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Saugus critter catcher Harold Young calling it quits

His Friday retirement frees Harold Young from cleaning cages and other duties he has performed for 25 years as Saugus canine/animal control officer. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SAUGUS — If it runs, crawls, hops, slithers or flies, Harold Young has done his best over the 25 years to catch the offending creatures and return them to their owners.

His days of sustaining bites and scratches to corral dogs, cats and any number of wild animals end on Friday when the town resident retires from his job as canine/animal control officer.

He’ll miss hearing a familiar call of “Hey, Harry,” from town residents along his route requesting help finding a dog or rounding up a lurking skunk or rambunctious raccoon. 

He loves animals, but it is the people he has met during his career who have kept Young motivated to keep doing his job. He has stood in a street consoling a dog owner mourning a pet struck by a car and he has separated warring pet owners who are about to come to blows over their animals. 

Working out of an office behind the Public Works building on Main Street, Young wears a sidearm and a badge and starts his day hosing down the town truck he uses to transport animals and the kennel room behind his office with its row of cages. 

His tales of tracking down and sometimes tussling with animals are accompanied with smiles and an occasional shake of the head.

There was the rabid cat rampage on Adams Avenue that ended with Young cornering the ferocious feline in a garage.

“He jumped on my chest. I captured him but he tested positive for rabies,” he said.

He had to go to court to resolve a case involving a town woman who kept 15 dogs in her house. Town officials approved his bylaw limiting local residents to three dogs per household. He also won approval for a $150 first offense fine for vicious dogs.

A dog lover who is partial to German shepherds and rottweilers, Young grew up in Everett and worked for years in the airline industry before layoffs forced him to look for a job working with animals. 

His day begins at 7 a.m. and runs through 3 p.m. with Young crisscrossing Saugus responding to complaints and on the lookout for stray pets and wild animals. 

He also responds to emergency calls and has hit the road more times than he can remember at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. 

He has handled cases he would rather forget, including abandoned pets and cruelty cases. He has also responded to his share of odd calls, including an automotively-inclined snake wriggling out of a dashboard and an exotic African lizard strolling into a local store. 

Responding to a call about a skunk with a peanut butter jar stuck on its head taught him the proper way to pick up the creature.

“By the tail — but make sure to keep it straight,” Young said. 

Even the State Police have summoned Young to tackle tough jobs, including apprehending a 10-foot-long python. 

Retirement with Zwetlana, his wife of 40 years, includes spending time with daughters, Ashley and Gabrielle, and the birth of his first grandchild. He also plans to put air miles he accumulated in his former career to good use. Sylvester, the stuffed raccoon in Young’s town office, will have to hold the fort until a new canine officer is on the job. 

 

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