Doug McCroskey Jr. is the Ohio County Dog Warden, Humane Officer, and the Shelter Director at the Ohio County Animal Shelter, and has been for the past 19 years.
Not everyone appreciates his job at Ohio County Animal Control; in fact, Doug said that his is the kind of position where people either love him and thank him, or hate him, but it’s a job that he calls “a way of life.” It’s a job that operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Someone is always on call, day or night.
“This is what I’ll do until I can’t do it anymore,” Doug said. “The day that I get up and can’t do it anymore, or when I get out of bed and don’t want to get up and come to work, that’s when I’ll quit.” Even when he’s on vacation, he says he’d rather be back here working. “That’s the way I feel about this job,” he added.
On any given day, Doug might be running the shelter, going out on a call about a loose animal, or investigating animal cruelty cases. And no call is ever the same.
After 19 years, he says he could fill a book with all of the stories he’s collected, most of them good ones.
For example, one of his favorite rescue stories to tell is one time when he rescued a German Shepherd from the edge of a cliff off of Route 2. He said the dog, who was probably dumped there by someone, was 120-125 feet off the ground on the edge of the cliff, and it took about 15 hours through the night to get to the dog and get it calmed down enough to be able to rescue it. They had to go home and cook up pork chops and chicken in an effort to get the dog to trust them, but finally, around 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning, they got the dog to safety. The dog, later named Girl, was soon adopted by a local woman and lived a happy life.
He’s gone just about everywhere to rescue animals: in Big Wheeling Creek, the frozen Ohio River, and through sewer drains. He’s taken apart porches and decks to get to trapped animals underneath.
“There was a kitten one time; it was probably only about 4 weeks old,” he said. “There was a vacant house on Wheeling Island. You know on Wheeling Island everything sits up because of the floods. It had a block porch that was probably about 8 feet high, and there were holes in the block where once the water comes up, the water can come back out of those holes. Somebody had taken this little kitten and thrown it into one of those holes in that cement block porch.”
The kitten was called in by a local mail carrier, and when they went in, they were stumped as to how to get the kitten out. Luckily, he said, the owner of the house showed up, and they were able to take apart the cement porch—and put it right back together again—to rescue the kitten.
“It was a good story,” Doug said, “but a lot of work for that one!”
And though it’s most of what they do, they don’t only rescue dogs and cats. They’ll go into homes and businesses to help get trapped wildlife like squirrels or raccoons out.
“We’ve dealt with animals from A-Z,” Doug said.
They caught a stray calf running loose on Chapel Hill, a pig, and loose goats and sheep, most of which ended up getting claimed by their owners. One winter night, a woman transporting a bunch of piranhas got into a car accident on Interstate 70, and the piranhas were housed at the shelter until she was released from the hospital and could take them back. They’ve had all kinds of birds, a couple of pythons, and Doug has even gone on a couple of alligator calls—though he has yet to catch one himself, he added. One night, he had to walk a loose horse over four miles from Elm Grove to the shelter in the middle of the night. One time, he said they caught “the biggest snapping turtle I’ve ever seen” sitting in the middle of a sidewalk lunging at people, and they released it into Big Wheeling Creek.
They’ve rescued a lot of animals over the years, and returned hundreds of loose animals back to their owners, but still not everyone looks at the shelter or Animal Control positively. Doug said that there are people who call him a murderer, or a dog catcher, and call the shelter a dog pound.
“Years ago, with the old dog catcher and the old dog pound, that’s all gone. Nobody calls them dog catchers or dog pounds anymore. They’re shelters, and people need to move on and get with the times,” he said. “You can walk through here any day of the week, and you won’t smell a bunch of animal smells, you won’t see animals laying injured in cages, you won’t see animals laying in their own feces, here.”
Thanks to the dedicated employees of the shelter, the shelter is cleaned and kept up daily, and the animals are clean, healthy, fed, and taken care of.
“Most people that talk have no clue who I am and wouldn’t even know me to see me. They have no clue what my job entails,” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I know what the job I do is, and I know what it means to me. As long as I go home and the animal goes home safe everyday, then I’ve done my job.”
Doug said that some people’s negative opinion of shelters is why he refused to put the Ohio County Animal Shelter on Facebook for many years.
“No matter what you do, someone’s going to be derogatory,” he said. “And shelters have a hard enough time finding homes for animals; they don’t need that added stress.”
Once they took a chance and added a Facebook page, though, the shelter’s adoptions “went through the roof” and have been up ever since.
According to Doug, “The animals have to come first because people can basically take care of themselves, one way or the other. But an animal can’t. An animal can’t make its own food. An animal can’t open its own door. So, that’s why the animal has to come first.”
(Photos by Hannah Mason)