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RPD plans fundraiser for animal control

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RONAN — For Laura Larson, catching an occasional stray canine is not a job — it’s community service. And as Ronan’s unofficial dog catcher, she is happy to volunteer. 

Her title officially is Community Service Officer, but with that position, she volunteers 26 hours per week, rounding up some of the city’s lost, abandoned or loose dogs. 

But Larson doesn’t mind matching up lost dogs with their owners — it’s an enjoyable activity that gets Larson outdoors and spending time with humanity’s best friends. 

Every day of the week, Larson takes a trip out to the city kennels. A series of four pens, the kennels are linked together by a makeshift tarp overhead — protecting our furry friends from the elements. 

On Thursday morning she stopped by for her usual morning visit. The city property, which contains the kennels, is littered with old city equipment and storage. But it’s grassy enough and the dogs don’t seem to mind the city’s rusty tools as they dart about happily. 

A hunter and a dog-owner herself, it’s apparent that Larson is a natural with animals. The three rambunctious dogs circle her as they nip at each other's snouts and necks. They are very ill-behaved — running through the mud and the muck and jumping on Larson at slightest encouragement. She brushes the dirty dogs off gently, but Larson isn’t running an obedience school. She’s just holding them until their owners are notified and swing by to pick them up — and pay to have them registered with the city. 

It’s a $5 fee for neutered or spayed pets, and $10 for those that aren’t fixed. A small price to pay for keeping a beloved family member safe for a night or two. 

She then cleans the feces from their hay-filled cages, feeds them and gives them fresh water. The dogs are jovial and well-fed as they dash about the fenced-in area, splashing through puddles. But not every day is so sunny.

Sometimes Larson finds dogs that no one claims for weeks on end. 

And it’s in situations like these that she collaborates with local animal shelters, but she always gives the owners plenty of time to retrieve the lost animal.

“If owners don’t call or have no ambition to find their animal, what am I supposed to do?” Larson asked. 

Luckily, there are organizations in the area like Mission Valley Life Savers Animal Rescue, and the Missoula Humane Society and the Flathead Humane Society that take in such unwanted animals. Larson usually calls the shelter early to make arrangements for the dog. 

Larson has had her more than her fair share of interesting days. She has gone on calls involving a muskrat in a fence and she has even been bitten by a dog frightened by vehicles. 

But all in all, Larson enjoys the opportunity to work with dogs. And besides getting out her out of the office, she feels like it’s given her the opportunity to give back to Ronan. 

“If I catch a dog and I return it to the owner, I feel like I’m doing (the community) a good service,” Larson explained. 

And Ronan is lucky to have such a service, and city servant so willing to donate her time. With the city budget cut backs this year, there is very little financial backing in the program. 

It’s something the city hopes to address in the future, but for now Larson uses her own vehicle to tote our furry friends around and she uses her own money to pay for the gas when making trips to the city’s kennels and around town. 

She also buys the bleach that she uses to clean the cages. In the winter when the temperature drops to below freezing, she and Ronan Police Chief Dan Wadsworth take the pups home to wait out dangerously frigid temperatures. 

She has even used her own money to purchase bags of dog food for the dogs — a situation that was remedied with the help of June Jordan.

A resident of Ronan, Jordan serves on the board of directors for the Missoula Humane Society. 

Pet stores around the Missoula area donate bags of dog food that have been returned or are reaching their expiration date. 

Two months ago Jordan delivered the first shipment of dog food to Larsen, and last week another shipment was delivered. It’s a situation that saves Larson a pretty penny. Four big dogs can go through one bag of dog food a week easily. 

Jordan hopes that the local community will recognize the issue and pitch-in to help make the situation a little bit more sustainable. 

“Serving on the board (of directors) I have learned about pet advocacy,” Jordan said. “Everyone’s got to take a little bit of responsibility. 

This Fathers’ Day the Ronan Police Department in conjunction with Jordan will give the populace just the opportunity.

They have organized an Italian picnic called The Papas and Pups Fundraiser. Families are invited to Bockman’s Park in Ronan to participate in an afternoon of fun, food, prizes and games from 3-6 p.m. 

The Italian food will be donated by Jordan’s company called Chibo per Bambini. 

There is no entrance fee, but donations are welcome and all proceeds will go to help with animal control costs. 

“My thought is that if we could open up this need,” Jordan said, “It seems like people would be willing to support animals. 

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