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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tribute: Officer Roy Marcum #463 EOW 11/28/12

Tribute to the Man I Knew

Officer Roy Curtis Marcum #463

EOW 11/28/12

How do you say goodbye to someone your not ready to say goodbye to? Who is gone before your even given a chance to say goodbye?

From the first time I met Roy some 7 years ago, he could always put a smile on any ones face. I had just started with Animal Control. My first impression of Roy was, what a easy going laid back guy! Smiling, laughing and teasing other co-workers. He just radiated calmness and warmth. And his favorite word was F***.

In my first few weeks of Training, I had the pleasure of being supervised by Roy. His preferred beat was "deep South". He drove most of the time, but had me drive some during the second half of the shift. When talking, Roy had a way of making everyone feel at ease. He didn't over react, didn't raise his voice. He had a way of getting through to people without outright threats, being a bully, or overstepping his authority. He could have someone start out very agitated and by the end of the conversation they were smiling and shaking his hand even if he was giving them a citation. That was Roy.

One of my favorite calls with Roy was during this training time. We had been chasing this dog all over town. Dog had no street smarts and would have been hit if left to wander. driving and all our efforts to catch this dog were of no use, except the last resort, tranq gun. While I drove, Roy loaded the tranq gun. Then he had me get right up alongside the running dog. Roy leaned over me from the passenger seat with the tranq gun out the window. He directed me to drive faster or slower as he took his shot. Got it! And GO GO GO! As the dog accelerated and turned a corner. We sped after the dog and through the streets until it jumped a short little white fence into what turned out to be it's yard. Roy jumped out and went after the dog. Just as the dog was collapsing under the influence of the tranq, amazingly, the owner finally came out as we were putting the dog on our truck. The guy was yelling and fuming and Roy stopped him in his tracks with that trademark smile of his and his way with words. We drove away with the guy's dog and the guy understanding that he could get his dog back as soon as the tranq wore off.

That was Roy's way. Leave them with a smile or at least calm and understanding. The few times I saw Roy in a bad mood was always related to a case of animal cruelty he was working. And he was tenacious about getting results. Roy had the biggest heart for animals. And animals responded to him. It make me laugh when he used his high pitched baby voice to talk to animals to calm them. It worked and they responded. Even the ones that were so fearful they were defensive, Roy could calm them. I never saw him be heavy handed with an animal. He did everything with a calm demeanor and animals felt this. It was amazing to work with Roy.

Roy was a friend, a brother in uniform and a mentor. Roy and I were a lot alike so it was easy to learn from him. It was easy to talk to him. We had a lot in common. We were about the same age, we had each a son and a daughter about the same age, teenagers! We had both been in the Air Force about the same time, and both had second marriages to our soul mates. We talked at length about all these things.

We shared tales of our military experiences, funny things that happened and reminding each other at times, how our current careers are not much different that what we learned in the service.

We shared our kids antics. Roy and I both have oldest sons and younger daughters. We agreed that girls are much harder to raise then the boys. We shared parenting advise with each other. We shared funny stories about our kids. And reveled in their accomplishments. Roy loved his kids to the ends of the earth. He loved to talk about them and share what we was doing with them. He frequently brought his daughter along on ride alongs with him when allowed to. He enjoyed spending the time with her. We talked about the progress he and his son were at with building his son a truck. No matter what he was so proud of his kids.

Roy's wife is an amazing woman on her own. All you had to do was ask Roy. They fit well together, as long as Roy knew she was Boss. He would talk about their little getaways together, not revealing details other than having a wonderful time together. Seeing them together you knew there was so much love between the two of them. They had fun together, they supported each other, and they loved their family.

When you work in such an intense career as we have you bond with the people you work with, they become family. You spend as much time if not more with them than your own family. You find that even in your off time, you are friends, because due to our work you "get" each other and understand things that people not in our field wouldn't understand. Their family becomes your family. You share their ups and downs, and your there for each other and their families.

Roy was an integral part of our lives. He is gone and that is very hard to fathom. Roy leaves a huge hole in our universe. And there are the little things that will be gone forever. Roy walking in with his boot laces untied and half his shirt hanging out before our shift began. Roy's infectious laugh. Yelling at Roy for his truck being messy and him just laughing at you. 472 saying every morning at 8am "Where's Roy?" to our Boss at the assignment board, when he and everyone else knew Roy came in at 9am. Hollering at Roy for hogging all the Stand-by shifts you wanted. And him smiling and laughing at you. Roy calling you on a "blond moment" teasing you but helping make you laugh at yourself. And many many other little things that will be missing. Reminding us of him. Reminding me of him.

Roy would be chuckling right now, smiling that teasing big brother smile.
"It's all good."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An ACO Halloween Tail

