All in a day's work

Phill Harnden photos

Stuart McCrary gives Hoser the dog some attention at the animal impound kennels while they wait for someone to adopt the homeless pooch.
By Jen Kocher (
“Dogs have eight hours every day to figure out how to get out of a fenced yard. Some have even figured out how to unlatch the gate.” - Stuart McCrary, Animal Control Officer
Stuart McCrary is hoping to find a rabbit in his live trap as he parks his truck in a driveway of a vacant house in Rolling Hills. The owners, who have since moved away, have been trying to sell it to humans. Instead, they have had reports of wild rabbits infiltrating the grounds. Understandably, that has turned off a few potential would-be-buyers. 
Stuart takes a peek at a woodpile at the north edge of the drive, which he suspects might be harboring rabbits. 
Across the street, a flock of chickens have taken note of Stuart’s truck and decide to wander over to greet him. Led by a stout well-wattled brown rooster, at least a dozen yellow, black and white speckled and red hens click their way across the pavement, followed by a handful of curious miniature guineas.
Stuart shakes his head. Darn chickens. Yesterday one turned up in his rabbit trap. It seems that chickens — along with rabbits and skunks — like the marshmallows he used as bait. When he steps down out of his truck, the chickens squawk at his feet, looking for a snack. He opens his empty hands to show them­: nothing here guys.
The chickens’ owner lets them wander at will with no gate to keep them confined in their yard, which would be a big problem in Glenrock. Out here in Rolling Hills where animal control has a contract with the town, the ordinances are pretty vague, if not altogether nonexistent. 
Technically, Stuart is paid to control cats and dogs only. Putting out live traps for rabbits, skunks and other varmints is an extra service he’s happy to provide. 
He throws in a lot of these “freebies,” everything from rounding up animals­ ­to those that have been wounded or get stuck, like last week when he pried a goat’s head out of a fence.
He took a lot of ribbing from the Chief (Glenrock Police Chief Tim Hurd) for that one. Since then, there have been a lot of joke goat calls from dispatch. “Plenty of baaaaaaad jokes,” he smiles.
“They like to give me a lot of crap.” His trademark smile returns, adding that yesterday he freed a trapped chicken. “I can only imagine what they’d say about that one.”
Since taking over from the former animal control person, Boots Faunce, who held the position for more than 30 years, the role of animal control has been folded into the Glenrock Police Department. He points to a plastic “Junior Glenrock Police Officer” badge he keeps on his dash. He’s not a law officer nor has he had any training, so Chief Hurd blacked out the ‘junior’ with a marker when he gave it to him. They have a lot of fun, Stuart says. Just one of the parts he really loves about the job.
Overall, it’s pretty much his dream job, he says, and he hopes to keep it until retirement.  Some days, in fact, he finds himself slapping the steering wheel because he can’t believe his good luck. After all, how many people truly love their job? He’s pretty much spent his whole life working in some aspect of veterinary medicine and management, beginning back in Arizona when he worked his way through college as a vet tech. Ultimately, he earned a degree in landscape architecture but realized his true love was animals. Since then, despite his degree, his career has revolved around vet medicine and wildlife management. He thinks he’s probably held every position in the field except for actually becoming a veterinarian. 
He warily eyes the chickens as he walks across the driveway to check the trap. Empty. 
He trudges empty-handed back to his truck. He groans as he stretches his leg to make it up the tall step. They lowered the running board for him, he laughs, in a clipped staccato machine-gun way that sounds a lot like Richard Dreyfus. In fact, at under 5’ 10”, he looks a lot like Dreyfus, with an easy going self-depreciating manner that is inherently likeable. He defies all of the pre-conceived notions of the evil dog catcher, particularly, when he’s surrounded by a flock of chickens, who he is trying to coax back home. Unfortunately, there’s nothing he can legally (or realistically) do to herd them one way or another, but still, he frowns as he starts up his truck and pulls out slowly, checking back on them periodically through his rearview mirror.
He’s still scratching his head about those rabbits, though, which he thinks are probably someone’s domestic pets that have been turned loose, and he’s not quite sure what to do with them when they’re eventually found. Wild rabbits, like the skunks,  possum, raccoons and other animals he catches in his traps, are set free away from homes. Domesticated rabbits pose a bit of a problem; he’ll have to talk to a few people about that.
He admits he’s got a big heart for animals. The worst part of the job is the dispensing of wounded animals or picking up road kill. He hates to see a dead animal and takes his job of catching loose animals seriously, even if it means stopping to help herd free-roaming cattle, horses or sheep. 
Today, there are not any loose animals to be found as he cranes his head and slowly creeps along the quiet web of twisty streets en route  to his next stop, a house from where he received a complaint of barking dogs early that morning.
He pulls into the driveway and kills the engine. With his window partially rolled down, the muffled barking of dogs from within the closed house breaks the silence. 
