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Monday, May 18, 2009

That Ain't Big Bird!

Our county is very diverse. From urban apartments and townhouses to acre upon acre of farmlands and everything in between. Suburbs, McMansions, Ghettos, Mini-ranchettes, Huge Ranches and even a large delta region. And in some these areas places are backed up to each other. You can go one block and go from ghetto to Huge ranches or Mini-ranches to rows of high dollar apartments.

Along with all this diversity comes the diversity of animals.

Sure we have the dogs and cats. And being so close in proximity to two large rivers at the base of the the mountains and foothills we have a large host of wildlife. We also have every species of farm animal and then some.

I think it was in the 90's that Ostrich and Emu farms suddenly hit the boom. Seems like everyone thought they could make a fortune with Ostrich or Emu meat and eggs. I'm not exactly sure how successful they were. There are still a few small ranches here and there and emus can still be found on farms and in fields. Novelties I think.

But like any other animal, when opportunity presents itself any animal will take a walk about. The thing about this is, unless you have worked on one of these large bird farms or a zoo, not many ACOs have had experience with Ostriches or Emus. But we learn fast.
I'm working a call in the southwest side of the county, kind of a ghetto neighborhood. I get a call from my supervisor asking where I'm at. I let him know and then he asks me to call him when I am done. When I do call him back he asks me to head out his way, the southeast side of the county. He also has a couple of Animal Care Attendants (ACAs) en route from the shelter. My supervisor explains that he was headed back to the shelter from an appointment when he passed a Emu just casually walking down a rural but well travelled road.
There is are at least two good reasons why my supervisor called for re-enforcements. That is those two bit strong powerful legs with wicked hard and sharp claws. My supervisor has also had previous experience. Bad experience. The reason why you call for backup with these birds.
I arrived at about the same time that the ACAs arrived. One of the ACA was experienced with Emus as he had worked in a zoo. The other ACA had come for the experience I guess.
My supervisor had herded the emu off the road and into a large field that was partially fenced. We quickly discussed strategy. ACA 1, the former zoo employee, and I had lassos. ACA 2 had a rope and a blanket. Our supervisor was manning a video camera.
ACA 1 and I began pushing the Emu into a corner of the field. Since the field was open this was going to be our only opportunity to catch it. ACA 2 was to slowly move in to the bird's front to close the gap. ACA 1 was the one was close enough to spin a loop. Just then the Emu panicked and took off at a run, ACA 1 threw his loop and caught one leg of the bird. ACA 2, being inexperienced ran towards the Emu before ACA 1 had the bird slowed. I don't know what he was thinking. The emu slammed into ACA 2 and knocked him to the ground. ACA 1, thankfully being a big guy, was able to wrap the lasso rope around behind him and jerk the big bird back away from ACA 2. That bird was seconds away from trampling him. I quickly joined ACA 1 and we eased the bird to a walk, moving closer and closer to it up the rope.

Once we got close enough, we maneuvered the rope so that it would wrap around the legs and temporarily trip it and bring it down.

It went down and ACA 1 jumped onto it having to use all his body weight to hold it down. I jumped on it and grabbed the neck. I was yelling at ACA 2 to bring the blanket as we needed to cover the head. This tends to calm birds down, especially large birds. I usually carry a few pillow cases that were ideal for this, but today I didn't have any.

We also had to hurry to secure the legs, especially since ACA 1 was laying across the Emu with a certain part of his anatomy that he didn't want to risk damage to exposed to those lethal feet.

I used several nylon dog leashes to secure the legs together. Then we used the lasso to wrap about the body to make the Emu a little easier to carry.

It took the three of us to carry this emu to our supervisor's waiting truck, and it barely fit into the dog box. We opened up the center divider to give him more room.

Our supervisor congratulated us on a good catch. He caught it all on camera. He said he may use it as a training video.

Oh and the Emu? Well, his owner came and got him the next day. Apparently, Mr. Emu was lonely and went looking for love. His owner planned to find him a companion.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

When I Joined the Death Threat Club

This actually happened a few years ago when I was still pretty new to field work.

It all started with a German Shepherd that we picked up from a well meaning couple who had gotten him from a homeless man. Well the homeless guy apparently hadn't been caring for the dog, when they got it the first time (yes, I said the first time). He had been pushing it around in a shopping cart. The dog was 12 years old, emaciated, couldn't walk and was covered in open wounds. The couple offered to take the dog and get it veterinary care. Homeless guy let them.

They got the dog and got it fixed up so that it was on meds and putting on weight, and was able to stand and walk a little. A couple months later homeless guy shows up and wants his dog back. Umm WHY the couple gave the dog back I wasn't sure initially, but it turns out that the homeless guy is a complete nut case and they were afraid to not give dog back.