Odd things happen on swing shifts. Why would I think a Full moon on Halloween would be any different? I spent the early part of my shift creeping slowly through neighborhoods as young parents herded little superheroes, princesses, witches and ghouls along sidewalks and house to house. My first few calls were fairly routine, loose dogs and a couple deceased animals that needed to be picked up so they don't disturb the evenings festivities. Things quieted down for me after the sun went down. I took a break to get bite to eat.
As I was finishing up I got a call for a wild animal in house. I asked what kind and was told they weren't sure. I smiled, at least it wasn't a skunk. I was so not in a mood to smell like skunk the rest of the night. When I got there the woman was freaking out about a squirrel in her back enclosed patio. OF coarse I searched and found nothing.
My next call was a sheriff assist for a loose aggressive dog. Sheriff asked for an ETA so I told them about 20 minutes. When I arrived Sheriff wasn't there yet. I talked to a couple neighbors who were out, as still many trick or treaters and their parents still were. They told me they had heard that there was a black shepherd running loose somewhere in the neighborhood but hadn't seen it. Sheriff rolled up and said they had driven around and found nothing either. Most likely the owners caught the dog and took it home. I exchanged pleasantries with the deputies and drove off.I headed back to the shelter to get a little paperwork done hopefully before the next call came in. Of coarse, just as I got there I got another call. The shepherd again. Dispatch reported that this time the dog bit someone and was still loose. So back to the neighborhood I headed. Sheriff wouldn't be able to respond this time.
After a quick sweep of the neighborhood again and finding nothing I went to the victims house. I knocked several times on the door. No answer. Just as I was going to leave I heard a woman's voice call from an upstairs window. The woman told me to come around to the stairs on the other side of the house. The house was a split level duplex house. As I passed the double garage doors I heard something banging around in the garage, things being knocked over, then silence. The woman told me her downstairs tenant came home ranting about a dog biting him. He went into his house and a little later she heard him yelling and then she said she heard him downstairs in the garage, things slamming around and she though she heard a dog making whining noises. She was insistant that her tenant didn't have a dog. I asked her if she had seen the dog. She hadn't. I wondered if the guy had caught the bite dog and put it in the garage. I asked the landlady again if she was sure that he didn't have a dog. She assured me that he didn't. I asked her if there was any way I could see into the garage from outside? She told me that there were no windows into the garage, however there was a door down to the doors that led to each side of the garage.
I opened the door to the staircase and headed down. It was quiet. I just wanted to get a peek to see if it was the black shepherd that had been reported earlier. I heard rustling around in the garage. I flicked the light switch on and reached for the door. The rustling stopped. I opened the door slowly, only a crack. It squeaked a little as I pulled the door open a little, just enough to peer in. I listened and didn't hear anything moving. But a slight shadow or movement on the other side of the car I saw the tip of a pointed black ear. I knew I should have brought a catch pole with me before I went down to the garage. I closed the door and went back up the stair to the land lady's apartment. I told her that I saw a dog in there and I would be right back with my catch pole. She again insisted that he didn't have a dog.
I got my catch pole and headed back up to the apartment. I was going to have to catch pole the dog then have the landlady open the garage door for me to let me and the dog out. When I got back to her apartment I told her what I would need her to do. She was a little hesitant but agreed. I released the loop and opened the door heading down to the garages. I was stopped dead in my tracks in the doorway.
I slammed the door shut and twisted the dead bolt into place. I shoved the bewildered landlady towards her front door. I frantically told her to run to the neighbors and call 911 and stay there! My heart was hammering in my chest. As I got the landlady out the door there was a thud at the garage door. "GO!" I yelled at her as another louder thud hit the dead bolted door. As the landlady went down the stairs I pulled her front door closed behind me and followed her down. I grabbed my radio out of the holster and called dispatch. I requested sheriff assistance code 3 and gave the address. I could hear up in the apartment the sound of banging and a crash. I glanced over and watched the land lady disappear into the neighbor's front door. I got to my truck and trying to keep an eye on the upstairs apartment door I got my shotgun out. I loaded several rounds into magazine, something I never do. I could hear the shrieks and laughter of kids down the street. Trick or Treaters still out and about. I called dispatch again, where were the deputies??
I could hear crashing and the breaking of glass. The lights in the windows wavered and flickered. An indistinguishable shadow briefly passed a window. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I could hear the trick or treaters getting closer and still no sirens. I stood behind my truck hood with my shotgun pointed towards the apartment door. I tried to tell myself this must have been some kind of Halloween prank. A Joke. This couldn't be real. But something kept my heart racing, and my skin crawling. I got on the phone and called dispatch. Where are the deputies? No. It's a do I even begin to describe this?...It's a large wild animal? Sure sure , call Fish and Game too! But get the deputies ASAP!! I'm told they are on their way. Just about then I hear sirens. I think I finally took a breath. The sounds of furniture breaking suddenly stopped. The sirens got closer and dogs in the neighborhood began to bark and howl. Red and blue lights lit up the night, splashing across the walls of the house as one then two patrol cars pulled up.
The deputies looked bewildered as they got out of their cars and saw me with a shot gun trained on the upstairs apartment. Their hands went to their sidearms and they both looked up at the apartment door. I tried to explain what I saw. I could tell they thought I was either a victim of a Halloween prank, imagining things or just plain crazy. I heard another siren for an additional unit coming. Then we heard it. A single long loud howl coming from the upstairs apartment. The deputies were taken aback by the sound. The crashing resumed in the apartment and one light went out, then another. It was the heavy banging against the front door that caused the deputies to unholster their weapons. One deputy got on his radio and called for additional units. The third unit arrived and another deputy yelled at him to grab his shotgun.
In a few minutes , the street was filled with police cruisers and neighbors coming out to see what the commotion was. Deputies told people to go back into their homes. I heard that the story circulating was a bad guy was hold up in the apartment. They had no idea. Fish and Game arrived. They spoke with me first and I told them the events of the night and what I saw. They and a deputy went and spoke to the landlady. Was it possible that the tenant had a illegally kept animal? A dog? No. A Bear? No. Where was the tenant? His car was in the garage. There was another loud crash and a large shadow passed the dimly lit window. And another bone chilling howl. Everyone seemed to look at each other. Was this really happening? You could practically read every ones thoughts. This couldn't be real. This was a elaborate prank. With multiple guns trained on the apartment at this time, several spotlights were put into position.
An entry team was assembling when the banging against the front door started again. The door suddenly gave a load crack and splintered as it exploded outward. The large form launched itself from the top landing towards the deputies below. One shot erupted into what seemed to be a hundred. In mid air the animal snarled, screamed and reached out as it was hit multiple times until it crumpled to the ground. I lost sight of the form as a sea of uniforms formed a semi circle weapons still aimed. It was hard to distinguish what was happening from my position, still behind the hood of my truck. Radio chatter, excited voices yelling, cussing and gasps. Then suddenly silence, other than the chatter on the radios. The silence broke again back to more excited voices and yelling. There was movement and after a few minutes I was finally able to catch a glimpse of the form laying on the ground. A hand touched my arm from behind and nearly made me jump. I looked behind me and saw the face of the land lady. He hand was at her mouth covering a gasp of horror and her eyes fixed on the form laying on the ground. Her voice cracked and waived as she spoke. It was the nude body of her tenant.
I had to stay on scene for awhile as everything was processed, statements were taken and I was finally released. My shift was over and still a little shaken I was finally able to head home. I was taking off my duty belt to hang up for the night when I noticed the light of my video camera that I carry on my belt was blinking on. I didn't remember turning it on but it was possible that I accidently turned it on. I sat down in my chair and watched what had transpired earlier that evening. I had managed to catch a shot of the creature on the staircase when I first saw it. Here's what my camera captured.

As I starred at the image on my camera and recalled the events, something struck me. If this creature was the tenant who was bitten earlier, where was the original biter?
Happy Halloween!
(Yes of coarse the above story is a tail of fiction I came up with when I found this picture on the internet. I have not been able to find the original source of the photo so that credit can be given where credit is due. I hope you enjoyed my tail. Happy Halloween!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Illusive Lucy and The Kindness of Strangers

