BOOKS: The Secret Life of Dog Catchers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  May/June 2013:

The Secret Life of Dog Catchers: An animal control officer’s passion to make a difference by Shirley Zindler 2270 Gravenstein Highway South,  Sebastopol,  CA  95472 https://www.createspace.com/4096859?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026 250 pages,  paperback.  $18.00.

One New Year’s Day,  rain flooded Rohnert Park,  California.  The county animal shelter was closed,  but Sonoma County animal control officer Shirley Zindler worked emergency calls.  “Muddy, rapidly rising water swirled and eddied around the small sandbar where the old dog lay,”  recalls Zindler in The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.  The senior dog, wet and cold, had obviously struggled to pull herself onto a dry sliver of land as the raging creek almost swallowed her up.  Sizing up the precarious situation,  Zinder realized there was a nearby fire station.  Within minutes four firefighters arrived in a truck and pulled the dog to safety. No day is the same for Zindler.  Some rescues are routine,  such as picking up an abandoned dog,  while others are like a call Zindler answered and arrived to find,  “the place was swarming with police and SWAT guys.”  Every resident was arrested.  No one told Zindler why,  but she presumed drugs or other illicit activity were involved.  Left behind was an aggressive pit bull.  Police watched Zindler approach the snarling dog,  ready to shoot.  Zindler managed to snare the dog with her catch pole and led him to her truck with reassuring words.

Zindler often receives calls about cockfighting,  but catching cockfighters in the act and collecting sufficient evidence to prosecute them is often difficult.  But Zindler on one occasion led a raid that brought 52 arrests and found $34,000 in cash at the scene.  She suffered an arm laceration while capturing the birds that required sutures at the local emergency room.

On another memorable occasion an after-hours caller demanded that Zindler pick up an elderly stray dog he had found.  Zindler explained that she only responds to emergency calls overnight.  The caller insisted the dog was old and abused and might not live until morning. Zindler arrived to find a senior dog with an identification tag.  She asked the finder if he had called the number on the tag.

Insulted,  the man asked why he would return an old abused dog to someone who obviously dumped her?  Zindler loaded the old dog into her truck,  dialed the phone number,   and reached a very worried pet keeper.  “I took her out to go potty in the front yard and got distracted for a moment,”  the keeper explained.  “When I looked,  she was gone.”

The Secret Life of Dog Catchers is a fast paced story with a lot of heart and soul,  even if Zindler neglects to give the complete dates and locations of her cases.  The archives of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat confirmed the details of Zindler’s big cockfighting bust,  however:  it occurred on March 6,  2009. ––Debra J. White

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