Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Kelly Pettinger’s tenure as an animal control officer for the City of Brandon came to an end in grand fashion on Sept. 9, with friends, family and co-workers coming together to celebrate his 28 and a half years on the job.
Pettinger told the Sun this past Friday that he spent his last day wrapping up some final calls, while also making room for cake at Brandon Police Service headquarters.
To cap everything off, BPS provided Pettinger with a full police escort back home, giving the 63-year-old the chance to ride shotgun in the department’s new armoured rescue vehicle.
"I think there was about three police cars in front and three or four bylaws cars that went in back," he said. "They had their lights going for an old dog catcher … that was quite something."
Pettinger revealed that all these retirement festivities on Sept. 9 brought up a bunch of conflicting emotions, since the decision to step away from a role that defined so much of his adult life wasn’t easy.
"There’s so many things on the job that I will miss," he said. "But there does come a time in life where you know it’s time to go and let someone else take over."
Pettinger’s career with the City of Brandon originally started in 1986, where he spent a lot of his time maintaining local greenspace and sports facilities as a member of the recreation department.
However, that all changed in the winter of 1991, when Pettinger spotted a job ad for an animal control officer and decided to apply, having always harboured an ambition to work with animals.
"I jumped at that immediately and I got myself a copy of the bylaws and all the rules and regulations for animals in the city and I studied that, inside and out," he said.
Over the next 28 years, Pettinger said his position as a bylaw officer rarely provided a dull moment, since he was consistently called to trap, rescue or wrangle all manner of creatures, not just stray dogs and cats.
This included salamanders in toilets, rats in apartment buildings, skunks in garbage bins, birds in car engines and beavers along the Assiniboine River.
In fact, Pettinger said that one of the most memorable moments from his over 28-year career involved removing a pair of moose from J.R. Reid School grounds in June 2012, a feat that required backup from his colleagues in Manitoba Conservation and local law enforcement.
"There’s been a number of times we’ve had moose in the city, but that was one time where we had to get all those resources involved and the animals had to be tranquilized and moved out in a cattle trailer," he said.
Despite the sometimes dangerous nature of his work, Pettinger is glad to report that he never sustained a serious injury in the line of duty, although there were some close calls.
"There’s been the odd dog that’s been very aggressive. You get the odd pit bull and Rottweiler, and (German) Shepherds are really protective as well," he said. "A lot of times you have to use snare poles on dogs, but I’ve been very fortunate that I was never really bit."
Even though he loves this kind of work, Pettinger admitted that are some aspects of the job that he will not mind stepping away from, like dealing with bad pet owners repeatedly and scraping roadkill off the highway.
"We’d get close to 50 to 75 deer a year that were hit within city limits," he said. "A lot of the time the deer were still alive with broken legs, so they had to be put down."
Now that he has had some time to properly transition into retirement, Pettinger told the Sun on Friday that he’s still keeping busy.
Not only is Pettinger performing steady maintenance work for the Brandon chapter of Youth for Christ, but he’s also taking the time to better explore the great outdoors with his wife Michele.
"I love to hunt and I love to fish and I just love the outdoors, hiking and camping, and I want to do more of that," he said.
Currently, the city in the process of hiring a new bylaw officer to join their ranks following Pettinger’s retirement.
Pettinger said the ideal candidate to replace him should, above all else, exercise patience and respect while performing their duties, especially when it comes to dealing with pet owners in the field and the higher-ups back at home base.
"Don’t get excited with people and always stay cool and relaxed because it’s quite easy at times to get upset," he said. "But the biggest thing is: make sure you put in a full day’s work and respect the authority over top of you."
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
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