The Best Dog Catcher in History: Megan

Many years ago I was privileged to train the finest and hardest working dog catcher on the planet. She had all the markings of a fine officer. She was young, enthusiastic, agile and seemed to have an instinctive grasp of canine behavior. She could catch dogs that were thought to be “uncatchable”, stand up to threatening canines and win the heart of the most antagonistic citizen, all in the same morning. Her name was Megan.

Megan’s career started when I was working as an animal control officer for the city of Everett, Washington. One day I told my director that I needed a partner. On the rare occasions when two officers worked together the results were far better than when two individual officers worked alone. Knowing that there was no money in the budget for a new officer, I proposed something unusual – why not “adopt” one from the kennels? I explained that while adding a human partner would certainly be an improvement, I desired a partner that possessed unique attributes, such as four feet, a wet nose and a wagging tail. I suggested training a dog to be a dog catcher. To my surprise, the director said yes.

The first task was to select a dog for the program. It didn’t take long to find a 4-month-old, female, Australian Cattle Dog. Her owners brought her to the shelter because she chased horses. Within a day, “Patches” was renamed “Megan” and gave up her career chasing horses for a more rewarding career catching dogs.

Our first experience was delightful. A large, male Shepherd mix was knocking over trash cans and darting across traffic. While most people assume that dog catchers are mean old souls who hate dogs, the opposite is often true. Most animal control officers are focused on getting an animal quickly off the streets for a very good reason – the animal’s safety.

Thirty minutes of attempting to catch the wandering dog proved fruitless. I went back to the truck and put Megan on a leash. The instant the stray dog saw Megan, his attitude changed completely. He started sidling up to us in a cordial fashion. Megan dipped her front end and wiggled her tail in a friendly greeting. As the dog was busy sniffing Megan, I gently slipped a lead over his neck. On leash, the dog suddenly became a very willing companion and actually jumped into the truck on his own. This was such a change in the normal procedure that I was amazed.

My evaluation of our first patrol was positive. My new partner had achieved more in 30 seconds than I had in 30 minutes. The real bonus to this new program was that it was beneficial for everyone concerned. The complainants enjoyed having their trash containers remain in an upright position. Megan had a great time getting to know a new dog. The stray was gently caught and handled so that the experience was pleasant, rather than traumatic. While the dog’s owners were a little miffed at paying an impound fee, the real point was that their dog was alive and well – an outcome that is not assured for most stray dogs. The results were so promising, we added a second dog to the program, another Blue Heeler, named Tug.

After a few weeks of training, Megan became my regular partner. Her ability to understand the goal of our work was incredible. On one occasion, we were trailing a loose dog that ducked around a house and disappeared. Some children were playing nearby, so I asked if they had seen a dog pass by. The kids indicated that the dog had gone one way, but Megan had her nose to the ground, pulling in a different direction. I decided to trust her judgement. A few minutes later, Megan’s nose led us directly to the lost dog. He was sitting on his own front porch – which just happened to be the home of two of the children who had tried to send us on a wild goose chase. Megan’s nose wasn’t fooled. She had learned that her job was to track the stray, by any means available.

One of the unexpected results of our K-9 program was an improvement in public relations. Having Megan in the front seat of my truck didn’t fit the image of the mean, Meg_N_Tuguncaring dog catcher. Her presence allowed many people to realize that dog catching is primarily a means of protecting animals. The real “bad guy” in the process is the irresponsible owner who places his animal in danger by allowing it to wander the streets. The project worked so well that coincidentally Megan’s half-brother, Tug, came into the shelter and we put him to work, too.

For almost three years, Megan worked diligently and happily at her job. She protected her human partner, me, from aggressive dogs, caught dogs who were labeled “impossible to catch” and assumed the role of goodwill ambassador for the city and the animal control agency. For those of you who enjoy a happy ending, Megan retired from dog catching at the age of three, but didn’t stop working. For the next eleven years, she worked as a training seminar instructor, service dog and beloved pet. Though she is no longer with us, in a sense, she is still working. Her image is alive on DVD’s, showing dog owners how to train their dogs with love and affection. She flew across the country 100 times and slept in the finest sheets at four star hotels. Not many dogs have a life that full.

5 thoughts on “The Best Dog Catcher in History: Megan

  1. I remember ‘Tug’ was with you when you came to Richmond, VA long ago. Cindy Briggs’ ” All Dog Play Skool ” was the facility and you taught trainers over 2 days. I filmed it after you allowed yourself to be filmed on VCR.
    I told you it was long ago. But I still remember beautiful little ‘Tug’, though I never knew where he came from until now. It’s ironic you were on the Solidk9training radio show today as a guest and you are still shining a light to persuade the ignorant to treat their dog like a dog.

  2. Kell, If I recall they had an older Cattle Dog that didn’t chase horses so they didn’t anticipate a problem and then found out otherwise. It was bout 1984, so my memory may be a bit faulty. Their loss.

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