If time has taught me anything, it's that three decades really isn't all that impressive a length of time. Trends change, children grow and change, I change my underwear, but people generally stay the same.
In the past forty years our society has mastered television remotes and online banking. We've learned to set TiVo to record our favorite shows while we're out surfing free WiFi at Starbucks on our smart phones, downloading digital music to our iCloud accounts, and uploading video files to YouTube. But none of that changes the fact we still laugh at fart jokes, talking animals, and video clips of men getting hit in the crotch with sundry items. If we've really advanced so much, then why was "The Three Stooges" one of last month's top-grossing movies?
So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that our public institutions also remain mired in their old ways. Now don't go fretting that I'm about to jump off into a diatribe about bank scandals or corrupt politicians. I'm thinking a little closer to home than that, like our local Animal Control center.
Back when My Lovely Wife was a child, she was attacked and bitten by a neighborhood Collie. When her mother called Animal Control for help corraling the dog so it could be tested for rabies, the Animal Control experts told her she would have to catch the animal herself before they could run tests. So much for "animal control." She tried her best, using some of the finest cuts of meat from her freezer, but the beast evaded capture (and probably put on a few pounds).
In the end, frustrated and contemptuous, my mother-in-law called Animal Control and informed them, in no uncertain terms: "I didn't run for Dog Catcher. You did." Then she promised to call their office every time she spotted the animal, no matter what time of day or night. They arrived shortly thereafter and hauled the dog off for testing.
Just the other night, while we were out taking our poodle, Lily, for her final walk of the evening, a neighbor's massive dog tore out of its yard, grabbed Lily in its powerful jaws and flipped her three feet into the air. The attacking dog, a thick-bodied creature that looks like a mix between bulldog and pitbull, was going for the tried and true snap of the neck, but fortunately for Lily it managed to grab only her ear. Although for a split second it looked like it was going to take another shot at finishing the job, the dog ran back to its house without inflicting further injury.
Long story short, Lily is okay. Two small puncture wounds at the base of the ear and $100 in vet bills later, she is back to her spunky self.
Our first reaction was to speak with the family. Without going into great detail, I am satisfied they understand what they did wrong and have accepted full responsibility for it. Many apologies have been offered and promises the dog will not be allowed to run free again. Even so, it occurred to us two days later we should have reported the incident. After all, if they don't live up to their promises, next time it could be one of the neighborhood kids that gets attacked.
When I called Animal Control, the woman at first seemed mildly confused by what I was trying to do. Yes, I had to repeat twice, I wanted to report an incident of one dog attacking another. She started take my information, then stopped to ask one of her coworkers what to do.
"How do I fill out a report of a dog attacking another dog?" I heard her whisper.
Surely, I couldn't be the first resident of the county to file a report with Animal Control such an incident? The very name of the institution suggests it is staffed by people responsible for controlling the behavior of animals, yet the staffer answering the phone doesn't understand why I'm calling to report an out-of-control animal. The story of my mother-in-law's experience drifted through my mind. I wondered in what way they would put the responsibility of policing this matter back on to me.
The woman found the proper form, however, and took my report. One of their investigators would be following up. It seems Animal Control has, indeed, advanced a little since the 1980s.
© 2012 Mark Feggeler