It wasn't exactly in their job descriptions. But over the years, local animal control officers say, they have responded to some weird calls. These are their stories:
Snakes on the roof
At wit's end, a realtor phoned Carol Larocque, Newburyport's animal control officer at the time, about four years ago. Nobody wanted to set foot in a one-story house that was for sale because four snakes, very visible from the road, had taken to sunning themselves on the roof.
"I get up on the roof, and I'm getting ready to throw my net on them. I realize they were not moving. They were fake rubber snakes. In the old days people used to put them on the roof to ward off the pigeons. I kicked them off the roof."
Alligator in the backyard
Nearly every officer has heard the tale about alligators in the sewers. Kathy Carroll, Everett's animal control official, got a call a few years back from an anxious resident who insisted that there was a 3-foot-long alligator in her next-door neighbor's pool:
"I said, 'What?!' Sure enough, it was an alligator," Carroll said. "A man owned an exotic pet shop in Boston and somebody dropped it off at his pet shop. He lived in Everett. He brought it home . . . and one of the neighbors spotted it in his yard, and was worried about kids in the neighborhood. It was in a fenced-in area . . . We called the environmental police, who took it to a place it could live out its life without being harmed."
Guinea pigs in the brush
The woman was worried because her dog had been acting peculiar. Then it bolted out the front door. Jim Lindley, Beverly's animal services officer, took the call from the city's Beverly Farms neighborhood about a year ago:
"She followed [her dog] and saw a big, fat guinea pig that rolled over and died. Then she saw another one," Lindley said. "After two-and-a-half hours crawling around in the bush, I ended up with 20 guinea pigs, the one dead one and 19 live ones."
Pony down hte well
Betty Heckman has been on the job for 25 years in Middleton -- she's also covered for Danvers the past 13 years -- but it's the call 22 years ago from a Middleton resident with a trapped horse that sticks with her:
"This was not on a farm. Just a residence that had a pony and an old well that had rotted boards on top of it," Heckman said. "Before I got there he was struggling to get out and banging his face on the cement walls. I laid on my belly on the edge of the well and held his halter until we got the emergency vet there to get him a tranquilizer. We got him out with the help of the Light Department, the Police Department, and a strong pulley . . . It took hours to get the pony free. . . . He was fine. A few cuts and bruises on the side of his face."