It was probably about a month and a half ago that area residents noticed a black and white dog hanging around in their local neighborhood park. There was some concern at first because, well "she" is a Pit Bull Terrier. She didn't seem to be bothering anyone, and would run away and disappear. Some may have thought she was just loose and went back home. Until they saw her again and again, in the same area. She had that nervous, scared anticipation and some began to realize that she was abandoned.
Our Animal Field Services was called out a couple of times. But the Officers closed the cases because the dog was not seen. When a dog is not there we cannot spend a lot of time searching for it. especially in a large open space like a park and field.
Park Tower
photo courtesy of Vanessa K.
I got called out on another call.This time a man who had been offering food and water to her wanted to see if we could come out and catch her. I got out there and saw her in what would be known as her main hang out area, the Park Tower. But there was no catching her that day. I could see already that this was going to be difficult. By this time she had been out there for at least 2 weeks and was getting pretty good at knowing her way around and her hiding spots.
Our next encounter, myself and two other officers went out. One officer had a Tranq gun to attempt a chemical capture. We saw her but she was once again illusive and disappeared into thin air.
Field Tower
photo courtesy of Vanessa K.
I went back out a few more times to to see if I could see her again. I noticed that the food bowls and water bowls were increasing. and that there was a large plastic crate. And I was also told about her second hangout, the Field Tower. It wasn't until later that through a volunteer meeting I attended and the networking of face book I found out that one or more of our shelter supporters and volunteers were also trying to rescue this dog.
We began trying to somewhat coordinate our rescue efforts. It was hard for me to try to make any long term commitments due to having other obligations. But we were communicating to try to get this dog some help. During all this there were reports of another dog being seen on and off with her. A black German Shepherd mix who seem to hang out for a few days then disappear a few days. He too was being shy and skittish. I suspected that the black dog lived in the area and was escaping home to be with his new found friend. My suspicions would be nearly confirmed with what would soon be discovered.
The sightings and calls continued for nearly a month more, as well as all the efforts to rescue now both dogs. A trap was even brought out by the rescuers to try to capture them. But Lucy was too wily. One rescuer, Lisa C. in particular was spending a lot of her free time, mornings and nights trying to earn the trust of Lucy. She fortunately lives in the area and was determined to help the dogs.
Lisa and another animal rescuer and supporter Vanessa K. were both very active in trying to get these dogs rescued. And apparently a few neighbors were concerned too as the food and treats increased. But now the setback was Lucy and her friend were getting too well taken care of and were getting picky. So the trap was not going to work. Signs were posted to please stop feeding them, leave a small treat in the crate or fill up the water dishes, but no more over feeding. The ladies were able to start hand feeding them, especially diligent Lisa. Lucy was really coming around to her.
Lucy's Crate
photo courtesy of Vanessa K.
I received a message that Lisa had almost been successful in getting a leash on Lucy! Almost. Something went wrong and Lisa dropped something, her face made contact with the top of Lucy's head and BONK Lisa gets a split lip! Lisa was a little shaken, having not a lot of experience with large breed dogs, but even after that she was still committed to rescuing Lucy.
Then a call comes in from the Sheriff's Department. Report of 2 dogs, a black and white pit bull, and a black lab or shepherd with their legs zip-tied. I heard the address and knew it was them. My heart leaped and sank at the same time. The pit bull was reportedly attacking anyone who gets near the black dog. I had already clocked out for the day. But I knew how busy the Swing Officer was, and he was no where near this location. And I had committed to myself to help these dogs in any way I could. So I took the call.
My first thought when I got there was how strange it was they had made their way to the local High School Baseball field. With school just having started, and lots of people around, why would illusive Lucy and her friend go to such a public place several blocks from their park? With Deputy Smith from the Sheriff's Department we drove onto the field and spoke with one of the callers. I also was trying to get ahold of Lisa. The caller told us that the black dog's legs were zip-tied and he can barely move but the black and white dog wouldn't let anyone get close to help him. They pointed them out to us. Both dogs were laying in the grass head to head appearing to just be relaxing in the sun. They closed the baseball field up as we approached. Lucy's head popped up when she heard us. She looked straight at me and got up. The Deputy and I slowly approached. Lucy gave a little whine, sniffed her friend's head as he sat up and then she bolted. We tried to catch her and I was even going to try to have Lisa come out and see if she would trust her enough to get a leash on her. But she knew where a hole was in the fence and she was gone.
With the hope of catching her gone for the moment I was able to turn my attention on the Black Shepherd. He had stood up by this time and his condition was painfully evident. Someone had put thick black zip-ties around the long bones of both of his front legs. They were so tight that the leg and foot below the zip-tie was horribly swollen to 2-3 times their normal size. He was in obvious pain trying to walk. Deputy Smith and I acted quickly. I restrained the dog and Deputy Smith had to pretty much saw through the thick plastic of the zip-ties. As soon as both ties were off I could feel a breath of relief from the dog I was holding down. I loaded him up into the truck to get him to the ER vet.
You have to wonder, did Lucy bring him here on purpose? Knowing that there would be so many people around? Did she know that people would help her friend? I've heard stranger things happening.
I felt a little guilty leaving Lucy behind that night, taking her friend away, knowing she would be alone. But I try to balance that with saving the shepherd's life. If he hadn't been found, and soon, his legs would have suffered irreversible damage and may have even caused death.
Jupiter's intake at Shelter
Can still see a little swelling in his legs
I know this shook up Lisa a bit. But bless her for continuing on her mission. The vet said the shepherd should be OK, didn't look like there was any lasting damage. By the time I got to the Vet the swelling had gone down significantly. He was put on some antibiotics and pain meds to help him out.
Now as shy as he had been reported to be and myself and the deputy having to hold him down to get them off. I can only come to the conclusion that someone he knew put them on him? Maybe it was the owner's bizarre and cruel attempt to keep the dog from escaping and hanging out with Lucy. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing who they are or finding the owners unless they come forward.
I have worried even more about Lucy ever since that night. Then I got a message that Lisa had made a small victory. She had been able to lure Lucy into her backyard. Unfortunately, it was only for about 20 minutes, when Lucy found a broken fence board.
The Illusive Lucy, named by a neighborhood boy
 because she was "loosey"
photo courtesy of Vanessa K.
And then breaking new Monday Night. Lucy is safe! Lisa finally got her to trust her enough to come into her house! And then into her car! And now she is safe and sound. Off the streets in the care of a trainer who is going to help her decompress from her time on the streets and get her ready for a forever home.
The black Shepherd has been named Jupiter by shelter staff, he has passed his behavior evaluation and has been classified as "Goofy". He's a young dog, maybe between 10 months and a year. He's got a full wonderful life ahead of him.
The beginning of happy endings for both dogs.
I would like to give a special thank you and bravo to Lisa C., Vanessa K., Deputy Smith and the nameless others who worked and continue to work to save these dogs. You are Animal Heroes!

And a Special Note From Lisa C. about her husband Brian:
"Almost left out is the role Brian played. After the 1st attempt at leading Lucy out of the park ended in the ER for 7 stitches for my split lip, Brian went out in the park w/me the 2nd & 3rd time. He drove Lucy & I all the way to the trainers in N. Highlands - a 25 minute ride w/an 80 lbs. stray pit in his back seat. He was patient & supportive through the last month & is truly the best husband EVER."

Shelter Silliness Shots (1)

I love our Staff's sense of Humor. Going to start trying to share some Shelter funnies when I capture them. Or if you have a shelter funny photo, send me an email and who to credit on the photo to my e-mail address . Please only submit photos you have taken yourself, or have permission to use from the photographer.

Snake Walking 101

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fouth of July, Are Your Pets Safe?

I know it still June, but have you seen the fireworks stands already propped up in just about every parking lot and empty corner? Are you aware that Fireworks are going on sale THIS week? Fire works are sold before the Fourth even gets here. It's time to think about your pets.

Do they have id on them? Tags? Microchip with CURRENT contact information? Even as simple as using a permanent marker and writing your phone number on the collar.

No one thinks that it will happen to them. "Oh my dog will be fine." Tell that to the hundreds or thousands of animals that end up in the shelters the week prior to and the week after the holiday. Or how about animals who will be running in fear of the strange scary noises, smells and sights who are hit by cars? It happens EVERY year. This year can we make a difference?

Make sure your pets have ID. Does the ID have an alternate contact in case your out of town? You can go to Wal-mart and for a couple bucks get a tag to put at least a name and phone number on. It's that simple. Or simpler still for those who use the excuse, "oh I don't like hearing those tags jingle all the time". How about using a simple permanent marker and writing a phone number on the collar.

Does your pet already have a tag or a microchip? IS the information current? Make sure to always keep phone numbers current. What good is the microchip is you don't have the information in there?

Are you going to be out of town and leaving pets behind? Make sure whoever is caring for your pets has emergency numbers, vet and animal shelter, should something happen and the pet goes missing. Pet care takers tend to not think of these things. Remember too than many vet hospitals will be closed for the holiday, so be sure to include your local emergency vet. Ask your regular vet who they refer their clients to.

If your home watch your pets for behavior changes, shaking, worried looks, startling at sudden noises. These could be signs that your pet is hearing the fireworks that inevitably are set off before the holiday itself. Take this as a sign that your pet will not do well with the bombardment on the actual holiday. You still have time to talk to your vet about ways to keep your pets calm. Call them for advice.

The best and safest place for scared pets is inside where the sounds and smells aren't as loud. They can still hear them, but being inside provides a safer place. With very reactive pets, you may want to place them in a central room in the house where noise from outside is buffered the most and play a radio or TV with a talk show or calm music. I don't recommend and action movie or heavy metal music, kind of defeats the purpose of creating a calming atmosphere.

If the house is not an option, do the same thing in the garage. If you cannot keep them in the garage, check your fences and gates so that a scared dog cannot easily get out.

Now what if you have done all this and your pet still goes missing? Make fliers to put up around your area, give to local vets and to bring in to the shelters. Have a clear current photo of your pet to put on fliers or post ad on places such as Craigslist. Call or look up on line the hours of operation for ALL the shelters in your area. Some have reduced hours, some are closed on certain days of the week. Call your vet to notify them of your lost pet.

If your pet is lost, has a license, has ID, has a current microchip and is picked up by animal control. We will try our best to return your pet to you as quickly as possible.

