20 May 2005


I was divorced from my first wife in the mid-70's.

I was a bad boy, and I got caught.
Although I succumbed to temptation, I still loved my wife.
I didn't want to be divorced.
I can tell you, getting a divorce really takes the wind out of your sails!

I found myself with few friends in a small town.
I was working in an outside sales job that I hated.
I was too bummed to socialize.
What I wanted to do most was sleep.
So I'd stay up until 3 A.M. watching TV, and would finally nod off.
But at 6 or 7 A.M., I would wake up looking at another miserable day to spend alone.

A little wine to relax me, right?

For about a month, I resorted to drinking a bottle of wine every evening. Surprisingly, it didn't help me sleep at all. At some point I realized that if I kept drinking a bottle of wine per night, I'd have to admit to myself that I had a serious problem with alcohol.
Being divorced was more problem than I could handle already. I didn't need another problem to contend with.

In addition to the hated sales job, I was flying with my Reserve Unit. At this point, it was the only thing in life I enjoyed.......the only thing I had that gave me direction.

A friend I sometimes flew with was the Chief Executive of a County near my Reserve outfit.
He took one look at my exhausted face and said, "What in the heck is wrong with you?"

When I explained that my life consisted of flying now and then and unsuccessfully trying to sleep the rest of my life away, he surprised me with a job offer:

"Come be a Dogcatcher!"

He explained he didn't really need me to catch dogs. All I needed to do was drive around in the County van and "show the colors".......demonstrate to the residents that their tax dollars were being used to look for stray dogs!

What a deal! Drive around the county all day long listening to the radio and get paid minimum wage! At the time, it was strangely appealing.......something to keep my mind off how miserable I was.

For about a week I was able to do just that, too! I drove around and worked hard at ignoring the fact that there really were strays roaming around that needed to be tended to. And then I got flagged down to tend to a dog that had been hit by a car. Still alive, it was obvious he was badly hurt. There was nothing I could do for him but try and comfort him as I picked him up and put him in the truck. I took him to our "on call" Veterinarian, who put him to sleep.

So I felt obligated to start actually doing the job, realizing the strays needed me to do it.
When dogs are a problem, it's not their fault. People make a mess of their animals lives!
I like dogs a lot. But during my tenure as dogcatcher, my feelings for dog owners became much less positive!

My friend the County Executive promoted me to Coordinator of the Rabies Control Department. In this capacity I eventually had 22 Rabies Control Officers working for me.

One of the jobs I reserved for myself, because I didn't want anyone else to have to do it, was euthanizing the animals.

This was a stressful, terrible part of the work. I won't go into the mechanics of this job, but I will tell you that it is an irony.......it's hard for an animal lover to do, but you wouldn't want someone that didn't love animals doing it.

Most people don't realize the scope of the problem we have with stray or uncontrolled animals. In the year I was in this job I euthanized over 2000 dogs and cats!
This was in a relatively small county......I can't imagine the numbers in a large municipal area!
Multiply this by the number of cities and counties across the U.S. to get a feeling for the magnitude of the problem.

Animal Control Officers do a much needed, emotionally stressful job.
There are many jobs in this world that most of us don't want to do for one reason or another. We should always remember to be grateful to those that "take up that yoke" in our stead.
Animal Control Officers do one of those jobs.

I'm glad to have had the job. It was a step to other opportunities, and helped me to overcome my post-divorce blues.

But I have a different perspective than most when I hear Bob Barker from "The Price is Right" say, "Spay or Neuter your pets"!
It's great advice!

"Last year about 35,000 cats and dogs were reportedly killed at the five shelters run by New York City’s Center for Animal Care and Control. At least a third of them were healthy and not dangerous. They were killed – euthanized, in the parlance of the field -- because there just wasn’t room for them. This is the way it has been for decades. Every day, as many as 200 animals -- lost, homeless, unwanted, sick or injured – are taken to these shelters. By the end of every week, about two-thirds of them have been put to death."

If you want to read it all:

Although 35,000 is horrible, I'm actually surprised this number isn't larger!


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct about the benefits of neutering and spaying. What a lot of people don't realize is that there are health and behavioral benefits for their pets too - not just the prevention of unwanted litters adding more animals to the pet population when there are already so many older pets being given up to shelters and rescue groups. There's some more information about the benefits of spay/neuter and a nationwide educational effort at http://www.americanpartnershipforpets.org

Thanks for promoting responsible pet care!

Anonymous said...

I could never have brought myself to do the job that you did. 2,000 dogs and cats in one year? That must have been a mssively active region. I care about dogs very much but am allergic to cats -- but I still would find it extremely difficult to kill one deliberately. I remember a day I had to kill a squirrel and I still think about him every once in a while.


Greybeard said...

Actually, as I indicate in the post, this was a relatively rural, small county. I suspect we would both be shocked to hear the numbers from a city like New York or Chicago!
The information may be available online.....if I can find it, I'll update the post.

Anonymous said...

I understand your views on animal owners. This came to light just the other day.

My neighbor, who seems to go through dogs at an alarming rate, has had the same two dogs for more than a year. (Almost a record.) We'd become rather fond of one of the dogs after the dog was hit by a car (he was a car chaser) and we took him to the vet. (The neighbor seemed to think that my husband had hit him and he may have, but my neighbor didn't plan to take him to the vet at all and someone had to do it.) The surgery required to repair his leg would have cost us $2,800 -- a sum we'd spend on our own dog (knowing we'd have him for at least 10 more loving years) but too high to spend on yet another of my neighbor's fly-by-night dogs. The vet said that it could heal on its own or, if it got infected, it might need amputatation. We were prepared to cover the cost of that, if it needed to be done. We got medicine for the dog and brought him back to our neighbor's house. The swelling went down and the dog eventually was able to walk on his bad leg. In fact, he got fast enough to catch and eat birds, even though he never walked or ran quite right again.

Sounds like a happy ending, right? Well, there's more.

About 6 months went by. We were away and when we came back, we noticed that our neighbors only had one dog -- the one with four good legs. My husband asked what had happened to Bo. Our neighbor explained that one of his kids had been playing with the dog's food dish while he was eating and the dog had snapped at the kid. He'd taken the dog "to the farm."

We didn't ask what that meant. But I found out a few days later.

I was at the vet, picking my dog up from an overnight stay, and I saw a flyer with a color photo of a dog on it. FOUND was the title of the flyer. The photo sure looked like Bo.

I called the phone number and asked the woman who answered if the dog had a bad back leg. Sure enough, it was Bo. It appears that my neighbor's idea of "the farm" was a stretch of empty desert about 5 miles from his house, all the way on the other side of town. This is where the woman had found poor Bo, half starved and frightened. In the week she'd had him, she'd grown to love him and had decided to keep him. I told her all about Bo and thanked her for taking him.

I haven't spoken to my neighbor yet, but I will. I have the flyer to show him the evidence of his deed.

But do you want to know the worst part of this story? This neighbor prides himself on being a good "Christian," God-fearing and Jesus-loving.

Frankly, it makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Hey GB:
The smaller than expected numbers for NY could be because of larger numbers of Koreans and Chinese. Those folks certainly know how to control dog and cat populations!