Actually, Deppner says as we drive past RFK Stadium, maybe the worst thing ever wasn’t the ass-vomiting Husky or the dismembered “I NEED HELP” cat.
“This couple called in and wanted to surrender their dog,” Deppner says. “So I go to the house and it turns out that they’ve been keeping it on the balcony behind the house. All the time. But the balcony had sort of collapsed, so then the dog basically lived down in the backyard. So they’d open the door every day or two and throw food down to the dog, but it wasn’t getting over the railing, or something. When I got there, the dog was starved down to just skin and bones. Just staring up at me, emaciated. I picked it up and while I was carrying it to the van, it died, right in my arms. That was really bad.”
It’s just before noon. One dog on the 1400 block of Ames Place NE on Capitol Hill mauled another last week, and had bit a person a few months before that. Under city rules, animal control officers have to conduct visual checks on the animal to make sure it isn’t sick. That task falls to Deppner.
He’s been to the house before, for a previous biting incident. Deppner says the occupants include three brothers who don’t take any great pains to keep their dog restrained, with predictable results. “Going to have to be stern with them,” Deppner says.
An older woman comes out. Early as it is, she seems out of it. Two youngish men soon emerge behind her and give us hard looks. “I just need to look at the dog,” Deppner says. “Just to make sure it’s not sick or anything.”
“You’re not here to take her?” one of the men asks, suspiciously.
Deppner shakes his head and the two men relax. “KK!” one of them yells, propping the door open. A compact tan dog barrels out, ears flattened, and goes directly for my crotch.
Deppner calls the dog by name. KK immediately trots over to sniff his hand. It seems healthy enough and, though protective, not overtly hostile. “I got this theory,” says the owner, a rotund man in basketball shorts and white socks and sandals. “Since she’s not fixed and she’s never been mated, she’s, you know, lonely. Pent up. That’s why she’s so aggressive. She really only attacks people if they come onto her territory, though.”
Deppner consults his paperwork. “She bit someone a few months back, yeah?”
“Yeah, the guy going door to door,” says the owner. “Fenty.”
The former mayor?
“Nah, not Fenty himself,” says the owner. “Just a campaign worker. I wish he’d bit Fenty.”
Since the dog seems healthy, Ted tells them about the required quarantine period: 10 days indoors, short walks allowed if overseen by someone physically able to restrain the animal, no exposure to other animals or non-household humans. The dog can’t be given away or leave the District during this time, and must be licensed and current on all vaccinations at the end of the quarantine.
While we’re talking, a third, younger guy jogs up. “Hey, that guy is down there,” he says, pointing to the corner. The three men file out onto the front walk, where they stand and stare impassively at a lone figure at the end of the block.
“Should we get him?” The younger one asks.
“Not with these people here,” the older man says.
“Actually,” Deppner says as we drive to the next call, “maybe the worst thing ever was when the two deer broke into the McDonald’s on New York Avenue.”
“I guess they saw their reflection in the big window in front, and they just crashed right through,” he explains. “This was at 10, 11 in the morning. The deer made for the food prep area and trashed the place looking for stuff to eat. It was my day off but I was the only one then who’d been trained on the tranquilizer rifle, so they got me out of bed and I had to hustle down there. The first one through the window had been sliced to ribbons. There was blood everywhere; it was horrible. I shot the wounded one with the tranquilizer dart but the other one leaped through the drive-thru window and got away.”