Summer time and Fourth of July should be fun for all and that includes your pets. Make sure your pets have current ID and take precautions to safeguard fearful pets.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Small Miracles Come Together

Looks are decieving, thesse canals are Deep, Dark and Dangerous!
Several small miracles came together over the last 24 hours that saved a dog's life and will reunite her and her companion with their worried owners.
We received a distressed call from a man named Mark. He was walking his dog along one of the many canals that run through our county near his home and spotted two dogs, a Yellow Lab mix going in and out of the steep concrete embankment and the other a Golden Retriever swimming and then trying desperately to get up the embankment. The Golden tried and tried to get up and out. Her companion keep going in and out to encourage her to get out. When Mark reached them he could tell the Golden was exhausted. He had no idea how long before he came upon them that she had been in the water trying to get out. He made several attempts to try to reach her without putting himself into the deep swift moving water. These canals are deep, fast and dangerous. He knew he and the dog needed help and fast. So he called us.
I heard the call over the radio being transmitted to our dispatcher from the county operator. I was just getting ready to leave the shelter at the beginning of my shift. With instructions from my dispatcher LB and my Director 473, I made sure I had the equipment necessary. We also called Fire Dispatch to have Fire Rescue sent out to.
I rushed to the scene, which thankfully was only about 20 minutes away. Director 473 was following close behind. Upon arriving Fire was already there. They were trying to figure out the best way to get to the dog who at this time was swimming on the other side, moving further and further downstream. The Golden's companion ran along the bank keeping a watchful eye on his partner, making sure she could see him. He was as desperate to get her out as the rest of us. She tried to go up the bank on the other side only to slide back into the water again. You could see how tired she was as she struggled. To add to her stress now she could see so many people that were trying to save her, she didn't understand and was spooked by all the commotion remaining at the other side of the canal. Fire was preparing to call out the swift water rescue boat as she was going further and further down stream. I had a lasso in hand and Director 473 had the catch pole hoping for her to come back to our side and we could try to rope her or snag her with either.
It was about this time that Mark spoke up, he had built a trust in his short time with the Golden and had caught her attention several times calling to her. He asked if we could all stand back a little and see if she would come to him once more. I had leashed up the Lab and handed Mark my lasso. I kept the lab close to the edge of the water so the Golden could see him and he could see her. The fire rescue team had concerns that Mark would fall in and then we would have another rescue. But I had faith in Mark. He sat down where the Golden could see him. The fire rescue and 473 stood back behind Mark so if anything happened they could jump into action. Mark called to the Golden and prepared the rope. She turned and swam across the current towards him. I think everyone held their breath as she got closer to him and he tossed the lasso loop. Miracle! The loop dropped over her! She kept swimming towards him right to the bank and he was able to get the loop closed around her and pulled her up the steep concrete to him. We could all breath again. And she was finally safe out of the water.
(Now I do have to quickly interject here that we do not recommend trying to save a distressed animal in these types of situations where your own safety is at risk! This was an unusual and extreme situation with emergency personnel on hand! We do not make it a habit of having civilians put themselves in harms way to do our jobs. This again was a very unique situation, the most necessary course of action and had a good outcome.)
Mark was definitely a hero! We thanked him profusely for his diligence and assistance. Words really don't do justice for someone who steps forward like that. We reunited both dogs with each other. The Lab was overjoyed to have his companion safely on dry land. We loaded the dogs up and I drove them back to the shelter to have our Shelter Vet, Dr. B, give the Golden a once over. He was standing by at the shelter waiting for my arrival.
The Golden's front feet were bloodied from her desperate clawing at the side of the concrete canal. She had worn her nails down a bit and a couple of her pads were worn smooth and bled a little. Dr. B checked her out and determined she would be fine overnight  at the shelter and he would recheck her in the morning to make sure she didn't have any lasting effects or water damage to her lungs. I dried her off and warmed her up before housing in a kennel with a nice fuzzy blanket. I did the same for her companion and house them in kennels next to each other. The Golden was already snoozing when I brought her companion into the kennel room. Sadly, neither dogs had ID or microchips so we had no way of contacting the owners. We could only hope that they were missing their dogs and would contact out shelter to find them.
Golden Retriever
Yellow Lab Mix

I was so pleased with the outcome of this rescue I posted a Face book status about it. Little did I know what that would lead to. I received several comments from well wishes for the dogs and their hero, Mark. I also received a message from a news station wanting information on the rescue. I referred them to Director 473. Fast forward to this morning. I was lazing in bed on my day off after being on the late shift. Even my own dogs jumping on me wasn't going to get me out of the covers. They had their breakfast and had access to the outside they just wanted me to get up so they could steal my warm spot and blankets!
However, I was laying there browsing my face book from under the covers when I came upon a message to me from one of our wonderful Shelter Volunteers. Volunteer LD had received a desperate Face book status from some family friends that was for their pair of missing dogs. They were missing from the same area, and descriptions matched. I asked her to send me pictures of the dogs. Email received. I saw the dogs and could say they were the same dogs by 98%! Never say 100%, because well you never know. So the word went out to the owners. Dogs Found and Safe! Well the owners, unfortunately are in Texas on vacation. The dogs were being cared for by friends. So now the messages going back and forth from me to LD to owners to family friends who will be picking dogs up for the owners. I contacted shelter manager TD and dispatcher LB to let them know all that has now transpired. On top of this I also got a call from Hero Mark asking how the dogs were doing and that if no owner came forward he would be more than happy to give these dogs a home. I was able to let him know that we had found the owners and were making arrangements for them all being reunited. He was grateful, if not a little disappointed. He really did form a bond with these dogs.
Another little miracle was told to me by our hero Mark. You see, Mark told me he usually doesn't walk the canal at that time of day because it is usually too hot. But since the weather was cool and cloudy that day, he didn't follow his usual routine of walking in the morning or later in the evening. Had he not been there at that time I don't think the outcome would have been the same as it was. Whoever says miracles don't happen, is wrong! 

How could this have been a happier ending? If the dogs hadn't been swimming in the canal of coarse, but dogs get out and do silly dog things that can put them in danger. However, if the dogs had Licenses, Microchips, or ID. Any of these would have brought the dogs home immediately and have saved them from a trip to the Shelter.
Abbey the Golden Retriever and Issak the Yellow Lab Mix will soon be on their way home, and you can be sure they will have ID from this point on.
Abbey's "Missing" Picture

Issak's "Missing" Picture

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oh NO! It's a SNAKE!

