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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stand-By Shift: How Cows and Cars Don't Mix

Having stand-by kinda sucks. But I sign up for it anyway for the little extra money. What is stand-by? Well it is the shift between Swing and Day. Instead of having a Graveyard shift or a 3rd Watch, we have Standby. From 11pm to 7am we are "on-call", We can go home, go to bed but we have to have out phones on or close by so the county dispatchers can get a hold of us. We all usually take a county dog truck home, so it's just a matter of getting up, getting dressed and rolling out.
Most of the time it's quiet. You sleep through the night. But then there are those nights, or should I say, early mornings that you get jarred out of your sound sleep by the phone ringing.
I have not been having those mostly quiet nights the last 3 times I had standby.
I got a call initially for a injured deer at around 11:30pm, half hour after standby started. So I rolled out. It was a good distance away, on the north-east side of the county. I live on the North-west side. It would take me at least 45 minutes to get there.
Well, I was about halfway there when I got another call. Cow versus Car. Cow is still alive. I confirmed that Highway patrol was still on scene, usually they aren't. They were according to the dispatcher. So the deer was going to have to wait. Livestock is larger, and in my experience, the injured deer are usually gone by the time we get there anyway. So I switched directions heading South-east now.
Wow, they weren't kidding.
The cow was still alive, laying directly behind the Mercedes Benz that hit it. It was hard to say which was worse, the cow or the car. The cow was a HUGE cow. Big beef cow. She had obviously rolled over the hood, over the cab, and over the trunk. And I'm not sure how the interior of the car got sprayed inside with manure. But I guarantee that the driver and anyone else in the car was taken to the hospital covered in the foul smelling stuff.
The cow was pretty bad. I was surprised she survived the hit. Now I had to try to get in contact with the owners or get supervisor authorization to humanely dispatch the cow. And this needed to be done fast. Fire department, CHP and the Tow truck were all on scene. One of the CHP officers was a little freaked out, she was a city girl and seeing the cow thrashing and making noises was bit much for her. I tried calling my supervisor. No Answer. I tried calling my other supervisor. No answer. I tried locating the owner on our livestock log. No such luck. Tried to call the supervisor again. No Answer. Tried other supervisor. Finally! Well he wants me to try to locate the owner. Ok did that, no luck. Well, then we need to call a vet and have them come euthanize the cow. I tried to explain that the cow needed to be put down immediately. I had a shot slug and could do it. I don't think this supervisor had confidence that I could do it.
It was about then that one of the firefighters said he might know someone who knows the cow owner. Alright, wake them up! I don't care that it's now 2AM and it's also one of the coldest nights we have had this winter. I told the supervisor we might have an owner and I would call him back if we didn't.
So the Fire Battalion Chief drove the firefighter to the relatives house. Woke him up and got the cow owners phone number. He came back and I called the owner. The cow owner and his wife showed up with a flatbed truck. The owner had a revolver and put the cow down. Then, with the help of the tow truck driver, they loaded the cow up. Meanwhile I got the owner's info from the owners wife. We walked the fence line a little to see how the cow had gotten out. We found an area that I pointed out to one of the CHP officers where the fence was down. It appears that earlier in the evening, on this remove road, someone drove off the road and through the fence into the cow pasture. They had obviously drove back out, destroying a section of the fence in the process and left the scene. This was how the cow got out and onto the road, then met the Mercedes by accident. The Officer said he hadn't even noticed that before and agreed that that was what obviously happened. The cow was loaded by now and the owner was going to take it away after fixing the fence. He had 70 plus more cows and calves out there in the dark and didn't want to loose anymore. As it was they were going to have to search for this cow's calf and take it back to their house.
After leaving there I did head back to where the deer was suppose to be. I was wide awake after all. And guess what. No deer.
On my next Standby shift I got a call at 4:30 AM. This was after I had just gotten to sleep after doing a earlier call that had been left over from Swing shift. So couple of hours of sleep, feels like I JUST fell asleep. Phone rings. Cows versus car. Cows? As in more than one? Yep. Both still alive, CHP on scene, car they hit was a Volkswagen Jetta, little car. Oh boy.
So I roll on this one. This is going to be a long ass drive. Again I am coming from home, which is only a few miles from the north county border. This call is at the county line at the south county border. It's going to be at least an hour and a half, and the is mostly freeway too!
So I am almost there, like 5 minutes away, when I see a tow truck headed the opposite direction. As it passes I see a completely smashed Volkswagen jetta, or at least that what what I was guessing. Then I get passed by CHP. They whip around and I slow down. Didn't anyone call? The cows died and are on the side of the road. Nope.No one called. Oh well, I was almost there at least I could try to locate the owner.
