The secret life of dog catchers is revealed
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By Mickey Zeldes  March 7, 2014 12:00 am

Did you know we have a celebrity animal control officer in our county? Shirley Zindler has been with the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control since 2001, the last 10 years as an officer.

In 2012 she published a book that is a compilation of short stories telling about her adventures and various situations she had to deal with as an officer, appropriately titled “The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.” It is interesting, well written and really enjoyable. I learned a lot about what an officer does and even picked up a few tips that might come in handy at my shelter.

What comes through loud and clear, though, is Shirley’s compassion and passion for animals and people. I think everyone who has worked in this field has at one time or another had someone say to them, “I could never do what you do, I love animals too much.” What does that mean? That we don’t? Yes, if we were overly sentimental and sensitive we probably couldn’t stomach some of what we have to do. But it is because we love animals that we choose to work with, and for them, every single day. I always want to ask those people “so what are you doing to help them?” Crying hasn’t saved a single animal.

I love that Shirley has described a full gamut of the type of calls an animal control officer has to face. She has dealt with wildlife problems, cock fights, pit bulls, pit bull owners, people appreciative that she’s rescued their pets, people angry that she’s impounded their pets, injured animals, abused horses…the list goes on and on. Certainly she’s had experiences that I would never have thought an animal control officer would have to deal with. Some are scary, some are sad, lots are happy. Each story has a message. I would be interested to know if that’s apparent to the average reader or if I’m just seeing it because of my connection to the work.

Although, of course, Shirley got to pick which stories to include, and she comes off looking quite the hero in many of the situations, she is honest about the dangers, the falls and injuries, the late night calls and sleepless nights, as well as the physical energy required in the job. If you are at all considering a career in animal control (or have a teen that might be interested), or are just curious about the job and what it entails, I highly recommend this book. It should be required reading for anyone applying for that job to see if they have that level of compassion and the stomach for all aspects of the work. You can order a copy from Amazon for just $11.66. Shirley is donating part of the proceeds from this book back to animal welfare organizations – of course.

What I like best is that every short chapter is a separate story, so you can read it in little bits. We’re thinking of incorporating some of the stories into our camp program and giving the kids a taste of a day in the life of an animal control officer. Despite the title of the book, they really don’t like to be called dog catchers anymore. And after reading this book, you can see the name dog catcher doesn’t even begin to cover the depth of experiences they deal with on a daily basis. My hat is off to them for a good job. Our county is lucky to have officers like Shirley out there protecting us and our animals.

 

Upcoming events

• Bunny Day is the second Saturday of each month (next one is Saturday, March 8), 1-5 p.m., at the shelter. Meet our adorable adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable volunteers, bring your bunny for a free nail trim, and shop our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, fun toys and fabulous deals on supplies.

 

• No more lost pets: Free pet ID tags and microchips for all Rohnert Park and Cotati animals. Stop by the shelter during our open hours to protect your pet: Wednesday, 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.

 

• Fix-it clinics: Cats altered for free and dogs are just $60 for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents.

 

Call 588-3531and leave a message for our volunteer to call you back for an appointment. Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.

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