A meditation on Road Kill Fairies and other under-appreciated types

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why doesn't Carroll County have a full-time Animal Control officer? Eureka Springs does have a hard-working part-time officer, but his authority ends at the city limits, and the need is county-wide.

Is this a minor issue? A colleague recently had the bad luck to get crossways with a random stray dog outside town, in the course of his work. He said all the mental preparation one does against such events comes to nothing when it actually happens.

"All you have time to do is think 'Oh f***!' and it's too late," he said, indicating the bite marks on his right forearm.

The tale grows more labyrinthine. Because there was no one else to help search for this dog -- which he described as definitely a stray, feral, not kempt -- our colleague was forced to leave the scene and go deal with having been bitten by a strange dog that no one could locate, because there was no one to locate it. And they never did.

When that happens, you have to get the rabies shots. In the old days, that meant a series of painful injections into the belly button. Thanks to the miracle of modern science, they can now inject you elsewhere. Not that it matters much.

Unfortunately, that assumes the local clinic keeps the whole series of rabies vaccinations on hand, which they do not, necessarily, at all.

Having been bitten by a dog no one could then locate to check for rabies, and having driven all over the tri-county area locating the necessary serums, our colleague then had an allergic reaction to the serum, meaning when he is injected the nurse or doctor has to keep him under observation for several hours afterward lest he die from the serum that is saving him from maybe having the rabies.

At last contact he said he was covered in hives, including particularly inconvenient areas, and is well into the series of injections required to keep him from foaming at the mouth, then dying.

["As an aside," he said, "I used to get migraines really bad, and one of the solutions they tried, unsuccessfully, was to shave my head and then inject my scalp and face with 100 Botox injections, thinking that might alleviate the pain. Those shots had nothing on these rabies injections."]

When you see an unfortunate deer or squirrel or anything in between dead on the road, victim of vehicular homicide, who do you think cleans it up? The Road Kill Fairies? The answer is no. In fact, one of the less pleasant aspects of the part-time Eureka Springs Animal Control officer's job is dispatching those mortally injured in such accidents and then cleaning up the results.

But we need more than we have, one person within the city pushed to his limits by a limited schedule. We need someone county-wide.

One always assumes, foolishly, that steps are in place in the Real World to take care of whatever contingencies we encounter, however rare. But we are foolish to do so, it turns out. So prevention of these contingencies becomes more important.

But how important really is a full-time dog catcher? After all, Eureka has leash laws, and who really cares about some road kill? After all, what are the odds of getting bitten by a rabid skunk or whatever?

Ask our colleague about his rash and hellish injections.

Or read this paper's police report, in which a substantial portion on any given week is devoted to calls about barking dogs, stray dogs, dead deer, injured deer, and other fauna run amuck. And that's just in town.

This is a thankless utilitarian low-glamor job, not one that comes to mind when one considers civic improvements, not one that's "sexy" enough to become someone's platform for running for office or tying up Quorum Court meetings for hours (as such issues tie up our City Council endlessly).

That doesn't mean it isn't important.