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Eden's animal control officer retires after long career in different roles with city

Eden's animal control officer retires after long career in different roles with city

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EDEN - During his eight years as Eden’s Animal Control Officer, Ed Paisley chased dogs, cats, pigs and horses, and removed snakes and other critters from people’s homes.

He also captured stinky skunks and found new homes for many unwanted pets. But, he never got bit by a dog and, perhaps more importantly, was never “sprayed” by a skunk.

On Jan. 1, Paisley ended his long career with the City of Eden, having worked at the Waste Water Plant, Solid Waste, and Water departments before becoming the animal control officer.

“Ed was one of the most well-liked and hardest working individuals here at the police department and the city,” Eden Police Chief Clint Simpson said. “He was well-liked by the community and the public.”

Being an animal control officer meant Paisley encountered people in a variety of situations, including reports of animal cruelty. Many times, the job called for his quick thinking and handling of what could have been negative outcomes. At other times, he had to calm irritated residents.

Like last summer when a woman complained a garden beaver was destroying her vegetables. When Paisley said there was no such animal, she soundly chastised him, noting she was 80 years old and knew what a garden beaver was. The woman said it terrified her and had to be removed; Paisley trapped the vicious animal (a groundhog) and relocated it to a more suitable home.

Another woman called about a black and white cat caught in her trap. When Paisley arrived, the “cat” was a skunk. The woman admitted she couldn’t see very well but Paisley took the skunk to another area and released it.

Paisley even had to assist his law enforcement coworkers once when a young hound dog was being trained at the dog park. The energetic pooch escaped, eluding four officers, the trainers and Paisley for an hour before being captured.

Paisley’s wife, Sandy, sometimes helped him. She tells of an escaped, terrified pot-bellied pig, she called “Bacon-Bacon” on Center Church Road. Over several days, residents and officers tried to catch the pig, which weighed less than five pounds. Finally, the Paisleys went on Saturday, armed with bread, and again on Sunday, this time with Cheetos.

“We didn’t want him to get run over,” Sandy Paisley said. The cheese treats worked and Bacon-Bacon was lured to within two or three feet of the net when a car with a dad and three preteen boys screeched to a halt near them.

“When dad jumped out and said ‘get'em boys,’ the show was over,” she said. “Poor little Bacon-Bacon was never seen again” as he fled for his life.

Born in Grassy Creek, Ed Paisley dreamed of being a police officer from the time he was small. While playing football at Northwest Ashe High School, he was diagnosed with congenital complete heart block due to having rheumatic fever as a child. In 1976, Dr. Joe LeBauer operated on Paisley, putting in a pacemaker.

After graduating in 1973, Paisley enrolled in the loss prevention and security class at ECPI Technical School in Greensboro.

However, his heart condition kept him from working with the Greensboro Police Department, so he took a job at H.B. Fuller in Greensboro. In 2002, the company was sold and Paisley began working for the City of Eden.

Finally in 2012, Paisley fulfilled his dream of becoming a police officer as the animal control officer.

That was as near to being an officer as he could be with his heart condition, Paisley said, adding he loved working with the public.

Since his predecessors had no system for reporting the number of creatures captured and/or recovered, Paisley established files and procedures to make it easier to know exactly how many animals he dealt with each month. He also tried to find the owners of stray dogs and return them to their homes.

“Ed was very proactive in the adoption process when he could be,” Simpson said. “If we had one running at large, he worked really hard to find its home instead of taking it to the animal shelter. He also worked closely with animal rescue groups we have here in the community.”

Paisley recalled being on patrol one day and seeing a pit bull chasing someone. It had gotten off its chain. Since another pit bull was with it, Paisley couldn’t deal with both of them. He called another officer to keep an eye on one while Paisley captured the second one with a catch pole that has a loop to put over the dog’s head.

“It was trying to attack me,” Paisley said. “I was making sure it didn’t get close enough to bite me.”

His job also came with threats. Once when Paisley was investigating a pit bull running-at-large, the owner told him he wasn’t taking his dog and to get off his property. Paisley returned to his truck and called an officer who accompanied him back to the house.

“The wife came out and started fussing and cussing and calling me all kind of names,” Paisley said. The officer told her if she didn’t go back into the house and be quiet, she was going to jail.

Paisley cited the man for not having up-to-date rabies shots and letting his dog run at large, then took the dog to the animal shelter in Wentworth. As they were leaving, the officer told Paisley, “You better be glad you called me because she was going to knock your head off!”

Paisley praised the local officers with whom he worked.

“They were a good bunch to work for. They would do anything in the world to help me.”

One of the saddest parts of his job was dealing with mistreated animals – those left out in the cold with no shelter or food.

His worst case was five horses in eastern Eden being neglected and starved. Before he could get to them, two of the horses fell in the river and disappeared. However, the other three were in poor health.

Eden detectives took pictures of the horses before Paisley captured them and delivered them to a horse rescue home in Reidsville to be rehabilitated.

Usually, when he found mistreated horses, Paisley took them to one of several rescue homes where they were nursed back to health and then adopted by loving families.

As for skunks, although he caught hundreds over the years, Paisley learned on the web how to catch them without getting sprayed. Most were caught in traps he set at people’s home.

“A skunk’s eyesight is not very good,” he said. “If you stand still, he will just walk over your feet. You have to do everything real slow.”

When he caught one in a cage, Paisley held a piece of black rubber roofing tarp in front of him, walked “real slow” up to the trap, dropped it over the trap, then backed away for a couple of minutes. Thinking he was in a dark hole, the skunk would get into a ball. Then, Paisley wrapped the tarp around the cage, put a strap around it, loaded it on his truck, and took it to where he was going to release it. After setting the trap on the ground, he opened the door, pulled off the tarp and ran.

“He would still be in the ball until you pull that tarp off,” Paisley said. “When the sunlight hit him, he would just wander off.”

Over the years, Paisley never went in a house without another officer accompanying him.

“I hate going into a house for a snake, and I didn’t go under any house,” he said.

Knowing his wife was terrified of snakes, Paisley often showed her those he caught.

The couple met in 1994 when Paisley applied for car insurance at the Farm Bureau in Eden and Sandy Lillard was his agent. Two years later they married. They have a son, Nickolas Smith, and two grandchildren, Jake, 12, and Sadie, 6. Sandy Paisley retired six years ago.

Now, the couple plans to buy a camper after the pandemic and travel to barbecue cook-offs and go Sasquatch hunting in Uwharrie National Forest.

Paisley also plans to resurrect his beekeeping hives, till the soil to get more gardening space, and set up a woodworking shop.

He was never tempted to bring any of the animals he caught home. “We have enough here, we don’t need anything else,” Paisley said, noting they have two dogs and nearly 20 chickens.

On his last day at work, the police department presented Paisley a clock and a card filled with money to go camping. Several patrol cars escorted him home with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.

“They lit up our neighborhood,” Sandy Paisley said.

Meantime, with COVID-19 restrictions encouraging residents to stay home, Paisley expects to eat a lot of his wife's good cooking.

“Ed has really enjoyed working for the police department,” she said. “There are no finer men and women anywhere than we have here. They risk their lives every day for all of us, and he was so proud to be a small part of that team.

“I'm so proud of him and the concern and responsibility he had for his job and to do it well. He had the best folks ever to work for and with. It just doesn't get much better than that.”

The police chief echoed those sentiments.

“We’re gonna miss him, and we wish him the best,” Simpson said. “He’s still part of this family.”

Reidsville native Ann Fish has lived in Eden since 1979. Contact her at annsomersfish@yahoo.com.

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