“Barking dogs are a major problem,” he says, reaching for a can of pepper spray before he jumps out of his truck and heads to the front door. Pepper spray is his only defense, although legally he is allowed to carry a gun. He doesn’t see a need for it; he’s had good luck calling for back up when he’s needed it. Typically, he finds pepper spray does the trick. Once he had to spray a charging dog.
Another time he kept it handy when an owner threatened to sic his dog on him. “Luckily, it was a chihuahua.” 
The muffled barking from inside continues, which is perfectly understandable, according to Stuart, given that he’s standing at their front door. The trouble is the barking when they’re out in the yard in the early morning. Unfortunately, he has to hear it in order to issue the owner a warning or ticket. Plus, the barking has to be of the nature of a valid complaint, which is, of course, a subjective call, thus adding to the gray zone. In this case, the dogs were reportedly barking at 5:30 a.m., but Stuart didn’t hear about it until 9. For now, he’s going to leave the owner a warning.
For most owners, a warning is enough, according to Stuart, though sometimes it takes a ticket or two. But not always. Some people just don’t care.
Dogs running around neighborhoods are the second biggest complaint, behind barking. He gets a lot of these, particularly in Glenrock, where this summer he’s been kept  hopping. On average, he gets about 30 calls or complaints per month, sometimes up to three a day.
Because Boots wasn’t part of the police department, and didn’t have to keep meticulous log books, he has no way of knowing if this summer was extraordinary busy, if the problem is getting worse, or if it’s always been bad.
From his perspective, it’s definitely a full-time job and he can spend an entire afternoon just rounding up dogs.
Stuart has his ‘hot’ neighborhoods known for its outlaw dogs, so he visits them almost every day.
“Dogs have eight hours every day to figure out how to get out of a fenced yard,” he says, squinting up the street. “Some have even figured out how to unlatch the gate.”
Typically, it’s just a case of a dog getting loose and running free, which annoys neighbors, particularly when the renegades use gardens and yards for their bathroom or interrupt a peaceful walk. Luckily, though, Stuart says that the cases of dog bites or attacks are gratefully rare.
That said, they happen, and in fact, he is currently taking one Glenrock dog owner to court because the dog has jumped the back fence and gone after several residents, including Stuart. Repeated warnings and tickets have done nothing to help, he said, so court is the next step.
The rules for dog owners are very clear in section 5 of town ordinances, which briefly state among a long list of other rules, that all dogs must be licensed, confined to a yard and well cared for.
Most owners are good about this, but just like some parents, others don’t care, according to Stuart, who encourages everybody to call in a complaint. Unless he hears about it, he cannot do anything to help. He shakes his head at the notion of rumors of packs of menacing wild dogs threatening neighbors and attacking other pets or dogs. He has yet to see any. Typically, if a dog gets loose they might encourage other dogs to get loose and join but usually they are just hanging out and having fun as runaways.
If he catches them, though, he’ll either call the owner or take them back to impound. Right now, there are two dogs and a stray cat at the impound. At times, he’s had a full house, filling all five kennels.
These two dogs have been here for a couple weeks. One, a spastic chihuahua which he picked up after Deer Creek Days, when he suspects a puppy mill had been peddling dogs and left this one behind when it got loose. The dog jumps up and down as Stuart reaches his fingers through the gate to give him a pet. 
“He’s got cage fever,” Stuart says. “He needs to find a good home.”
The other resident — a blue healer mix named Hoser — has earned Stuart’s respect for his Wile E. Coyote-like behavior. Stuart had been tracking this dog for several days until finally trailing him one day for six-and-a half hours, at which point Hoser still managed to escape. He even tried to capture him with a bowl of dog food in a live trap, but Hoser wouldn’t even get close.
Stuart suspects that someone drove in from the country and dumped him in town, allowing Hoser to wander the streets until he found a home. In this case, a homeowner had put out some water and food for the dog, and Hoser eventually curled up and started sleeping inside the coils of a wrapped up water hose. Hence, his name. Stuart finally caught Hoser after the homeowner threw a piece of jerky into the cage, at which point Hoser followed it in. 
“He’s been abused, no doubt,” Stuart said. It’s taken Hoser weeks to let him get close. Now, Stuart’s a bit hooked, but he’s been doing this long enough now to have grown a thicker skin. He’s already got two dogs of his own at home and one cat, a former feral kitten that he trapped.
That’s another problem in town. He catches a lot of feral cats, which are taken from him by a local woman who has them spayed and neutered before adopting them out as barn cats.
Feral cats can’t be domesticated but kittens stand a chance, so Stuart will try to adopt them out if he can.
As for his nemesis Hoser, he’s still hoping he can find him a good home. He owes him that much. Hoser’s earned his respect.
“He’s the only dog that has ever beaten me,” Stuart says, shaking his head while he pats Hoser on the head. Hoser takes a tentative step back before stepping forward and flopping down on Stuart’s feet.
“I don’t know whether to love him or  hate him,” he laughs, bending down to let Hoser give him a wet lick on the face.


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

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