Here in the Valley we are fortunate to behold all sorts of wild animals, including snakes. This time of year, mid-spring to early summer, we start receiving more and more calls about snakes. Most snakes do hibernate through the winter, or due to the cold weather, are a lot slower and remain less visible. This is also the time of year that baby snakes are emerging from their nests to venture off on their own.
 A couple of months ago I did have a call for a baby rattle snake inside someones house. Yes, inside their house. Of coarse being so early in the season I didn't quite believe it at first. But when I got there sure enough, there was this unhappy little rattler coiled up on this gentleman's staircase. Snake tongs and bucket in hand I carefully removed the baby. Both the man and his little dog could have been bitten had his dog not hear it rattling and raised a commotion. Several of the neighbors, friends of the man, came over to see what was going on. Of coarse I took this opportunity to show them the snake and educate them on rattlesnakes and other snakes that do frequent their area. There aren't too many areas in our county that don't have snakes, especially rattlesnakes. And the closer you are to the River parkways or Lake the higher your chances of seeing them. This seems to surprise people. And once again you have the people who want to live in nature but know nothing about it or what lives in it.
Following is a little guide to the most common snakes we have here in the Valley.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
This is actually the only venomous snake we have in our area. They are not typically an aggressive snake (unlike the Mohave Rattler), unless provoked or cornered. Their coloring it a mixture of rough dusty white (belly),tan and brown. They get their name from the patterning on their back that resembles diamond shapes. Their head is different than other non-venomous snakes, it is wide behind the eyes and almost a heart shape. Their eyes are forward facing on the head, rather than the sides. And then there are of coarse the rattles. Baby rattlers normally only have one small little "button". Adults have several more buttons that when agitated make the "rattle" sound. Sort of like putting a few beans in a paper bag and shaking it. The sound actually comes from the segments of the rattle being loose and rubbing together to make the distinctive sound. Rattlesnakes feed on mice, rats, gophers, ground squirrels, moles and any number of small "pest" rodents. Despite being venomous they are a beneficial creature! Rattle snakes like all other snakes are cold blooded reptiles. They are not typically active at night due to the temperature drop. And because of this they are often seen during the morning and daytime hours on rocks, cement, pathways and roads "sunning" themselves. They need the heat to warn their bodies so they have better mobility, especially for hunting. They will also sun themselves after eating, to help them digest their meal.
What should you do if you see a rattle snake? Or have a rattle snake in your yard? Put your pets away so they will leave it alone and not get hurt by it. And the best coarse of action is to leave it alone yourself. It will go away. If it is however in your home, garage or other area that it may not be able to get out the way it came, then call your local Animal Services Department or there are companies that will come out and remove snakes, for a fee. Should you kill it? This is not necessary, and can be unsafe. A rattler's venom is still potent after it is dead. It's best if you must have it removed to have someone remove it for you. What if you are bitten? Call 911 or have someone take you to a hospital immediately! What if your pet is bitten? Take them immediately to a emergency vet! Dogs are the most commonly bitten pet. And they have a very good recovery as long as veterinary treatment is given immediately. Did you know that there is a Rattle snake Vaccine now for dogs? Check with your vet about getting this is you live in an area where rattle snakes are common, or you frequent places where there are rattle snakes, such as the parkways and lake area. Rattle snakes are not "Bad" snakes. They just need to be respected and left alone.

GOPHER SNAKE (Common and Striped Also called a BULL SNAKE):
Gopher Snake-Common Adult (this is one I caught)
Gopher snakes are the most commonly seen snakes. More so than even the rattle snake. Gophers snakes are very often confused with Rattle snakes. And they have some habits and characteristics that are misleading, often leading to their demise.

Gopher Snake-Young Striped

The Common Gopher snake looks very similar to a rattle snake. Without knowing better many people do make this mistake. The first most common mistake is seeing the pattern on their backs. People don't want to get close enough to find out. However, the Gopher snake has a much darker Brown pattern and a shiny smooth yellow-tan coloring. Their heads are shaped differently as well shaped more in line with their bodies, slender like a finger rather than a fist. Their eyes are on more on the sides of their head rather than on the top or forward like the rattler. Another charteristic the Gopher has to "defend" itself is to fill itself with air and creates a hiss that sounds very much like a rattlesnake's rattle. These are of coarse natural defenses again natural enemies. But people see them as the "bad guy" rattlesnake.They will coil up like a rattler, hiss their rattle sound and even strike like a rattler. And unfortunately they are often killed because of it. Gopher Snakes are Non-Venomous, but they will bite if messed with. And it hurts! Trust me I know! Gopher snakes eat of coarse gophers, but also moles, voles, mice, rats, and other small rodents. They like the snake they mimic, the rattler are a beneficial snake. If they are found, leave them alone they will go away. You can even go as far as to give it a little shove with the soft side of a broom to make it not want to hang around. I personally like having these guys around my house. I have chickens and horses so I have feed that rodents like to get into. I have released a few gopher snakes on my property and have noticed my rodent problem in my barn is pretty low. I even found several baby gopher snakes in my shed. So the snakes are healthy, breeding and eating well!

Common King Snake
Yolo Dark King Snake

King snakes are not a commonly seen snakes. But when you do see them they are really cool looking. King snakes like the Gopher snake will mimic a rattle snake, but look nothing like a rattle snake. King Snakes are non-venomous, they are commonly known to eat other snakes, including rattle snakes. But they will eat lizards, small rodents and other small vertebrae .They are a beneficial predator especially if you live in an area with a large population of rattlers!


Valley Garter Snake
The Valley Garter Snake is another commonly seen snake. Especially around areas where there is water. They eat a wide variety of prey, including  toads, frogs and their eggs, fish, birds, and their eggs, small mammals, reptiles, earthworms, slugs, and leeches.
They are non-venomous and actually fairly docile when caught. However, be careful when handling, they have a offensive defence mechanism. They will poop on you!

GIANT GARTER SNAKE (Threatened Species):
Giant Garter Snake
The Giant Garter snake is much like it's cousin the Valley Garter. However this Garter snake can get up to six feet long! The difference between this garter and it's cousin is it does not have the Valley Garter's bright yellow and red coloring. The Giant garter is an excellent swimmer and most common around canals and water ways. They have been known to frequent rice fields which may have contributed to there demise in numbers. If you see one of these consider yourself very fortunate! They are rare!

Yellow Belly Racer:

The Yellow Belly Racer reminders me of a song from my childhood, "Sneaky Snake" by Tom T.Hall. Racers are fast movers, long slender with coloring ranging from grey to green. They aren't limited to racing through the grass, they climb trees too! But have no fear, they are non-venomous. they are only climbing trees to find frogs, lizards and occasionally birds. "Sneaky snake goes dancing, wiggling and a hissin' , Sneaky snake goes dancing gigglin and a kissin! Oh I don't like that sneaky snake he laughs to much you see, when he goes wigglin through the grass it tickles his underneath!" Tom T.Hall

I know that there are lots of people out there that are terrified of snakes. they think their slimy, slithery evil creatures. But they are none of these. They all serve a purpose in out ecosystem and most of them provide natural pest control.

If even in doubt about a snake in your yard, or a snake comes into your house, please call your local animal services we can help you out.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dog in Car plus Hot Day Equals DEAD DOG

This blog was originally written 6/28/09, however, every summer we still respond to hundreds of calls for dogs in vehicles! The news stations are already reporting about dogs being found in vehicles at a certain Mall in our area. And we have also already seen an increase in calls. And we haven't even hit the triple digits yet! So once again I remind everyone to just leave your pets home!

Yesterday it was 104+ degrees depending on where you were. Today it was 102+ degrees. I had 3 separate calls today within 1 hour for Dogs being left in cars in parking lots. Lucky for the owners they were gone before I got there today. The heat makes me cranky, and dogs locked in cars on warm days makes me even
more cranky. The hotter it is the crankier I get. I don't tolerate heat well, and I tolerate Dogs locked in cars even less.

I just don't get how people can think it's OK for them to leave their dogs in their cars when it's this hot!

Had the owners not have gotten to there car before I did, they would be coming to their vehicle with their dog on my truck, a possible broken window, if the door is locked or can't be opened and a police officer standing by to issue a Misdemeanor Citation. IF the owner is lucky, the dog won't need to be rushed to the ER Vet for treatment for severe heat stroke, which will not only increase the price of the citation for having the dog in the car, but they will be charged with Animal Cruelty and be responsible for what can be a very expensive vet bill.

Well these owners really lucked out. I can only hope the dogs are so lucky.

It doesn't take long for the effects of heat to cause a dog to become sick with heat stroke. More on that in a minute.

Speaking of Minutes, what is the #1 excuse that people have when busted with their dogs in the car? " I was only gone for 10 minutes.

That my friends is a load of (bleep).

