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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Emu Love

This happened awhile back, but I have been meaning to tell this story.

I was on patrol in my normal beat and listening to the calls being given to other officers in their beats. I heard one being given to 471, who was fairly new in the field. It was called in as a loose Emu. Apparently this bird bird had gotten out of it's fence and was holding a family hostage in their own home. Well Kind of. It was a big scary bird in their front yard.

471 was en route to the location. I knew he had no experience what so ever with these birds so I thought I would offer him some assistance. I gave him a call and thought I heard a small bit of relief in his voice when I asked him if he wanted me to come assist. I'm not saying I am an expert with these birds, but having a little experience is better than none at all.

So I headed out to give him a hand.

When I arrived, I pulled up to the address and immediately saw 471's truck in the CP's driveway. Initially I didn't see the Emu OR 471. But when I parked I was able to see that the Emu was standing right next to the driver's door and 471 was still inside the truck.

Try to imagine a 6ft tall bird staring directly at you through your vehicle window. That is what this bird was doing. These birds can be unnerving because of their size. And we, as ACOs have heard plenty of horror stories about them too.

I slipped on my leather gloves and grabbed my catch pole while keeping an eye on the Emu. His attention was suddenly drawn to my truck and he rushed over to my door.

His neck feathers where fluffed up and he was making a chortling noise from deep inside. I rolled down my window a little to see what he would do. He kept chortling and kind of bobbing his head. I spoke easy to him and slowly opened my door. As my door opened I carefully and slowly pushed him back with the door. He kept right on chortling bobbing his head but backing up. I eased my catch pole out and held it in front of me to be ready if I needed it. Needed it for what I wasn't sure, but I felt better at least having it.

I slowly eased out of my seat and my feet touched ground. All my movements were slow and easy, keeping eye contact with Emu and speaking softly. He had backed up as my door opened more and finally I was out and we were face to face. He chortled and bobbed and I spoke softly. I used my catch pole to push him back a little more, and he moved.

I was able to close my door and stood there looking at him for a moment. While I was looking at him, I noticed that behind him just down the fence line was a spot that the wire was down. BINGO! That's where he came from. 471 had at some point gotten out of his truck and was on the other side of mine. We briefly discussed the game plan to gently herd Big Bird back into his pasture. Big Bird was being very cooperative and moved down the road to where the fence was down. I walked him into the pasture and 471 picked up the down portion of fence and got it secured. Big bird made a sad sounding chortle when I slipped back through the wire. I stood there a little while stroking his neck and talking to him. Suddenly he dropped down to the ground in a laying position, bobbing his head and making all kinds of little noises. He continued to let me pet his neck and head. It was really quite an experience!

Just about that time the owner came walking through the pasture with his ranch dog. We told him about the fence. He would make sure it got fixed properly. He did tell us that he had a few cows in the pasture, but had moved them and thinks that was how the Emu got out. Apparently the Emu had been with the cows and when they left he got lonely. The owner was going to move the Emu to another pasture where there were some other cows and maybe he wouldn't be lonely anymore.

We cleared that scene with a positive Emu experience.

I did some research when I got back to the shelter on Emus and was laughing at what I discovered. The Emu was exhibiting what is typical "mating dance behavior". The neck fluffing, noises, laying down. He was maybe trying to make me his girlfriend.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why I Am An Animal Control Officer and Why I Do This Job

"I don't know how you do this job!"

"I could never do your job."

"How do you do what you do?"

I can't recall how many times I have been asked these questions when on a call or even when I am anywhere and in uniform. Or when someone finds out what I do.

My most standard answer is, "I just do." Or, "somebody has to do it." This isn't far from the truth. To me it's like asking why am I left-handed. It's just a part of who I am.

To be honest, when I think about it, I have a hard time answering this.

I think I heard somewhere that what we do is "Save animals from people and save people from animals." That only encompasses a small portion of what we do, of what I do.

Another apparent shocker to the public is that I am a woman. I frequently get the stunned look when a door is opened, or I get out of the truck by the calling party. "They sent you? A woman to do this?" Granted it is usually elderly individuals or other women who say this, but really? Why not?

I'm sure to the scores of cars driving by as I am picking up some animal that has been hit by a car (sometimes multiple times), not only is the horrified look for the animal I am removing, but that I am a "girl". And "girls" just don't do icky things like that.

So why do I do this?

First, it's all about the animals. I have always had animals in my life. I feel a part of me is missing if I don't have animals around me. Since I was little I was always rescuing sick, injured, or too young animals and birds. Nursing them back to health and finding them proper homes. I was also involved in 4-H, horse showing, and any other activity that involved animals. This I'm sure drove my mother crazy. She likes animals, but I wouldn't say she was crazy about them. And she showed a lot of patience and tolerance when I was growing up and bringing strays and wild life home, thanks mom!

Somehow I think this had me pegged at a young age as being destine to be an Animal Control Officer. I did try the Veterinary field as a vet assistant for several years. And while I did enjoy my work, it still wasn't completely me. I was also very interested in law enforcement my entire life. Somewhere along the line it clicked about Animal Control. The idea rolled around in my head for several years before I finally did something about it. I became an Animal Control Officer.

But how do I do it? Seeing sick, injured, dead, neglected, abused and abandoned animals. Dealing with Aggressive animals that want to eat my face. Dealing with people who cause the problems and the angry people who think we don't do our jobs good enough.

I would be lying if I said there weren't days that I wonder why the hell I put up with these people, or how I can stand to see another sick or injured animal due to someone negligence or indifference.

There are days when I want to scream, or cry or punch someone in the face. There are days when I get angry having to defend what I do. Defend decisions I am forced to make.

But then there are those days, even those moments, that make it all worth it. To see an animal happily reunited with it's owner after being lost, an animal that was in a bad situation go home to a new great family who will love them forever. To save just one makes it worth it. To get one out of a bad situation. To know that I made a difference in one life, saves one life. Or even end one life, humanely, with unconditional love and freedom from pain.

But how do I deal with all the death? Picking up dead animals. Euthanizing animals. Having grown up with animals, lots of animals, and trying to nurture sick or injured animals, I early on was exposed to the facts of life and death. I won't say that death doesn't bother me. It's never easy. No matter how many times you go through it. But, I think I have a realistic understanding of death. And I very rarely get grossed out by roadkill. Part of the trick is to not personalize it. Don't think about it too much.

It's almost a pre-requisite to have a good, although bizzare at times, sense of humor for this job. I'm glad I have one.

So does this explain why I am an Animal Control Officer? Does this explain how and why I can do this job?

Not entirely.

I guess it's not something that can be completely explained. It just is.

This job is definitely not one just anyone can do.