Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tales From A Dog Catcher

Lisa Duffy-Korpics

2009, The Lyons Press (Globe Pequot)

A collection of anecdotes from the author's career in the 1980s-1990s as a young animal officer in the police department of a small city in New York state. She encounters a serial killer Great Dane mix, a Houdini Wheaten Terrier, a pair of curious raccoons, a flock of turkeys and assorted other animals wild and domestic.

The story of Manny, a streetwise Dane mix whose hobby seems to be to entice other dogs to play in traffic with lethal results, is chilling. The story of a groundhog who pulls a fast one inside the author's police car is hysterical. Most of the other tales are pleasant but predictable, and suffer from the author's perspective as a very young woman at the time.

A few stories - the Schnauzer depressed after his owner's death, the German Shepherd condemmed to death for biting a kid - are classic animal story pathos of misunderstood creatures, heartless owners and caring but powerless animal professionals. The Schnauzer story in particular annoyed me. The dead man's relations claimed the Schnauzer, an aged but relatively healthy dog, was aggressive toward anyone but the owner, and wanted the dog euthanized. The author and various coworkers, whose experience of the dog was limited to seeing it A) grief-stricken over its owner's corpse and B) depressed after the owner was taken away, quickly jump on the bandwagon that the dog, who hasn't shown them any aggression, is a great dog and the relatives are heartless jerks who want to euthanize the dog to tie up loose ends. Maybe. Or maybe the dog was always a jerk when the owner was around. I've known several dogs who were snotty when their owners were around but butter wouldn't melt in their mouths when Mommy or Daddy are absent. The relatives genuinely may not have believed the dog could change. And the dog may have been responding to the energy of a bunch of cops, all of whom are likely not shrinking violets, and wisely deciding not to act up, wheras back in a normal household he'd have reverted.

She does make one interesting observation, however, when a dying man giving up his pet cat to the shelter comments that the kind of person who adopts an animal from a shelter is going to be the kind of person who takes care of the animal.

I had never thought of it that way. I had always been fixated on trying to take care of everything myself, using the shelter as a last resort. I hadn't thought about the people who go to the shelter and deliberately choose to adopt a pet that didn't have a home. There were many of them. I saw them there all the time, yet I hadn't given them a second thought.... In some ways I had blinders on, with the single goal of controlling everything myself. Even if my intentions were good, it was emotionally exhausting. It was selfish, even narcissistic of me to think that I was the only one who could make things better.

A common issue in shelter and rescue is the volunteer who has the good intentions and love of animals, but whose actions tend to be so controlling, so convinced that only they truly care, that they can end up doing their organization more harm than good.

Overall, an enjoyable book, and one adorable cover dog.


Author blog

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