T.J. Jordi was interviewed on the “Happy, Healthy Pets” radio podcast, speaking about his role as director of the Cheatham County Animal Controloffice in Tennessee. This man is an inspiration! An animal lover extraordinaire, T.J. works tirelessly to save dogs and other animals. He has five dogs of his own, including two disabled dogs in wheelchairs.
Animal Control Office Duties
The staff of county government animal control offices are often the unsung heroes of animals in need. T.J.’s staff is no exception. The Cheatham County Animal Control office receives 30 to 120 calls per day! The cases might be victims of cruelty or neglect, or a variety of other issues.
Four full-time and three part-time staff members work at Cheatham County’s office. They clean, feed, treat, and bathe the animals, do intake, answer phones, and make onsite calls.
They rely on rescues, adopters, and donations in order to best care for the animals. An adoption fee covers the costs of spay/neuter (dogs/cats), rabies shots, and all vaccinations while they are in their custody.
T.J. speaks of the dedication of his staff and what it is that keeps him motivated:
“To know that one can make a difference to an animal that is knocking on death’s door and then be able to bring them back from the brink. There are no words to describe the feeling. There isn’t a check in the world that can make you feel the accomplishment that you get from saving the animal.
As a result, we have not had to put down a single adoptable animal in nearly seven years. We have been able to remove a lot of barriers that many shelters are not equipped to break through.”
Passion for Pets
T. J. has worked in the animal welfare field for nearly 27 years, and Cheatham County Animal Control for the past seven. He is an expert animal cruelty investigator and special-needs dog trainer. T.J. clearly enjoys working with animals and making a difference!
When asked about a typical day, T.J. shed some light on the challenges and rewards of working with animal control:
“There is no such thing as a typical day in animal control. There is never a monotonous moment, as each day brings something new. Whether it be a cruelty case, an emaciated animal, an animal with major injuries, or an angry owner pointing a gun to our head. Officers have to learn to talk people down from high emotions and ensure the best options for the animal(s) and the officer’s own safety.
Most days, I go into the office, help my staff with cleaning, send my officers to calls, network animals out to rescues, work on grants and programs to help with funding and food, and work to find our animals the best places to go.”
T.J. has five dogs of his own. Storm and Molly are German Shepherds . . .
” . . . one of which is 18 years old and acts like a 2-year-old), a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Fidget with congenital hypermyelination (shaking puppy syndrome), and two dogs I have to take to the shop twice a year for balance and rotation: Scooter and Skeeter [they are disabled dogs — handi-capable dogs — in Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchairs].
They are my kids and my life. Anyone who thinks of dogs (and cats and horses, so on) as “just animals” doesn’t understand the impact they make on your life, or you on theirs.”
Stories Worth Remembering
T.J. spoke of a few particularly memorable animals he and his staff saved:
“Prada and Giada, a couple of adult Italian greyhounds who were left in a house for weeks until nearly starved. You could literally see light through the skin on their hind legs. Both dogs were nursed back to health by volunteers, staff, and Noah’s Ark Society, a rescue for animals.
Brett, a 12-year-old Sheltie was found in a trash bag on the side of the road on Easter Sunday in 2015. His back was cut open from shoulder to shoulder, and his skin was pulled, exposing a large area of his back down to the muscle. When he was found, he was so near to death that he could not even lift his head. With a dedicated group, we were able to keep him alive, and his wound had completely healed within a month. He was given every reason to be scared of people for what was done to him, but he showed nothing but love. He stole the hearts of everyone who met him, and many who never got the opportunity.
Little Man, a young Redbone Coonhound, had been hit by a car two months prior to our office being notified. When he was found, his rear legs had been worn past the muscle and bone, even exposing the bone marrow. He was so anemic that his gums were gray. He remained at the shelter while his wounds were being tended to. All of his care was provided at no cost to the county by rescues, volunteers, and donors from around the world.”
Tennessee recently enacted an Animal Abuse Registry, much like a Sex Offender Registry. This allows for more serious ramifications for animal abusers, and is an excellent step in the right direction.
Animal Control Office Challenges
Animal control offices, including Cheatham County’s, are frequently underfunded. Yet these offices must still provide a standard quality of care for the animals, despite budgetary constraints.
Furthermore, T.J. cites a challenge that doesn’t get enough attention called Compassion Fatigue:
“A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that animal rescue workers have a suicide rate of 5.3 in 1 million workers. This is the highest suicide rate among American workers; a rate shared only by firefighters and police officers. The national suicide average for American workers is 1.5 per 1 million.”
Therefore, it is especially important to remember to treat your local animal control offices with respect and thanks!
Disabled Dogs Can Save Lives
T.J.’s special-needs dog, Scooter, is now a trained therapy dog, visiting schools on a regular basis. He’s been the Grand Marshall for the Cheatham County Special Olympics for the last six years. And, he is the Official Mascot for Cheatham County Animal Control, complete with his own badge!
“I have been honored by seeing the difference that animals can make in the lives of people, sometimes when they are at their lowest point in life. Animals have saved more lives of people than statistics can ever accurately count.
For instance, Scooter has always had a thing for people with wheels, whether in a stroller or a wheelchair. Once, while at a public function, Scooter approached a young man in a wheelchair. I told the young man Scooter’s name. The young man, very shakily, reached down to pet Scooter on the head. Just as shakily, he said “Hi” to Scooter.
About 15 feet away stood the young man’s mother, and she started to cry. While the young man petted Scooter and slowly talked to him, I approached the mother. I asked her what was wrong. While sobbing and through tears in her eyes, she finally said, ‘I have never heard my son speak before.’
She wasn’t the only one that was shedding tears.”
Compassion Is Still Alive
T.J. reminds us of the tremendous power for good that animals are capable of:
“I’ve witnessed many people that animals like Scooter and Skeeter have affected, just by being themselves. From the mentally and physically handi-capable to the young and old alike, they are awed by a dog walking, playing, digging holes, stealing pillows, and nipping dinner off of my plate, and receiving rewards that didn’t exist before — while only having the use of two legs.
They are the reminders that compassion does still exist. Even though it can sometimes be a little difficult to see, it is still worth fighting for.
The dogs we save are soulful reminders to the people who cared for them, and it is why we are here. In a world where compassion seems so distant for many, they remind us that there are still compassionate people that will come out of the woodwork to help out those truly in need. They can make a difference. Not just a difference for the animals that are being treated, but to the people around the world that fell in love with them.”
Listen to T.J.’s interview on the “Happy, Healthy Pets” radio podcast in episode titled “The ‘Dog Catcher’ – Animal Control Officers and Their Great Work,” found at this link: https://www.handicappedpets.com/radio. Let us know if you enjoyed it!
You can read more of Scooter’s story in Miracle Dogs: Adventures on Wheels.