Herald correspondent Nick Delgado recently spent time with Harker Heights animal control officer Nadine Blair. This is the third in a series of articles on “A Day in the Life” of various Heights occupations.
11 a.m.: Part-time shift
There’s a slight chill in the air, but for the most part it’s a nice sunny day when I report for work at the Pet Adoption Center to shadow a Harker Heights animal control officer on her afternoon chores.
Loud barks and a smell of feces fill the air as I enter the building to meet my partner for the day, Nadine Blair. A five-year animal control officer, Blair starts her eight-hour shift at 7 a.m., cleaning out cages at the shelter and prepping for her daily calls. By the time I arrive, she has received clearance for me to jump in the animal control truck and accompany her around the city.
11:20 a.m.: First retrieval
Before pulling out of the parking lot, we radio in to the shelter that we’re headed to the Pleasant View Mobile Home Park to pick up a “cat in a trap.” Each activity conducted during our runs is manually logged on a daily events sheet.
While searching for the residence, we drive by a woman holding a toddler’s hand and walking on the side of the road. She immediately flags us down, saying there’s a big dog roaming around the park.
11:30 a.m.: The chase begins
We hop out of the truck and scan the area. We spot the canine about two mobile homes away. It’s a chocolate Labrador, Blair said, trying to get close to the dog. But the dog just walks in the opposite direction.
“Sometimes the dogs know every little outlet and it becomes hard to get it,” she said. “Believe it or not, they know the sound of our truck.”
As we drive around the park, we find the house that made the “cat in a trap” report. Blair quickly snatches up the trap with the feline and loads it in the truck. “We take the animals to the shelter and then we return the traps,” she said. “A lot of people buy their own traps because we have such a long waiting period.”
The department has five traps in its inventory, and citizens are allowed to borrow them for up to seven days at a time.
We continue our search for the roaming Labrador.
“Usually, if you cannot get the dogs in 10 minutes then you are not going to get it,” Blair said.
11:37 a.m.: More dogs on the loose
Searching for the chocolate Lab, we run into a corgi mix and a chihuahua walking around the front yard of one of the mobile homes. Blair knocks on the door, someone opens it and the dogs rush inside. However, the owner is cited for “dog at large” and ordered to bring documentation to the shelter within three days to show proof of the dogs’ rabies vaccinations.
“No matter what, anytime an animal is out and you don’t have an enclosure, they need to be on a leash,” Blair said.
We head next door where the chocolate Lab is standing on the porch of a mobile home with a confederate flag in the window and a security camera facing the entrance. No one is home, but the setup makes Blair a bit suspicious of the owners.
She pulls out a metal catchpole, and we inch our way closer to the dog. But halfway across the road, the Labrador charges and we immediately retreat.
11:50 a.m.: Call for help
Blair calls for backup so no one will get hurt, she said. “He will bite. It’s easier when you have another officer with you.”
When the other officer arrives, we throw snacks to the dog. It doesn’t budge and starts barking at us instead. The owner returns and is given a citation for “dog at large.”
“You never know what to expect with this job,” she said.
12:08 p.m.: Animals in traps
After a longer-than-expected stay in the mobile home park, we radio in that we are headed to South Ann Boulevard to pick up another “cat in a trap.”
We grab that trap and drive to Forrest Hill to pick up another trapped animal — a raccoon. We load it and head to Bobcat Circle for a “possum in a trap.”
12:41 p.m.: Road kill
Blair remembers a dead cat along Indian Trail that we need to pick up. When we arrive, some birds are having a feast but Blair quickly puts the cat in a bag. Before heading back to the shelter, we radio in that we are going to Cedar Gap Park to release the raccoon and possum. In preparation, Blair gives me advice. “If they turn around and try to chase you, then jump on the hood,” she said. The advice was not needed, as the animals quickly ran into the woods.
1:05 p.m.: New home
We get back to the shelter and unload two cats. Blair shows me how new arrivals get bowls of food and water, litter boxes and their own cages. In a few days, the cats will go up for adoption.
1:15 p.m.: Break time
We stop by Mickey’s on Veteran’s Memorial Boulevard for a quick lunch. Blair said animal control officers also pick up wild animals such as armadillos and skunks. “For the skunks, you take a blanket and walk up with it and set it over the trap,” she said. “It was horrible when I got sprayed one time and could smell it for weeks on me.”
1:29 p.m.: Back to work
For the next hour, we return the traps we picked up earlier and patrol the city for stray animals. Before heading back to the shelter, we get one more “cat in a trap” call. Blair warns me to stay very quiet during this retrieval, as some residents tend to keep officers longer than they should by telling random stories.
2:30 p.m.: Animal morgue
We place the newly retrieved cat in a cage with food, water and cat litter. Then Blair shows me the cooler where dead animals are placed.
3 p.m.: Done for the day
There are four animal control officers for the entire city, Blair said, and they are dedicated to keeping the community safe, especially from aggressive animals. Blair reminds the community to be cautious when spotting wild animals. “Just let animal control handle it so they don’t take the chance of getting bit and then animals end up running away.”