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Shes got a doggone good job
Ripon restores 100% dedicated animal control officer
Three Ripon Police community officers keep a watchful eye on the city animal shelter with Alexandra Queen, center, now taking on the majority of the workload. Liz Fork, left, and Christina Caro have been sharing the duties during the economic downturn along with their other assignments. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Alexandra Queen is the first 100 percent dedicated animal control officer in Ripon since the budget cuts of 2010 that split the duties between two of the police department’s community service officers.

Liz Forks and Christina Caro have had the added duties of looking out for the city’s animal population in the past three years in addition to their other assignments in supporting the police department’s functions both in the office and out on the streets.

All the city’s uniformed community service officers are cross-trained to handle a myriad of duties every day but they have had only so many hours to devote to animal control.

Ripon’s officers are known for searching for the owners when they pick up a stray with a license.  They most often will call the home and alert the family they have their dog and tell them when they can go to the shelter and retrieve the animal – easing anxious minds over the missing pet.

Fork, who has acted as Queen’s field training officer since Feb. 12, said the shelter is now going to be more accessible to the public.  During those three years it was closed all too much, she said.

Even so, Queen is working part-time Monday through Friday from 10 until 3 in the afternoon and will operate out of the shelter on Doak Boulevard on the southern perimeter of the city.

The new pound master said she grew up having mostly border collies of her own, remembering her first that won an obedience award at a county fair.  Its name was Desmond.  She now admits to sharing her family with two dogs and one cat – an animal lover at heart.

One of her dogs, Sebastian, is a trained service dog that handles his duties well, making a difference when it counts, she said.

Queen said she wants to boost the “no kill rate” for animals at the shelter by getting more adopted and by using more volunteers at the shelter.  Two rabbits that were found in the Cornerstone and North Ripon Road area have touched her heart – and at Easter time, too.

She told of a young raccoon that was caught in a trap last week in Stouffer Park on the east side of the community.  Queen took the animal back down to the Stanislaus River Riparian Forest area and let it out back into the wild.

“It was beautiful to behold watching the raccoon running back into the area along the river,” she said.

First Sergeant Steve Merchant is in charge of supervising the animal shelter, saying the city is attempting to upgrade the facility and its service after having it on a back burner for several years.  The concrete floors have been painted and an adoption room has been added where those wanting to take a pet home can have time with it alone to see how they bond together.

There are cat toys and dog toys in the room with climbing towers for the felines when they are let out of their cages.

Stressing the importance of basic obedience training for dogs, Queen said that at the very least the staff attempts to teach leash training and show the dogs how to sit down.  She told of Gertie Isaia who volunteers when time allows to teach mostly the younger dogs obedience.

“She even teaches them to stop before they go through a doorway,” the officer said. 

“Sitting is so important because when a dog is sitting it can’t jump up on you and it can’t be knocking something off a table with its tail.  Also, it can’t run out the front door if it is sitting down,” she said.

“The sit command is basic!”

When a dog comes with some basic training, it is more likely to be adopted by a family, the three officers agreed.

Sgt. Steve Merchant noted that the Escalon Animal Control facility is finding more venues for Ripon to be able to adopt its animals out – venues that weren’t aware existed.

The current population of the Ripon pound includes 18 dogs and up to 19 cats.  There are six Chihuahua puppies also up for adoption.  A unique Scottish Fold feline that brings a high price at pet shops is also available. 

The shelter is located next to the base of a massive television tower that reaches skyward with the big vertical letters signifying Ripon up on its steel girders.