Who knows how long the dog has been in the car when someone sees it in the parking. If that person has a cell phone it takes them at least a couple of minutes to figure out who to call. If they don't have a cell phone, add a couple minutes on for them to go in the store and alert the store staff. The store staff then takes a few minutes to contact police dispatch or Animal Control. So lets say this takes at least 5-10 minutes itself. And by the time the dispatch goes to a police officer or animal control, it's possibly another 5 minutes. That brings us to at least 15 minutes now. Not 10 Minutes any longer, but 15 minutes at this point. Our response time? At the very least 10 minutes, unless we are in the same parking lot which is not likely. So add another 10 minutes. This brings us to 25 minutes. So when I get there and the owner shows up and I have been there for 5 to 10 minutes already and I get that " I was only gone for 10 minutes" bull pucky.

I just want to shake people and yell " What the heck were you thinking!?!?!" Or make them sit in their car for the same amount of time that their dog had to endured. But I remain calm and do what I need to do to professionally get the point across that they are jackasses.

When I cleared from the last dog in car call, I had an idea. I went about conducting my own experiment. I carry 2 thermometers, one for checking the internal temperature of the vehicles, one for checking animals temperatures.

I checked the temp in my truck cab with the AC running. 65*. I checked with the National Weather Service and at that time it was 102*. Then I parked the truck in the shade, turned it off, rolled the windows down 4 inches (open just enough for a large dog to stick his head out). In just these 5 minutes of preparation, the temp inside the truck was already 80*. In 10 minutes, the temp was 100*, with windows down and in the shade. That is only 2* degrees less than outside.

Now my 2nd experiment, I turned the AC back on, and moved to a Sunny location. Which is more typical of parking lots. It's rare to find a parking space in the shade at almost all big box stores. In the sun the temp when from the AC 65* to 100* in 5 minutes (truck off, windows rolled down 4 inches). In just 5 minutes, the temp climbed 35*! By the time it got to 10 minutes, the temp was at 120*. So in 10 minutes the temp went up 55* degrees!

A dog’s temperature is normally between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. A rise of a mere 3 degrees can be fatal for a dog. After 104 Heat Stroke is setting in. From here, the effects just begin to spiral out of control. The rise in temperature creates a higher need for oxygen which the dog needs to pant. Especially in a car a dog can not keep up with the demand for oxygen and the temperature continues to rise.

At 108 degrees, the dog’s body begins to shut down. His or her major organs begin to break down on a cellular level and continue to do so at an alarming rate. Even immediate care can leave the dog with permanent internal damage.

Get the dog out of the car and sun. Give the dog water but don't let him drink too much.
Cool him with cool/tepid water - either immerse him in a bath, gently hose him or apply cool towels to his body.
Importantly do not leave wet towels on your dog and do not use very cold water -
both prevent your dog form being able to cool himself.
Move your dog to an area where there is cool air circulating, such as an air conditioned room or stand him in front of a fan. The cool circulating air will help your dog to reduce his temperature.
Keep monitoring your dog's temperature with a rectal thermometer; once it returns to normal stop the cooling process.
While you are cooling your dog down call your local emergency dog clinic, explain the situation and perform any additional treatment they suggest before taking him to the clinic.
Even if you manage to reduce your dog's temperature at home, take him to your vet for a thorough checkup - internal damage to your dog's organs might have taken place even though he recovered from heat stroke.

No matter how many warnings go up every year, every year there are so many people who think that they will only be 10 minutes. Why take your dog? If your only going to be gone 10 minutes.....

................................LEAVE THE DOG AT HOME!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DISCLAIMER, please read before you proceed:


This weblog, Tails From The Field, is intended to share true stories that have happened to me personally, that I have close personal knowledge of and information that I have researched, studied and have personal experience in. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any affiliates of my employer.

This weblog is intended to offer information, education and entertainment. My humor may not be understood by some, so if you have a low level sense of humor, do not understand sarcasm, or are slow on the up-take, I cannot be held responsible for you not "getting it".

This weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various memes running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.

In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time…I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind.

Again, let me re-enforce that this weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer or their affiliates. It is solely my opinion.

Just in case. If I say something stupid in the future, it’s better to be able to point out that the stupidity is mine, and mine alone. My stupidity! You can’t have it!

Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry, but please try to keep it polite!

If you find something offensive in my weblog, please bring it to MY attention via comments or e-mail ( ). I will be more than happy to discuss and review what has offended you. Another consequence of having an open mind.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Adventures in the South Area

I've written two stories about cats up in trees, so this is a first. Got a call during my swing shift for a Sheriff Assist. Minimal details given to me were that the Sheriff got a call about a dog that chased a man up a tree. Whereabouts of the dog unknown, sheriff on scene.
My first thoughts are, it's dark and they don't know where the dog is. Typically the dog is gone. But I head out regardless. As I am en route I get an update from County central. Deputies have the dog confined. OK cool, that makes it easier. And at least the deputies are still on scene.
I arrived on scene and took note of the deputy's car pulled up close to a chain link fence. I rolled up next to the car and spoke with the deputy. She got out and pointed her flashlight towards the inner wood fence on the property. Out of a opening in the wood fence popped a light brown head. The dog barked furiously at us. That was our "culprit".
The female deputy proceeded to catch me up on what the situation was. She pointed her flash light up into the large mulberry tree in the front yard. I could make out a large shadowy blob perched in the branches. The dog chased the guy up into the tree. And the guy refuses to come out of the tree. Meanwhile they can't do much of anything with the dog charging them in the yard. They aren't even sure if the man lives at the house, or if the dog lives at the house. The man sat perched up on a branch and another deputy was trying to coax him down or at least trying to get him to talk to him. The guy up in the tree was mumbling and chatting to himself. From our position it appeared that a homeless guy picked what appeared to be a vacant house for his crash pad. From the way the dog was comfortable going in and out of the space in the fence, to me it was fairly evident the dog lived there.
I took a catch pole and entered the yard through the closed gate. The deputies stayed on the outside of the fence. The dog was standing at the corner of the house barking at them. I walked up and yelled at him, "Hey, come here!" He looked at me, barked once and turned running back to his hole. He stopped, turned and barked at me as I walked up to him calling him to come here. Funny how most dogs, even ones that are acting aggressive will run from us when we yell at them and come after them. He darted back into his hole and I could hear him and another dog barking. I had one of the deputies bring a large garbage can around to block the hole. I was able to peek into the backyard and it was obvious the dog lived there.
Even with the dog secure, the guy in the tree still refused to come down. He continued to sit up in his perch, singing, moaning, and carrying on a conversation with himself. The deputies called the Fire Department at this point to help get the guy out of the tree. I was kept on scene to make sure the dog didn't get back out. Fire arrived and when they couldn't talk the guy out of the tree they put a ladder up.
It was at about this time that Hera, my k-9 partner, provided me with a slightly embarrassing moment. The fire fighters turned a couple spot lights on up in the tree. Hera who's window was down enough to have her head out has remained quiet the whole time we were on this call apparently saw the guy in the tree for the first time. She started barking, her alert bark to let me know something was amiss. This caused everyone to stop and look. One of the deputies said, " It's OK it's just the officers dog." I assured Hera and she was quiet.  
 He wouldn't come down the ladder so a firefighter went up and helped him get down. He had no ID and apparently they couldn't get any information from him. So the guy would be taken to the hospital to get checked out and maybe by then they could get an ID on him.
I was the last one there, everyone cleared the scene while I was writing a notice for the dog owner about his fence. Just as I was getting out of my truck to post the notice and get out of there the owner showed up!
I told the dog owner what had happened. Turns out the guy in the tree was the dog owner's uncle Willie. According the the owner Uncle Willie is a little schizo. He was shocked though because he said the dogs know Uncle Willie. Uncle Willie lives with him. I told him that his dog is safely secured in his backyard and I wasn't sure where they had taken his Uncle. He said he would find out and get him home safe. He thanked me for sticking around to let him know what was going on.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Horse Slaughter...Can it Be Stopped?

