A comic take on animal rescue | December 12, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 12, 2007

A comic take on animal rescue

Cats and dogs saved by control officer William Warrior become heroes and heroines of his comic books

by Sue Dremann

For Palo Alto animal-control officer William Warrior, saving animals is not just a job but a source of creative inspiration as well.

Warrior has worked 50,000 service calls in 28 years, averaging 50 per week. The 48 year old has picked up dead squirrels, handed out tickets for leash-law violations and even yanked a plastic pumpkin off the head of a deer around Halloween.

But Warrior also creates comic books about the animals he rescues, combining photographs he takes of them with anthropomorphic commentary.

The witty and whimsical story lines often combine the real-life rescue with fantasy. Saved animals encounter Marie Antoinette or recite poetry (Milton the cat does T.S. Elliot) or perform Shakespeare. Roxane, a border collie/sheltie mix, becomes the only entrant at the Tour de France.

The story of Citi-B — one of 38 books to date — centers on a 4-week-old Los Altos kitten Warrior found trapped in a two-inch-wide space between the Citibank and Los Altos Town Crier buildings.

Citi-B's delicate extraction from the crevice took 30 hours and required Warrior to climb on top of the Citibank roof to lower a fiberglass pole down the crack and wiggle it beneath the tiny creature. The kitten was catapulted up out of the crack — and landed smack in the hands of a veterinary nurse from nearby Adobe Animal Hospital, he said.

Warrior adopted Citi-B, who is now a healthy 2 year old. The young male cat's antics are recounted in the officer's work from a quintessentially feline perspective.

"I can eat crab like a sea otter," Citi-B boasts in a talking bubble, while comically lying on his back in a photograph taken shortly after his rescue.

Roxane, Warrior's canine companion (named after a wife of Alexander the Great), dreams phantasmal images in "Roxane's Dream — A Squirrel in the Sky." She even has her own rock video, Warrior said.

While the comics are a testament to Warrior's wit, there is something deeper at work as well. Warrior's comics educate the public about the work of animal-control officers and breed compassion for the marginalized feral and stray animals, according to Superintendent of Animal Services Sandi Stadler.

Palo Alto Animal Services prints thousands of the Citi-B comic book to distribute to shelter visitors, schools and during patrols, she said.

"They have opened doors for us. We're always trying to find a way to dispel the picture of the old dog catcher people see in cartoons. This comic book has been a bridge to what we are trying to do. It seems to be a medium the kids like," Stadler added.

Warrior refers to himself as a dog catcher, but he shrugs off the negative connotation. It's a direct image that people can relate to, he said.

But, he added, "I'm trying to rework that title" through his books.

In person, Warrior seems the antithesis of the stereotypical dog catcher. He is as much at home reading the classics as he is in hiking and nature, and he despises the sanctimony toward the public he sometimes encounters in his peers, he said.

Warrior's creative endeavors go beyond comics.

He is currently working on a book about Palo Alto's first dog catcher, John Lewis, who patrolled the town 100 years ago. It was a time "when people tripped over animals running in the streets and there was dog fighting on University Avenue," Warrior said.

Lewis became a serial dog poisoner and was arrested for beating a dog to death at the kennel. His arrest resulted in a sensational trial, according to Warrior.

"It shook this town to its foundations," he said of a historical report related to the trial.

"I could see what was happening to him. I could understand the stresses," he said.

People in his line of work go through stages. They begin by having ideals, but the job is as much about regulating people's behavior as it is about rescuing animals.

"And people will hate you for it," he said.

But, he said, to survive in the job, one must get beyond the phase "that people are pukes — you have to work through that stage and stay in the work," he said.

"I'm not the person I was when I started. I came in very officious and draconian, which was the model at the time. It created a terrible relationship between the public and officers. It was an antagonistic relationship," he said. But through the years, he has learned to be a good listener, he added. The animals, too, have taught him that they feel things and have emotions, he said.

For Warrior, the work remains fresh, providing new material for his comic tales.

"I love being able to work on the streets I grew up in. It's a treat — even on the bad days — and the comics drive that home."

A video of Warrior's encounter with the deer — "Pumpkin Head Theatre" — can be viewed on his Web site, www.roxanagraphs.us.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.


Posted by Lisa, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Bill Warrior is a gem! A true Palo Alto historian, and a living local hero. We are lucky to have him in our town!

Posted by Ditto!, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2007 at 1:12 pm

From the feral chows living in the creek, to saving strays from being hit, to helping wildlife, Officer Warrior is a treasure. He's also thoughtful, intelligent, educated, kind-hearted and hard-working. I see him all over Palo Alto working, and the city is very lucky to have him. Jeneatte Washington is another wonderful officer - kind, more than competent, innovative, intelligent. Palo Alto has greatly benefitted from these two and their skillsets!

Posted by Judy, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2007 at 9:39 am

Oh please -- the "comics" are immature and silly. I honestly don't see how you get "whimsical and witty" out of it. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by John, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2007 at 11:21 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Peter, a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2007 at 8:41 pm

John and Judy, why the caustic comments? Here's a guy who obviously has worked hard; has admitted he made mistakes and worked to correct them; loves his job; and tries to make something positive out of it while exercising some creativity.

Sounds to me like we need more people like Officer Warrior (great name)and fewer like you.

Posted by Paly reporter, a resident of Green Acres
on May 6, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Paly's newspaper recently published an article about the Furry Friends Rescue organization.
To read about it, go to: Web Link