Dave Boyd retires as animal control officer
Dave Boyd really wanted to be a veterinarian.
But vet school at UC Davis was expensive and the prestigious university program was difficult to get in to.
“So I became a dogcatcher instead,” he says with a smile – and no regrets.
Boyd recently hung up his badge after 27 years as a Kern County animal control officer – the last 11 in Taft.
And, counting the 11 years and a day he worked as an animal control officer in the city of Delano, Boyd has 38 years of service.
“I took a two week break after leaving Delano and went to the county,” he said from his recliner in his Valley Acres home while being protected by three pooches he rescued while on duty. He and his wife, Cheryl, have seven dogs in all – and a lot of chickens.
“I’ve never really been a city guy,” he said.
After working rural Bakersfield and five years in the metropolitan area, Boyd was transferred to Taft.
A friendly place
“My first question was, ‘where the hell is Taft,’” he said. “They told me to just get a map and follow the roads to Taft.
He did and says it was the best move he ever made.
“The people here were so friendly. People I didn’t know were saying hello. I felt welcome right away.”
Boyd loved every aspect of the job with one possible exception.
“People. I never had any problems with the animals, but some of the people I encountered were problems.”
He’s been yelled at more times than he can count.
“Some people are pretty foul-mouthed,” he said. “I’ve had a few people threaten to kick my butt.”
None ever tried.
The job had plenty of rewards.
One of them came after one of his last calls before retiring – a small stray discovered off Lerdo Highway having difficulty giving birth. It was Valentine’s Day.
“She was really in distress,” he recalled. “I could see the nose of a puppy but it was stuck.”
So he put it in his truck and headed for the shelter in Bakersfield.
“I could hear her screaming in the back of the truck so I radioed ahead and told them to have the veterinarian we have on duty at the pound to get ready.”
The response was to take the dog to a private vet hospital in Bakersfield.
“I told them if they didn’t have our vet ready I was pulling to the side of the road and putting her to sleep. They said, OK, bring her in.”
Boyd said he got to witness the county vet perform a C-section.
“The puppy that was in the birth canal didn’t make it, but the other two did,” he said. “The female had a heart-shaped black spot on her so we named her Valentine. The male was named cupid and the mother dog Venus. They all went to a rescue group in Tehachapi and found good homes.
“I was pretty happy. It was one of the last calls I had and one of the best ones because it had such a good ending.”
Too often they didn’t.
The worst calls were responding to animal hoarders.
“I can remember having to go into buildings with 20 or 30 dogs or cats – some of them dead – ankle-deep in feces, crawling under buildings with roaches falling on me and batting away black widow spiders. Those were the worst.
Boyd believes call like those have caused him respiratory problems.
“We didn’t have respirators,” he said. “I think that contributed to my COPD.”
His most unique call was corralling reptiles, like the 15-foot, 300-pound python that resulted from a marijuana bust in Frazier Park.
There were other reptiles too, snakes and lizards. And a cat. And 400 pot plants.
Oh, and explosives under a bed.
“Aw, it’s all just part of the job,” Boyd said.
He said the stupidest thing he did was whack a bear across the fanny with a board.
“There was a bear in a tree in Frazier Park,” he recalled. “Fish and Game said they were on their way and told me not to let the bear out of the tree.”
The critter started to shinny down anyway.
“So I grabbed a board and smacked it on the behind,” he said. “It didn’t pay any attention. It climbed down and ran off into the woods. When I told the Fish and Game guys what I did, the said, ‘you did what?’”
Boyd recalled the day a cow taught him how to fly.
“Livestock calls had the most potential for getting hurt,” he said.
It was a 1,800-pound steer – with horns.
Boyd’s good friend and former boss Jim McCall remembered the incident well.
“Dave tried to get the steer to move by darting at it,” he said. “That little sucker just snorted and took out after Dave.”
Boyd wasted no time making tracks.
“It was a big old red steer,” he said. “They say a fat man can’t run. Well, just get a steer after them. I never looked back.”
But one thing he does look back on with fondness is his 38-year career as an animal control officer.
“Let’s just say it was never ever boring. Each call had a little different twist to it.”