After finding the cows, two weanling size calves actually, I looked for brands. Nothing. So I went to the closest neighbor and spoke to the foreman of the grape vineyard. He told me that one of his workers saw the accident and told him about it. He had already called the owners and they were on their way. I would wait for them and get their information and make sure they knew to remove the bodies, or call rendering.
The owners arrived in their pick up. They were going to check the fences and then load up the bodies for disposal. I got their information to add to our livestock log.
By this time, the sun was up and it was about 7:30AM. I could either go into work early, or I could drive home and turn right around and drive to work. I wasn't going to get anymore sleep than the couple of hours I had. So I went to work. That was a fun day. I wish I could remember it, but I was sleep deprived and working on Auto pilot.
My last standby was again earlier morning, about 2am. Only about an hour drive. Even the county dispatcher had to laugh and comment how I ALWAYS get the cow versus car calls. Ha Ha. Even though it was only and hour away the dispatcher kept getting calls from CHP asking for an ETA. Um hello? WE don't have blue and red flashy lights and sirens. We don't have teleporters to get there any faster. The dispatcher was sympathetic. The about halfway there I get a call that the officers on scene were going to go ahead and shoot the cow and move it off the road. Ok. I thought about turning around, but I was on the freeway heading south, Again, and couldn't make and easy turn around. So I decided I would head out there and check for brands or an owner. Got lucky before.
I am almost there when I get another "update" the cow got up and mooooved. Sorry. Couldn't help the pun. Um I thought CHP was going to shot the cow? Nope. Thier Sargent told them to wait until I got there. Oh goodie. Good thing I was still on my way! And it mooooved? Ya I know I did it again.
Couldn't miss the location. They had the road blocked off completely. You would have thought it was a ten car pile up with the amount of cops on scene. Both CHP and SSD. For a cow. I get let through the road block and head to the center of it.
The cow is alive and in a sitting position on the side of the road. Just a note, cows don't usually sit. She obviously got hit in the head and body. One of her horns had been knocked off and was laying about 20 ft down the road. Her jaw was very obviously broken and she had bleeding from her side. She looked like she was going to topple over right there. The cops were worried that she was going to get back in the roadway. There was no car on scene. CHP said that the cow had been hot by 3 cars, but they reportedly all drove away.
I walked around her looking for any brands. None. I checked the livestock log. The only building in the area is a church and school. I have no idea who the cow belongs to.
Suddenly she starts lurching up from her sitting position and stands. I grabbed a rope but before I could get it on her she lurched towards a gate that went into the field. Several SSD and CHP quickly tried to get the gate open. Their main goal was to get the cow secure and the roadway open again. The cow had other ideas.
Instead of heading for the gate she suddenly turned and headed for the open field next to the gate. One CHP and I went after her. I got the rope around her head, but she didn't get more than 20 feet before she dropped down. She was done. So was I. I went to my truck and got my shotgun. The CHP officer was holding the rope but she wasn't going to get up again, Her head was down and she was breathing raspy breaths. I called my supervisor. I was willing him to pick up the phone. I heard a sleepy "hello". I quickly told him what was going on, and that I just needed him to authorize me to shot the cow. He asked about calling out a vet. I said that wasn't an option. So he said to go ahead. I hung up, loaded my shotgun and in a second it was done.
It was a perfect textbook shot to the forehead. The CHP officer was impressed.
It's kinda weird for me that I often get the same reaction. As if a woman being a good confident shooter is a weird thing. But then I guess I'm weird. We left the cow there after making sure she was dead. Tomorrow we would figure out who owns the cattle. When we got back to the other cops they were impressed that it only took one shot. Good thing it did, as I only had one slug to do it with. So The cops cleared out and I cleared the scene and headed back home to get a couple more hours of sleep.
And that is how my standbys have been going lately. How come I never get Standby calls that are close to home?

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

This song popped into my head today. I had shelter duty today, but despite being in the shelter I had to go out to do a special task. This is not unusual really, even though the task was unusual.
It all started about a week ago.
I got a bite report. We get several bit reports daily. As I was reading the note I cringed. Apparently the dog was euthanized at the vet but before it was euthanized, the dog managed to bite the vet tech. The dog was euthanized and then the remains were given back to the owner by the vet hospital for the owner to bury.
This is a NO-NO!
There are strict regulations that have to be followed regarding animals that bite. Live animals must be quarantined for 10 days and dead animals are to be submitted for Rabies testing. But no, the dog was sent home, to be buried.