A few weeks later they see the guy minus shopping cart DRAGGING the dog down the street. Dog is in worse condition than before. Homeless guy wants them to take care of his dog for him again.

Umm WHY they didn't call AC at this point is the big question?

So they take the dog have it for a few days, and call the mobile vet to come check the dog out. Well dog is such a bad way, Vet wants to euth the dog. The couple aren't willing to do that, fear of homeless guy I'm guessing. They wait a few more days then don't want dog to be their responsibility anymore. So now AC get called.

One of our ACOs goes and picks dog up from the couple. He is taken immediately to the Emergency Vet hosp. Their vets say dog needs to be euth'd. Meanwhile dog BITES two of their techs during exam, one bad enough to go to the hospital immediately. They call us and want us to take the dog, they tell us dog needs to be euth'd but they can't/won't do it due to no owner. They have taken strays in and have had them euth'd but they won't consider this one a stray, since there is a owner somewhere (crazy homeless guy) but he can't be contacted. So this is where I came in.

I get assigned to go pick up this dog from Emerg. Vet to be eval for Euth by our shelter vet. So I go get this dog. I end up having to catch pole it just so we can get a muzzle on it so we can touch it to transport it. The dog can't stand on it's own let alone walk. It is in so much pain it's biting out of pain. The dog is a train wreck.

We finally get the dog loaded. He's trying to bite anyone who gets close through the muzzle. So I get back to the shelter and don't even take dog off my truck. I go get our shelter vet. I get help to get the dog off the truck and we don't even move it from there. The vet examines the dog and basically says what 3 other vets have already said. This dog is in extreme pain, has little or no chance of recovery. Plus the dog has bitten 2 people so far, there is the chance that it will bite again. No owner info, no way to contact. This dog is suffering. The vet authorizes the euth.

I get a senior ACO and vet tech and we do the Euth. Dog of coarse has to be submitted as a rabies specimen. We take pics of body dues to the condition.

Five days AFTER we euth the dog, guess who calls the shelter? Yep, crazy homeless guy. He left a message with a phone number and demanding to have his dog back. Apparantly the well meaning couple had foud the homeless guy or he came to get his dog again and they told him it had gone to AC. My Supervisor gives me the number and tells me, "Guess who gets to call him."

So This is the fun part, I call the number, apparently a payphone crazy homeless guy is camped out by. And guy tells me he wants his dog back. I tell him that the dog was in very poor condition and he said he knew that and he was going to have it put down. I told him that due to it's condition the dog was euth'd. He flipped out screaming and swearing at me, ranting and raging. Then demanding to have his dog back. He wants to bury it with his dead mother, who according to him died on the same day we euth's the dog. So he spent maybe 10 minutes raging at me calling me all sorts of choice names, as well as the standard murderer, animal hater etc...Oh and I'm going to hell, my whole family is going to hell AND anyone I know is going to hell. So he wants his dog and he wants it now, he wants me to deliver his dog to him right now. I try to explain that dog has to be tested for rabies because it bit 2 people, this starts another tirade. Doesn't care what I say I better get him his dog right now or he's going to call the media, he's going to call the animal rights people, he's going to have them camp out on my front lawn and let everyone know what a f###ing b###h I am and that I like killing animals for fun.

So I at this point tell him that he needs to speak to my supervisor. He tells me my supervisor better call him right now. and hangs up on me. So I call my sup and let him know what is going on. He says he will call the guy, but he can't until after 3pm because he is going to be in Vicious Hearing until then. Lovely. Guess who gets to call guy back to let him know sup will call him after 3pm. Ok so 5 minutes into conversation (raging actually) guy tells me he's going to see me in hell and he's going to see me there personally. So I better be watching my back. Hangs up on me. Grrreeat. So for the next 2 hours I have to check my caller id on my work cell. He repeatedly called me during that 2 hours. Must have used a lot of quarters! Sup had told me if after I talked to him he calls back I don't have to answer it if it's him. I never heard back from him so I guess someone else used the payphone so no *69 recall. Anyway, When Sup did call him back apparently guy told sup her was going to come to the shelter and shoot everyone.

Oh and another tid bit of info that I hadn't known prior to this was the guy wouldn't have been able to bury his dog with his mother (I think there are state laws prohibiting that anyway). The well meaning couple had been told by the sheriff deputies who helped them file a restraining order against the homeless guy, that the mother had died several months prior to this all happening, he had been pushing her around in his shopping cart.

I'm not sure how true this last part is but that's how it all ended.