PLEASANT VIEW -- Lynette Lewis is known to many Pleasant View families. Whether she's patrolling the streets of the city making sure local pets are safe or helping students cross the street during the school year, Lewis keeps busy. As the city's only animal control officer, she's on call 24/7.
"Sometimes I get calls in the middle of the night on the weekends; sometimes I won't get any after-hours calls for several weeks. The busiest times of the year are usually the spring and fall. The first winter storm is always the worst; animals just seem to go berserk," she said.
Many calls can be handled alone. Lewis's regular duties include capturing pesky raccoons, helping to retrieve lost pets, cleaning up dead animals from the road, and responding to barking dog complaints.
Other calls require a cooperative effort. Veterinarians, local police officers, and animal shelters assist whenever Lewis calls for help. When cattle and other livestock escape their corrals, police officers use their vehicles to block the road while Lewis helps guide the livestock back home to the safety of secure enclosures.
Lewis' typical day begins at the city offices where she checks messages, reviews a daily task list, and cares for any animals in the holding kennels. Next, she goes on patrol looking for strays or other animals needing assistance. If she finds a break in a fence line, she tries to repair it and contacts the landowner to pursue permanent repair.
During the school year, she spends about 45 minutes each morning and afternoon helping Lomond View Elementary School students cross the street. She admits she misses her daily interactions with the children in the summer months.
"Sometimes I'll see students in the store and they'll yell hello to me. I love that! Working with the kids is a really important part of my day. They'll often tell me about their day and the things they're sad or happy about. I've been a crossing guard for so many years; the kids I started with are all grown up. Sometimes one will approach me and say, 'Do you remember me?' I usually do," she said.
Lewis lives in Pleasant View with her husband Richard. They have four children and 11 grandchildren, with another one on the way. She said her family members have always been supportive.
Working with animals requires good physical health. To keep in shape, she works out at the gym five nights a week with her sister. Lewis said the job certainly comes with safety risks. She's been scratched by cats, bitten by dogs, and run over by steer.
The best advice Lewis received during her training was to recognize that animals have different personalities, just like people.
"Observing an animal's temperament really helps (with this job). Dogs are the easiest to read. Even when barking, if a dog is wagging its tail, I know I'm OK. Sometimes I'll see a stray dog wandering the streets so I'll stop my truck, open the door, and it'll just jump right into the cab," she said.
Lewis' least favorite task involves unclaimed pets. Stray animals roaming city streets are caught and transported to city hall where Lewis places them in holding kennels. Animals unclaimed after a certain period of time must be euthanized. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often.
Lewis said she wishes people wouldn't think of her as the enemy.
"I love animals. I want them to be cared for. It's sad to find a sick or injured animal someone's abandoned. It's easier to help the animal and find a home when they're brought to us instead of dumped. I think sometimes people see nice homes in the area and just assume someone will take care of the animal."
One of Lewis' favorite memories is when she found one particular dog wandering the streets.
"I could tell it had a family because it was such a sweet dog. After the typical holding time, I just couldn't put him down. I held him a lot longer than usual. Then I got a call. The family had been on vacation. The person asked to petsit never checked on it so no one knew he'd gotten out. When they came to get him, the kids were crying; they were so happy he was OK. It was really exciting," she said.
Soon after she was hired, Lewis was told her job description also included organizing the parade for the city's annual Founders Day. She sends out invitations to potential participants and local float sponsors in the spring and follows through with each contact to solidify the parade's schedule. She buys the candy thrown to the crowds, coordinates the float line-up, and sends out all the thank you notes when it's over. This year's parade will be held Saturday.
Lewis loves her job. She appreciates a supportive police chief, officers, city staff, and other community members who are so quick to offer assistance.
"I work with incredible people who go above and beyond minimum job descriptions. We're truly a service-oriented city. Here in Pleasant View, we really care about our neighbors," she said.
When people comment on the variety of responsibilities associated with her position, Lewis has to laugh.
"I just say that I'm in charge of keeping all the critters in Pleasant View safe -- both the four-legged and the two-legged variety."
Animal control officer
Time on the job: 19 years
Favorite part of the job: I love when an impounded animal is adopted out or reuniting a stray animal with its owner.
I wish: everyone would take a little more responsibility for the life of the animal they've chosen to be a member of their family. Busy roads mean loose animals are at serious risk of being hit or killed.