There's a fellow who calls himself "The Alligator Man" who has wintered in Kennett the last couple of years. He lives in a big panel truck with a menagerie of animals: 2 big dogs, 2 little dogs, 2 raccoons, 2 chickens,many small gators, 3 large (think 6-feet) alligators, many snakes (including a 29-pounder), many turtles, and that's just the ones that I know about.
His truck-home caught fire Friday night. He suffered 3rd degree burns or worse to his hands in trying to remove all the animals. Many of them were in plastic tubs which were melting. He has been taken to Memphis for treatment.
The initial call from the police department was that there were burned reptiles suffering from smoke inhalation. Then the second call was that there were dogs and a raccoon, but the owner did not want them treated by a veterinarian. Knowing the gentleman's situation, he was probably afraid he'd be unable to pay the bill.
The third call was a request to meet the officers. There were so many police cars at the clinic you would have thought I was serving donuts (or pizza).
The wife of our Police Chief has a dog-grooming shop, and she has taken many of the aquariums and tubs to her shop. She has the turtles, gators, and small snakes. The chickens were in individual cages, and are going home with an animal-loving police officer who lives out in the country. The raccoons are in box-trap cages at the dog pound.
The four dogs are with me for observation, as is the 7.6 pound iguana and the 29-pound albino python. The python looks great, and I wouldn't have kept it, but it was "housed" in a cloth sack, which was wet and cold.
The reptiles were all stone cold, so it remains to be seen how they will do. The immediate plan is to get rid of the ice water and get them in a warm environment. We're looking for foster homes. Tomorrow I'll call my exotic animal vet friend in Memphis for advice about aftercare, as well as potential foster homes. Gators, anyone?
If the dogs are okay tomorrow, they'll probably go to the pound. They are not burned, but hard to say about the smoke inhalation. No respiratory distress after 3 hours, so I'm pretty optimistic about that.
Night calls from the police department have never been boring, but they also have never been remunerative. I expect that all I'll get out of this is a story… maybe some kind of exotic infection,too. Of course, I like a good story.