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NUTHIN' UP MY SLEEVE!: A cow moose rests Tuesday in 3 feet of snow beside the Logan River just west of Tony Grove. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, March 10, 2006

Help Wanted: U.S. Defense Department Seeks Better PR Officers

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but . . . our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world."

--U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on why al Qaeda is winning hearts and minds, in speech to U.S. Council on Foreign Relation (Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson) WORD Note: The WORD will take the next week off for Spring Break, sleeping in and seeking wisdom. Return: 3/20/06

Pick of the litter: Rocky Taylor honored by Hyde Park as best of Utah animal control officers

By Brad Plothow

February 10, 2006 | HYDE PARK -- North Park Police Chief Kim Hawkes presented Rocky Taylor with the highest state award for animal control officers during the opening minutes of Hyde Park's City Council meeting Wednesday.

"I'll give you a speech," Taylor told Mayor Dave Kooyman after accepting Utah's 2005 Animal Control Officer of the Year award. "It's too bad that I have to take your money for doing something I enjoy so much."

That zeal is what distinguished Taylor, a five-year veteran of Tri-City Animal Control, from award candidates from all over the state, Kooyman said. "We appreciate what you've done," the mayor said. "After having you, we've gotten more positive response (from the community)."

Hawkes nominated Taylor for the award, which is presented annually by the Utah Animal Control Officers Association.

Wednesday's presentation lasted only a few minutes, and it was the last stop for Taylor's award -- a gold-lettered plaque -- before he took it home. In the past week, Hawkes has announced Taylor's accolade at council meetings in North Logan and Smithfield, which along with Hyde Park make up Tri-City Animal Control's jurisdiction.

In his final remarks to the council, Taylor refuted Kooyman's rumor of his impending retirement. He said he has contemplated ending his career -- which included 20 years as a probation parole officer in Ogden and five years as a credit bureau manager in Brigham City -- but he said he isn't ready to slow down yet.

"He has to keep supporting me in the way I've become accustomed," said Valoy Taylor, Rocky's wife.

In the chamber, the council discussed amending chapters 16, 17 and 18 of the city's zoning ordinance. In the foyer outside the chamber, Rocky recounted dog bites, skunk attacks and other animal run-ins during his career.

Rocky said he donated a rare spotted skunk to Utah State University after one of his many encounters with the notoriously stinky things. He trapped the critter after responding to a call that a badger had made a home in the wheel well of someone's car.

"It wasn't a badger," Rocky said of the skunk, which he tranquilized to prevent a repeat of the smelly, and painful, encounter he had while trying to free a skunk from a trap. "I got sprayed once, and that was once too many. That skunk (in the trap) was trigger-happy. He was in a bad mood."

Rocky said he learned how potent skunks' foul-smelling spray can be while still a child. "You can milk a skunk. I milked the musk into a squirt gun, and it was so strong that it fused the plastic firing mechanism," Rocky said.

Rocky said he was never afraid to deal with animals, including the one that left a scar on his left leg.

"I think it was a poodle," Rocky said of the little, white dog that bit him. "It just pinched me. It didn't draw blood."

The little dog was not the animal Rocky was concerned with at the time. He was responding to a call that a stray had wandered into a residential yard that housed two domestic dogs -- the little, white one and a 3-foot-tall schnauzer.

"They had a system worked out," Valoy said of the pair. The schnauzer distracted Rocky while the smaller dog snuck up from behind and nipped, he said.

Rocky said he responded to an average of 126 calls each month in 2005. On he received his award, Rocky said he had two calls to collect stray dogs, a barking complaint and a report of a dead deer.

Valoy said her husband edged out competitors for the award due to his compassion for animals and his knack for dealing with the public.

"He's a very unusual animal control officer," Valoy said. "His goal is to save animals, to find them a home if he can't find the owner."

Rocky said his job is as much about people as it is about animals. He said he had worked to soothe tensions between neighbors over loud pets, and even literally helped mend a fence that a neighbor's animal ruined.

"I've been able to reconcile neighbors who haven't spoken to each other for years," Rocky said.

"And he's humble, too," Valoy said jokingly of her husband.


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