So I'm looking at this thinking, really? Dog had been buried two days. Then I thought, since the notes indicated that the dog had been current on rabies vaccinations, perhaps there was nothing that we would be able to do. After all would the specimen even be viable after being buried for 2 days? I had to check. So I called our Supervisor that handles most of the Rabies specimens collections. He said he was going to have to check with the County Health Veterinarian, who does the rabies testing.
Well he got back to me and told me that we would have to "collect" the rabies specimen. I was instructed to call the owner of the dog and advise them that we would need the dog's remains.
I was so hoping to avoid this. I felt really bad, here their dog had to be euthanized, it bit the tech and now we wanted the body after they buried it. Crappy. Just crappy.
Well I called the owners. They were not happy. Can you really blame them? The owner told me that their dog was 15 years old, and she was dying. They took her to the emergency vet because she was in pain and suffering and their usual vet was not open. They had always kept up on the dogs vaccinations, and everything the dog ever needed. They didn't understand why the vet who euthanized the dog hadn't told them about this. And they were also upset about how the vet hospital had handled the circumstances of the bit and euthanasia. Regardless I had to ask them about digging the dog up. The owner was upset that this had to be done. He said he needed to talk to his wife and would call me back. He wasn't upset with me, just the situation he felt he was being put in. I told him that I understood and that I had tried to get around it, but could not. He asked to call me back.
A short time later I got a call back from his wife. She was also very upset and told me so. She was calm but I could tell that this was very emotional for her. She said that they had no intention of digging their dog up, and that if we had to have the dog we would need to come do it. Or better yet since it was the vet who dropped the ball on this, they should be the ones to do it. I had to agree with her there, but this was not going to happen. I gave her the supervisor's number when she questioned if this really had to be done. I told her to call him and ask him if this was really necessary. I really wanted to help these people out and NOT dig up the dog.
Well, I got a call from the supervisor. He told me I was going to have to go dig up the dog. He spoke to the owners and let them know that it was necessary, but we would dig the dog up, and return the dog when it was all done.
Yep, that's right, ACO turns grave digger.
So I called and spoke with the owners again. I was apologetic and made arrangements to come right away. They were going to leave once I got there. They didn't want to be there when I removed the dog. But they wanted to be able to show me were she was.
I got there and met the husband. He was a nice older gentleman. He showed me where the grave was, on the back wooded section of their property. He moved the stones he had placed on the grave and warned me that they had dug a pretty deep hole. I told him that I would leave it open for the re-burial. He thanked me and left me to my task.
He wasn't kidding when he said it was deep. I finally found the dog after 45 minutes of digging about 3 1/2 feet down. I could help but think about those old B-movies that depicted some crazy person digging up graves. But a crazy maniacal laugh would probably have been inappropriate at this time. Thank Dog she wasn't a big dog, only about 40 lbs. They had her wrapped in a couple blankets. I put her in the garden cart the owner had provided me. It wasn't too bad. The worse part was the digging and the 2nd worse part was hauling the cart back up the hill, through the yard, out the gate and to my truck.
So that part was done.
I won't go into details, oh the heck with it, I will. You see Rabies Testing is done on the brain. And since the County Health lab can't have a bunch of bodies of dead animals waiting for testing, only the head is submitted. Get my point? Well since we promised to return the dog to the owners after testing, and they didn't want details, well we had to wait until after the testing was done, so the WHOLE dog could be re-buried.
I went and picked the specimen up from the county lab. Then re-united the specimen, with the rest of the dog. Too much detail? Sorry, welcome to my glamours world!
Yesterday I got a hold of the owners. They would leave the gate open for me, but they would be at work.
So today, after cleaning kennels all morning, I loaded up the dog and drove her back to the owners house. When I was leaving the shelter, the old AC/DC song "Dirty Deeds" was rumbling around in my head. Don't know why. Once at the owners house I took the little garden cart again, loaded the dog into it (the dog is in a big black plastic bag so I don't freak out the neighbors) and dragged it back through the gate, through the yard, down the hill and through the wooded area to it's final resting place.
It's been a little more than a week and a few rain storms since I was there last. So I had to do a little MORE digging to get the dirt knocked in by the weather and time. I was also trying not to fall in the hole. Once I had a sufficient hole, I placed the dog back in it. Dirt is a lot heavier when it has been sitting for awhile in a pile, kinda like cement. It took me 45 minutes again to re-bury the dog. But I think I did a decent job. I even covered it with the bark ground cover the owner had on the original grave and placed the stones back on top. It, for the most part, looked the way it had been. I dragged the little cart back through the woods, up the hill, through the yard and placed it back where I found it. I closed and secured the gate and got back in the truck.
Done. Dirty Deeds.