Recently there has been a lot of press regarding the currant administration re-opening or allowing Horse Slaughter to be once again operational in the US. And with this comes the controversy if it should be allowed at all. Despite if the US has slaughter houses, it is still going to happen. It IS happening. Daily horses are loaded into trucks and take long miserable trips to the border North in Canada and South in Mexico.

What about California? Most Californians are unaware that there is a law against horses being sold for slaughter. As most Californians are unaware that horses even go to slaughter.

California Penal Code Section 598c

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is unlawful for any person to possess, to import into or export from the state, or to sell, buy, give away, hold, or accept any horse with the intent of killing, or having another kill, that horse, if that person knows or should have known that any part of that horse will be used for human consumption. (b) For purposes of this section, "horse" means any equine, including any horse, pony, burro, or mule. (c) Violation of this section is a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years. (d) It is not the intent of this section to affect any commonly accepted commercial, noncommercial, recreational, or sporting activity that relates to horses. (e) It is not the intent of this section to affect any existing law that relates to horse taxation or zoning.

But horses do go to slaughter in California, daily.They are not sent to slaughter houses in  California, or the United States. Most are transported to Mexico, others are shipped to Canada.

So if it is illegal, why isn't it enforced? And who is suppose to enforce it?

Sections 20438 /23043 (a) of the California Food and Agricultural Code give all peace officers the authority to stop any vehicle hauling cattle or horses for the purpose of making an investigation.

Now here's something that doesn't make sense.

Documents Required for Transportation (According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture):Horses, Mules, Burros, No documents required at this time unless destined for slaughter.

HUH? The last three words, "destined for slaughter". Now wait a minute CDFA, doesn't this go against the Penal Code? It's very confusing. And that is why the Killer Buyers and Transporters get away with it!

So, no, its not enforced. And horses are transported from this state to Canada and Mexico. However it is very difficult to catch them and even prove that is their destination. There are hundreds of "Feed Lots" where doomed horses are stored until transported. They are pretty well kept secrets and blend well into the many agricultural communities in California.

Some Horse Rescue groups know who the Killer Buyers are and do rescue horses from them. The rescues won't revel who they are or where their "lots" are for fear that they will break the very thin trust between them. If this is broken the Killer Buyers will just move their operation somewhere else or refuse to sell horses to rescues at any price and the rescue wont be able to save horses from them. Other rescues go to the same auctions that the Killer Buyer frequent and try to outbid them to save horses from being loaded onto the Buyers trucks. Horses at auction are sold "cents by pound", just like cattle.

Killer Buyers also do prey on unsuspecting private sellers. Often people who, due to the economy are forced to sell or give away their beloved horses. Crafty Killer Buyers have been known to bring their kids and spouses as a ruse that the horse is going to a good family home. Or a "married" couple show up to buy a horse or horses. Killer buyers are reaping from this poor economy and high hay prices that are forcing owners to sell healthy horses or give them away. How do we stop them? How are we suppose to enforce the law when we don't have proof or they have covered their bases. Kill buyers are a sleazy bunch but they stick together and cover for each other.

As for the Slaughter itself. I will NOT go into details, you can look it up on the Internet yourself. I will say that the horses that go North are treated only slightly more humane than the ones going South. Slaughter houses in the South would make Horror Slasher Movies look like Mary Poppins.

The other side of the debate is, if there are no slaughter houses, and lets say that the demand for horse meat in other countries was to miraculously disappear (it is illegal in the United Stated to purchase and consume horse meat), then what do we do with the surplus of horses? Rescues and shelters are full of unwanted horses. The cost of feeding, medical and even humane euthanasia and disposal at at an all time high. In this area is costs approximately $100.-$200. for a vet to come out examine a horse, determine that it needs to be euthanized and humanely euthanize it by lethal injection. Then it costs another $200.-$300. to have it picked up and disposed of properly. If people don't have the money to feed their horses or provide vet care how are they going to afford euthanasia and disposal? I'm not saying slaughter is the answer, but this is where the debate is.

What about population control? Stop over breeding?

There is are certain demographics that are over breeding and indiscriminately breeding. We can't keep up with them. They move, hide, cross boarders, and leave a path of destruction in their wake. Many cannot be influenced because it in "their culture". Others just don't care, if the horse isn't making them money or stopped making them money, such as Race Horses, they are discarded to whoever will take them. Most often the Killer Buyers. I personally try to educate and enforce as much as I can but there are so many of them and not enough of us. Plus the politics and laws that tie our hands to be able to act more quickly. Many times I have been between outrage and defeat when I work so hard to get a case built only to have it dropped or dead-ended. It's not going to stop me from doing my job to the best of my ability, but I am one of few. It just doesn't seem to be as important to higher up the chain (even beyond our agency) as it is to some of us.

As I said before the rescue do what they can to try to take in as many unwanted horses as they can. But from what I see for every one rescue that opens one or even two close down. Ive also investigated rescues that are just down right scary. Well meaning people who quickly get in over their heads and instead of being part of the solution they become part of the problem.

So what is to be done? How do we stop the slaughter pipeline? How do we enforce the laws?

With the supply and demand there are no easy answers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pitbulls...This ACO's Perspective

