He and Lilly, who is nearly blind and deaf due to inbreeding, were ubiquitous in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. They attended to countless lost, injured and abandoned animals — and he sometimes wrote citations to the humans who violated animal-control and welfare laws.
Along the way, they met many interesting creatures. There was Citi-B, the kitten stuck in a sliver of space between two buildings in Los Altos, who spawned a comic book sponsored by the city of Palo Alto. Then there were the two deer that had become entangled. One deer panicked and one broke the other's neck. Still locked together, it dragged the carcass around. Try untangling that one. Warrior did.
He's had to learn the language and vocalizations of wild and domesticated animals.
"It's like being dragged into another country or culture," he said.
Warrior has had his share of injuries and close calls. He was gored by blacktail deer and attacked by an aggressive and injured pit bull that had been hit by a car. He's undertaken death-defying maneuvers to capture and relocate blind or injured deer.
He's chronicled many of his stories in his graphic novel-like postings and videos of animal rescues, such as those of orphaned coyote pups, opossums and ducks on Facebook and his website, Roxanagraphs.us, named after his beloved dog, Roxane.
Among all of the animals he's encountered, though, there's one he has never seen: a mountain lion, he said.
He's also dealt with humans, some of whom have not been kind to animals and others who have not been happy when he enforced the law. It's been a challenge at times to not become jaded, he said, but the man with the cool last name has developed a philosophy that allows him to maintain his equilibrium.
"You just start to realize people are people. The behavior showing up in front of me I probably will do or have done (in some circumstance) if I'm not mindful. You catch yourself before you make a decision that would cause you to lose your job, and you protect yourself. Each animal (and each person) has a very unique spirit. Their behavior is about that moment," he said.
He might have a negative encounter with an animal, but five or six years later, he'll encounter the same animal again and it will be a warm experience, he said.
Warrior is a fourth-generation San Franciscan who moved to Palo Alto as a toddler in 1962. He attended parochial schools: Our Lady of the Rosary in Palo Alto and St. Francis High School in Mountain View. After graduating, he attended Foothill and Canada colleges.
He spent five years as an artists' figure model, including in famed artist Nathan Olivera's class. He loved modeling and dance, joining a semi-professional dance group, the Aladdin's Lads and Lasses, which performed Middle East dance to Scottish bagpipe music.
His introduction to animal care, though, began in April 1974, as a teenager. He was volunteering with the Wildlife Rescue Team and at the shelter and went on ride-alongs with an animal control officer out of curiosity, bringing in injured and sick wildlife. In 1976, he had a part-time job as an animal attendant at the shelter.
Warrior graduated from the Canada College Police Reserve Academy with the intention of becoming a police officer, but he felt he was better suited for his work in animal enforcement and rescue. Over the years, he's seen his job evolve from enforcer to animal whisperer.
"In the 1970s, there was a terrible conflict over the leash law. Animal control was tasked with heavy-handed enforcement of the law at the time. It made people miserable on all sides with the officers caught in the middle," he said. "It took a long time to understand that how you work with a person can have a ripple effect."
Cultivating a better bedside manner was something that evolved over time, he said. Along the way, he encountered all manner of unusual situations that gave him insight into animals and people.
One memorable incident occurred around 1990 at the downtown Palo Alto home of two 80-year-old sisters. They said there was a bird in the attic. Warrior climbed up to look for the bird.
"The attic was completely clean," he recalled. There was no sign of the bird. The women kept insisting they were hearing it chirp even as he swept the area with his flashlight. Finally, Warrior exited the attic empty handed. He followed the bird sound to the part of the house where the sisters insisted they heard the sound coming from the ceiling. The smoke detector's battery alarm was going off, he said.
Warrior removed the unit from the ceiling and waited for the alarm to chirp. He explained the sound was coming out of the alarm. It didn't mollify the sisters, however.
"How is the bird making the sound come out of there?" one of the sisters asked.
With Warrior and Lilly making their last rounds in his rig this week, he noted that the 10-year-old rescue dog has herded stray cattle at Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, done school visits and helped calm down stressed people. His practice of animal services is a long way from the citation-writing, zero-tolerance mindset animal officers were required to engage in when he first started, he said.
Warrior's Facebook page is filled with comments from residents about what his work has meant to them. Some call him a hero.
Shirley Gaines encountered him when she was walking her dogs off leash decades ago when he started. She remembered he was kind and considerate — and he didn't ticket her.
"He put himself way out. He's such a kind, humane gentleman. People would call him in the middle of the night and he would get up and put on his uniform. He can't be replaced," she said.
After he exits, he plans to continue giving tours, as he has for 10 years, at California State Parks' Angel Island, a U.S. Immigration landmark. His wife, Pam, has a grandmother who was a Chinese immigrant and was held there for five weeks and interrogated. The couple are members of the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple and take part in a taiko drumming group, which he'll also continue in his retirement.
Although he and Lilly won't be driving in a city rig anymore, they'll still spend lots of time in Palo Alto. Warrior said he plans on taking many long hikes in the foothills, particularly the Retail Loop in Arastradero Preserve, which was part of their usual patrol. Perhaps now, in his civilian role, he'll also have new perspectives.
"We are very happy where we are, and I want to sit and assess and come to terms with my memories, and I hope to have enough time for that kind of thing," he said.
He will also continue his graphic novels, which people can see on Roxanagraphs.us, including "Canton Girls Are Made of Iron," about the early Chinese immigrant experience, and stories about his animal adventures.
The website "is my love letter to San Francisco and Palo Alto and it's about my relationship to the town," he said.
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