Samuel Pointer was hired as Sitka’s new Animal Control Officer in late June (KCAW/Rose)

“Carlos. Katherine, right?” asks Sam Pointer, who is introducing me to his office mate at the Sitka Animal Shelter.

“There he is,” Pointer gestures toward Carlos. “He is so cool.”

Carlos doesn’t respond because he’s a turtle- a Russian tortoise, actually. He’s a recent rescue, one of the first in Pointer’s tenure as Sitka’s new animal control officer. 

“He’s an interesting little guy,” Pointer says of the tortoise, who he guesses is somewhere around four years old, but could live for decades if well cared for.

“He’s a little high maintenance,” Pointer continues. “With turtles, it’s not just give them a little grass and let them go. You have to make sure you give them some warm soaks and, and proper diet, and things that. He likes a little attention…So he’s my buddy right now.”

Carlos the tortoise, relaxing in his terrarium (KCAW/Rose)

Pointer is originally from St. Louis, but he’s called Sitka home for nearly a decade– he’s worked in the healthcare field, and served in the military. But this is his first time working with animals professionally. 

I applied and then read the job description, and I think if more people read the job description, they may have gotten more applicants,” Pointer says. “There are so many interesting aspects to this job that I want to learn.”

He’s been doing his rounds most mornings, stopping by local dog parks with treats in hand, introducing himself to local pups and their human companions. Pointer recognizes that while animal control officers are often seen as “dog catchers” the job is much, much more than that. It’s “working with individuals in the community, promoting responsible pet ownership, public health, which is at the root of mostly everything we do as a city employee,” Pointer says. 

Before he took on the role, the position was vacant for around a year. leaving the nonprofit board, the Friends of Sitka Animal Shelter, to run the organization entirely with volunteers.

“It’s been a challenge to be honest with you,” says Dusty Kidd, the board secretary.

“Having somebody trying to be there and answer phones, get back to messages,” Kidd says. “But also the most important thing, of course, is caring for the animals that are housed at the shelter.”

A challenge to be sure, but some 40 enthusiastic volunteers rose to the occasion, around 20 of them regularly caring for the animals on a rotating schedule each week, making sure the administrative work got done, and in that time even pumping up their social media and adoption outreach. And they waited. Finally, in June, Pointer came on board. 

“I’m just delighted to have him on board as the ACO,” Kidd says. “He seems to be very enthusiastic. He clearly cares about animals, and will be a tremendous help, just to animal management in the city, but also the shelter specifically.”

Kidd says working in an animal shelter requires an even temperament, long-term vision and willingness to provide care in the best interest of the animal. Pair that with the community outreach and enforcement side of Pointer’s job, the ACO post takes a person who can kind of do it all. Fortunately, Pointer is a natural with people and pets. He married his wife Eve shortly before he was hired at the shelter. Together, they have a micro zoo of furry friends.

“My lovely bride, when I met her, she had three cats and two dogs,” Pointer says. “We currently have four dogs, six cats, and three bunnies.”

“We’re avid pet lovers” he adds, and laughs.

And while Pointer started out as more of a dog person, recently he’s grown very fond of their cats- and one tends to favor him too– a rescue named Peaches.

“I was always envious of people with cats on their shoulders, how they can walk around,” Pointer says. “I can be folding laundry or doing something in the room and she [Peaches] just hops on my shoulder. And I think that’s like the coolest thing to have a cat on your shoulder walking around.”

As Pointer shows me around the shelter, it’s clear the building is in a bit of a transition. With the vet clinic recently moving out, a remodel is on the horizon. Much of that will depend on fundraising and city finances, but they have managed to flip one room into a more comfortable space for pets already.

Pointer shows me the recently refreshed adult cat room. It’s quiet now, but they have speakers equipped to play “elevator type” music for the cats- a calming technique. A cat tree and a few cat beds on shelves line one wall. In the corners of the room, on small risers lined with soft pillows, two cats peer down at me, somewhat skeptically. Another hides in a cubby. Pointer tells me their names are Onyx, Smoke, and Irish.

Avis, a white and brown short-hair with inquisitive yellow-green eyes, however is eagerly circling our feet the moment we enter the room. Just like with Carlos, Pointer introduces us. “What’s up?!” he asks Avis. “This is my friend Katherine. She’s coming to tell all the nice people in Sitka that this is a nice place.”

“This is a nice place,” he repeats. “And the only time you end up here is only if you absolutely have to, but you’re gonna get real good care here.”

People are going to be really nice to you here,” Pointer continues, but adds that if he had a good home, that would be even better. Then, of course, it’s time for a treat.  

Pointer greets Avis in the adult cat room at the Sitka Animal Shelter. (KCAW/Rose)

All of the pets mentioned in this story are available for adoption. Those interested can call the Sitka Animal Shelter at 747-3245.