Pit bulls get a lot of press. Some good but mostly bad. Are they really the evil dogs that they are perceived to be? This ACO thinks not.
One of the many questions that I get asked as an ACO is, "Aren't you afraid of pit bulls?" First of all, if any dog really scared me I wouldn't be doing this job. To me that is such a silly question. You want to know what dog actually makes me grit my teeth? Pomeranians! Yes, those cute fluffy little buggers are evil! At least 90% of the ones I have come across. A very close second is the Chihuahua. These little dogs are like land piranhas! You can't catch the ones that are loose and running, and the aggressive ones are out to get you with their sharp tiny little teeth and little dog complex. To me these little dogs are a nightmare. I would rather take on two aggressive pit bulls over trying to catch one of these little buggers.
But I'm getting a little off track here.
No, I'm not afraid of pit bulls, or any of the bully breeds. As a matter of fact, most of the pitties I pick up are some of the goofiest dogs. Including the "aggressive" ones. Almost all of the "aggressive dog" calls we get are reported as being pit bulls. About one quarter of these calls turn out to be breeds other than any bully breed, one quarter are actually aggressive pit bulls or some bully breed, and the remaining half are non-aggressive pit bulls or bully breeds. These pitties are friendly, silly, affectionate attention hogs. I've gone out on calls that the cops are hiding behind their car doors, have weapons ready, or won't even get out of the car. I call "puppy puppy puppy!" and pat my leg and they come wiggle wagging over and readily accept my little blue leash around their necks. A few have come charging towards me but their body language shows me it's not aggressive, and by the time they get to me they are wiggle wagging.
Of the aggressive pit bulls, I would have to say in their defense, most are terrified and this is their only way of defending themselves. Think of it this way, he's basically saying to himself, " I'm scared but I'm not gonna show them that! I will be pretend to be strong so they won't know I'm scared and they will leave me alone!" Then we have the few that are just bad dogs. It is debatable if they are "made" this way by people, or they are just not right in the head. And it's these dogs that get all the press. I know people will argue that all pit bulls are like this, but it's just not true. I see many many MANY pit bulls daily and honestly, the majority of them are good dogs.
But why do we see so many pit bulls? Why are there so many in the shelters? And why do we hear so many news stories about them? It's a matter of population. What many people don't understand is that most dogs have an average of 3-6 puppies in a litter. A few breeds have slightly more. But pit bulls and Labradors have average litters of 10-15 puppies per litter. So if Joe-Shmoe has a intact (unaltered/unfixed) male pit bull and lets say two female pit bulls. Female dogs typically go into heat every 5-6 months and often females who live together will be on the same heat cycle or relatively close. Joe's dogs could be producing up to 20-30 puppies ever 5-6 months. And Joe thinks that he is going to make tons of money producing all these puppies to sell to all the Mr.Toughguys and little Thugs. He's not. Joe's going to get stuck caring for more puppies than he can sell and that is a burden. It also proves to hit him in the wallet. So puppies go unvaccinated, and Joe dumps the remaining ones he can't sell at a shelter or gives them away to anyone who will take them.
Pit bull puppies, like all puppies are adorable! Mr. Toughguy get one or two for himself and his girlfriend. Girlfriend oooh and awww at her new "baby". Until it gets to be about 4 months old and is chewing her Ghettorific designer shoes and anything else it can get it's teeth on. And it keeps pottying in the house! So her "baby" get the boot outside. Oh they occasionally play with him, but that gets fewer and further between. They have lives to live and things to do and well puppy is just so hyper and jumps all over them, starved for attention and interaction. Play time gets less and less, until finally the only time puppy sees them is when they throw him his food.
By now puppy, who has never been to a vet and still has all his male parts is becoming a young testosterone building Male Dog. He's stuck in his backyard, but he smells things and hears things on the outside. In his boredom he has tore up just about everything he can in the backyard, now he's working on the fence boards.
By the way, pit bulls are intelligent dogs. And being stuck in a yard for months and months with nothing to do will make any dog nuts! Imagine being locked in a room for months with nothing to do.
Now Male Dog is about 8 months to 12 months old. He's bored, he's lonely and he hears and smells so much on the outside world. He finally breaks free of his prison and is FREE FREE FREE!!! He can run with wild abandonment! He sees cats for the first time other that on the top of the fence looking down on him. The chase is on. Or he sees people, big or little he doesn't care and in his excitement he is perceived as being aggressive. Someone calls the cops or animal control. Aggressive pit bull chasing cats and trying to attack people.
He ends up at the shelter.
This is the story a thousand times over all over the country.
Female Dog has it no better. Little Thugs think they are gonna make some money themselves by breeding their girl dog. As soon as she is 6 months, still a baby herself, they find the biggest baddest Male Dog to breed her. They are going to make Bad Puppies and Mad Money. Of coarse when Baby Girl produces her 10-12 puppies all their thuggy friends buy them up. So wow they made some money. Six months later they do it again, but now everyone they know already has dogs so they are harder to sell, and some of their thuggy friends are breeding their 6 month old baby girls.
Baby Girl by 2 years old has produced 4 litters of 10-15 puppies. She's thin, tired and used up. If she doesn't escape her life of mass production, she is dumped somewhere.
Trying to do the math on this will make your head explode.
I'm not making this up.  This is what I see every day. Shelter workers all over see this every day. And these are just three examples of many of how pit bulls end up at the shelter.
The typical age of a pit bull at the shelter is from 6 months to 2 years old. Most hit by car dogs are intact males. I don't need to look up statistics. I get a up close personal view every day.
The most truly aggressive pit bulls that I have come across have been taught to be that way by their owners. Encouraged to be aggressive to other animals. Their owners think it's funny to make people jump by "pretending" to sic their dog on them. The dog doesn't know any better he just wants to please his owner and thinks that this is acceptable behavior.  The other truly aggressive ones are not right in the head, bad breeding perhaps. A intact male or female puppy that reaches maturity and is still around intact mom or dad can do bad genetic things. And if there is two or more of these young bored pit bulls, yes you are going to have that deep recessed "pack" mentality surface. And that definitely will be on the news.
There is some good news. Many pitbulls and bully breeds are adopted out of shelters and from rescues. In our area there are no breed restrictions, and pitties are just like every other dog.  Almost all of them go on to lead wonderful adventure filled lives with loving families that they are actually a part of.
The bad news is, we still cannot keep up with the Joe-Shmoes, Mr. Toughguys, Girlfriends and little Thugs. Until we do, there will always be Bad News For Pitbulls.

Want to learn more about Pitbulls, Bully Breeds and ways to help them?

Please check out this wonderful Pitbull Rescue and Advocacy in our Area

And please, come visit some of the wonderful Pitties in our shelter,  or your local shelter.
Maybe YOU can be thier happy ending?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Little Thing Called A Microchip

With all the technological advances in the past decade along came a little thing in the pet world called the Microchip or "chip". This little device is only about the size of a grain of rice, yet it could mean the difference between having your lost pet returned safely to your home or never seeing you pet again.
Despite what rumors and myths say about a microchip, it cannot "track" your pet. It does not have GPS or any type of remote locating/tracking system. It does not send out radio waves, signals or frequencies to remote locations.  And, no, it doesn't store you or your pets personal information. So your identity cannot be stolen from it. Nor can your information be changed on the chip itself. The only information that is on the chip is an individual single code or number. The only way to get that number is by scanning it with a special hand held scanning device or "scanner". These devices are very expensive and not readily available to the general public. However just about every Veterinary hospital and shelter has them. The scanner has to be waved over the pet less than an inch from the body in order for the scanner to "read" the number stored on the chip. Once the chip number comes up onto the scanner, the person has to copy down the number, then the search begins.

Chips are harmless to the pet once they are properly inserted. How they are inserted depends on the brand, but most come installed in a sterile needle and inserted under the skin in between the shoulder blades of the pet. This is done quickly and relatively painlessly, depending on the animal. Just like people, some animals are more sensitive than others. Chips can be tricky little buggers and on occasion will "travel" to another location under the skin. that is why when we scan an animal we do a full body sweep to try to locate a chip. Usually when they travel it has moves to the side of the shoulder or down the back a little ways. This doesn't hurt the animal. Aside from the initial insertion, the chip has not been known to cause any pain. The chip also cannot be felt except by some dogs or cats with thin skin and very little body fat. Chips also cannot be easily removed. A Veterinarian would have to do the procedure as a surgery and I don't know of any who would unless it was endangering the animal's life.
So how does the microchip work in returning a pet to it's owner? In the field, we usually have scanners on our trucks. So we can scan animals at the time we pick them up. Once we get the number we call the microchip company. This is where we have our fingers crossed. Is the chip registered and is the owner information current. This is the biggest problem we have with chips. The owners get the animal microchip but fail to register thier information with the company or verify that thier information is current. Or they have moved or changed thier number, failing to update the information. If this happens we are at a dead end. The animal will be impounded.
Now if the chip information is correct we will try to make contact with you by phone first. And if your address is close to the found location we will try to return your dog to your house. If the pet cannot be returned to the owner in the field, we will leave a notice or a phone message telling you where your pet can be located.
If you find a pet, you can take it to a Veterinary hospital or shelter and have the pet scanned. The vet hospital can call the chip company and obtain the owner information. They then will also call the owner and try to get the pet back home. The goal is to return the pet to it's owner.
Microchips are available through your vet, through various mobile clinics and at all animal shelters. Animal Shelters are actually required to microchip any pet that is adopted from them.
When you get your pet microchipped, make sure you understand about registering your pet. Often times people automatically assume that the registration is done for them at the time of the microchipping. This is not always the case and this often leads those of us trying to locate owners to deadends.
If your pet is microchipped please make sure that the information is correctly registered with the microchip company. If your unsure what company handles your pet's registration, or you don't have the registration information any long let alone know your pet's chip number, you can visit your vet or local shelter for a quick scan. They can let you know what company your pet's chip is registered to. You can find most of the companies online and often you can update your information online.
Recently a cat was returned to it's owner, after being missing 8 years! Another story was a local dog was brought to a shelter two states away and re-united with it's owner. Microchips work, especially if they always have current information.  

Just a few of the Microchip Companies and registries: 

Freepetchip: (this is a new FREE chip registry)