Last year, Barbara Snow had 13,700 animals in her office.
There were poodles and calico cats, as you would expect, but there were also skunks, snakes and bats.
Snow, the director of the $1.9 million Department of Animal Control in Fairfax County, oversees the largest animal shelter in Virginia, but the calls that come in a steady stream to her office near Fair Oaks Mall usually involve people:
A few weeks ago, a Fairfax City resident saw a deer crash through his window, topple his drum set and land in his bed.
In April, a Springfield woman needed a permit to keep her 20-year-old monkey, which already had its own bedroom and television set.
A group of office workers was upset about the thug who shot two swans in the pond near the AT&T building in Oakton.
The panicked deer, which had internal injuries, had to be killed; the monkey was given a permit, as is necessary for "wild, exotic or vicious animals"; and the swan shooter is apparently still on the loose.
Always, there are neighborhood spats. "There'll be a cat that jumps on a neighbor's Mercedes and scratches the paint or the dog that howls outside the window of the lawyer who lives next door," said Snow. "Our mission is peaceful coexistence between animals and people."
Snow, neighborhood negotiator, manager of 54 employees, recipient of 2,000 animal bite calls last year, came to Fairfax 18 months ago from a similar job in Florida.
Since then, she has won Fairfax felines equal footing with dogs (Previously, stray cats weren't kept at the shelter for adoption); started sending sympathy cards to bereaved pet owners; and opened the West Ox Road shelter for meetings of the Ferret Club and other similar groups.
Then there is the proposed pig amendment, now before the Board of Supervisors. Pot-bellied pigs, which cost as much as $2,500 each and have become a rage of late, will gain legal pet status if the amendment passes.
"Energetic is how I'd describe her," said Carol A. Taylor, the county's humane education program director.
"Progressive," that's what she is, said Dennis C. Reed, chief animal warden.
Everyone who works near the 50-year-old administrator say she is tireless and enthusiastic about her $67,000-a-year job.
Snow is also working to get the animal control division computerized, encouraging the training of aggressive stray dogs so they can be used by police canine units, and hoping to expand a pet therapy program that brings animals to elderly people in nursing homes and to handicapped children in schools.
"I've seen an autistic child who hadn't spoken a word say the name of an animal," said Taylor, who administers the program.
"When people think about what we do, they think 'dogcatcher,' but a whole lot more goes on here," Reed said. In the last three weeks, he has been called out after midnight four times to get bats out of homes.
Car accidents have turned up even stranger animals. A few years ago, a half-dozen armadillos travelling on Interstate 95 from Florida to Massachusetts got loose when the Jeep in which they were riding overturned.
"There were armadillos all over the road," said John M. Howard, animal shelter director. Pythons aren't uncommon either, he said, citing the case of an 11-foot python that a renter in Annandale left behind after moving out.
Wardens are armed with tranquilizers and guns because they sometimes find themselves in dangerous spots. One warden recently had his ear bitten off when he turned his back on a wild dog. "I think really his pride was hurt more than anything," said Reed. "He's had several plastic surgery operations and he looks like new."
Autumn is one of the busiest seasons at the shelter because it is mating season for deer, and their increased movements often lead the deer onto busy roads. In addition to accidents handled by the police, the shelter responds to four or five calls a day during the fall involving deer struck on the roads.
"Vienna has even had some that walked down Main Street," said Reed.
Yesterday, a fawn struck by a vehicle at Fort Belvoir was struggling to stand. The tiny deer's bruised and bloodied chestnut-colored fur and stitched jaw were on the mend, his caretakers said.
Also in the barnyard area of the shelter was a plump chicken. It used to live in a house in Falls Church, but the owner, apparently no longer wanting the pet, gave it to the shelter.
All Darlene Leda wanted yesterday was a dog. The Fairfax Hospital nurse looked over the 58 dogs at the shelter for one to take home. "I've come here once a week for two months looking. I want a big one, maybe a year old. I thought, 'Why should I buy one when there are so many here who need homes?' "
Last year, 5,532 stray or abandoned dogs wound up at the one-story shelter, and most of them were made available for adoption. Several thousand people a year come through the shelter either to drop one off or pick one up. Like babies left on hospital steps, some animals are tied to the shelter door at night, abandoned by owners.
Snow recently moved from a rented Centreville town house, where no pets were allowed, to her new home in Prince William County with her husband of 32 years, a retired Eastern Airlines pilot, and a new silver tabby named Ezzat (Iranian for "respect").
"I think animals should get respect," she said. "We're building a concrete world and there is no place for the wildlife to go. Our job is to raise the tolerance level for wildlife. To me, an animal is not a nuisance just because it's there."