horse. I'm a city girl and know nothing about horses. My partner, on the other hand, had a degree in Equine Science -- my partner who wouldn't answer her stupid phone! I called her 15 times in 15 minutes. Nada. Meanwhile, we were drawing a crowd and the officer told me to "get that horse outta here." I had a large enclosure next to my kennel a mile away. I hadn't been on a horse in 20+ years, so I thought it prudent to walk the horse to our destination. Unfortunately for me, there was a lot of clover in that one mile stretch, and Horsey loved clover. Now, when a 1000+ pound animal with great big teeth wants to stop and eat clover alongside the road . . . you stop and wait while it eats clover alongside the road. It took an hour to walk that one mile. I had a rookie cop following me in my truck, filming me and calling with snarky comments the entire way. And since our route took us through several housing developments, spectators were everywhere. I had my picture taken so many times I felt like Angelina Jolie on the red carpet. I think I may have muttered "DOG catcher my ass!" a few times as well. The kicker: Partner showed up 20 minutes after we got to the kennel and said "Why didn't you just ride it here? I would have." I called her some dirty names. To make it up to me she took me horseback riding the following year, and here's a picture to prove it.

I'm not that familiar with chickens either, so when we got a call from the nursing home about a rebellious rooster, I knew it wasn't going to end well. The complaint was that the rooster was disturbing the elderly residents, pooping on the porch and pretty much fouling up the whole place. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.) The nursing home was next door to the American Legion with a four foot fence in between them. Partner and I showed up with a pair of nets. The cock -- and I mean that in every sense of the word -- would taunt us and every time we'd get close he'd hop over the fence. The out of shape, uncoordinated animal control officers, however, would have to go around the fence, 50 feet in both directions. We must have walked around that fence 100 times. I swear that bird was laughing at us! This went on for 45 minutes, mainly because we had an audience and didn't want to admit to the public that we were getting our butts kicked by an 8 pound chicken. We were eventually saved by a dog running-at-large call. Thankfully the bystanders were laughing too hard to film us. I'd hate to see myself on YouTube under the heading "Animal Control Outsmarted by Rooster."

The goat incident wasn't quite as embarrassing. Yes, I said goat. A man called the office stating that a pair of goats were running amok at his mother's house. When I arrived he was there along with several neighbors, all of them expecting this city girl to wrangle those wayward goats. No pressure. Fortunately the property was surrounded by a four foot chain link fence, and I was able to close the gate to keep them from running in the street. Unfortunately it was the largest yard on the block, and those goats wanted nothing to do with me. That day I discovered that goats are surprisingly fast. After chasing them around (and around and around) the house for way too long, I decided to call in reinforcements. The ACOs from neighboring beach cities said they were happy to help, though I suspect they really just wanted to see the goats. We were able to separate and corner the animals and get slip leads on them. One of the ACOs handed her phone to a bystander and asked him to take a picture to prove that we really did have goats at the beach.

I worked with many wild animals at the county shelter. One time we had an injured turkey vulture. We were concerned because it was going to take a couple days for the wildlife rehabber to come get the bird, and the bird didn't look good. Even worse, we couldn't get the bird to eat. We offered it warmed canned cat food but the vulture wanted nothing to do with it. It didn't want raw hamburger either. We were afraid that the vulture wouldn't make it to the rehabber. Then one of the field officers radioed in, saying he was on his way back to the shelter. He had a cat that was hit by a car and it was still warm. We waited with bated breath as he threw the dead cat into the bird's enclosure. And we actually cheered when the vulture tore into the carcass. The vulture was going to be OK! I have never been so happy to see road kill.

I went in one day to find a giant pig in one of the holding pens. (The night officers were always leaving strange things for me. Ask me about the peacock sometime.) Someone told me the pig was a "piney wood rooter." I have no idea what that is, but I do know that it was one big boar! The top of the his head was waist high and he looked like a 55 gallon barrel with legs. The pig was neutered (I know!) and good-natured, so our rescue coordinator wanted to find a petting zoo to take him. That ended up taking three months. Meanwhile, the pig's room and board was my responsibility. Twice a day I would have to go into the pen to feed/water, scoop poop, hose things down and scrub out the kiddie pool which he thought was a fancy toilet. Lucky for me, he was a friendly pig -- maybe too friendly. He would lean into me and rub against my leg like a dog, squealing and grunting while I scratched his back. He would really get into it though, often pinning me against the fence and cutting my leg with his tusks. It was scary and he was too heavy to push away. He would also block the gate so I couldn't leave. Wilber just didn't understand my feelings against inter-species dating. I had to find a way to let him down easy. By chance I learned that he loved grapes more than he loved me. I would throw handfuls of grapes into the far corner to buy myself enough time to clean the pen and clear the gate. I probably spent $100 in grapes that spring, but it was better than becoming the Bride of Franken Swine.

Yeah, sometimes my job is just. plain. weird. As I write about it I realize just how much shit -- literal and figurative -- I put up with on a regular basis. And then I realize . . . I'm grossly underpaid. Maybe that Crazy Cat Lady was right and there really is something wrong with me! -- K


P.S. It's Thoughtless Thursday, why not hop around and see what other weird things people are thinking about today?