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By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN â The town's new animal warden, Holly Duffany â on the job for two months â is earning a degree in criminal justice from New England Tech, hopes to one day become a police K-9 officer, and loves critters so much that she took home a seemingly unadoptable dog that had been in the shelter for more than half its life.
She also just turned 21 and is the youngest animal control officer in the state.
Police Chief Thomas J. Mulligan, who has not always seen eye to eye with the animal officers under his supervision, is overjoyed with the town's two new hires, Duffany and her deputy, Erin Noblet.
âHolly was previously with the State of Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management,â he says. (She was a supervising park ranger at the Pulaski Memorial/George Washington Recreation Area in Glocester.)
âShe's a very friendly person,â continues Mulligan. âShe has good people skills.â
Her assistant is Erin Noblet, a former employee of the Town of Narragansett, works Sunday and Monday.
âShe has considerable experience at URI with different animal degrees,â he says.
Mulligan says the recent hires are because âWeâre trying to address a vacancy due to the injury of [veteran animal officer] Mary MacLaughlin.â
Known as Liz, MacLaughlin has been on medical leave with a back injury since last summer and has been previously disabled from work-related incidents. According to Mulligan she's still on the payroll. Attempts to reach MacLaughlin were unsuccessful.
Holly, a native of Smithfield who now lives with her boyfriend, Adam DeOliviera, near Roger Williams Park, is equally enthusiastic.
âI heard they were looking and I applied, was called for an interview and the next day I got the job. I was a little surprised because I'm so young.
âI've always wanted to end up working with dogs. There was never a time when I didn't have a pet. I spent summers on a working blueberry farm and had chickens, peacocks, dogs, rabbits, ducks, kittens and a horse.â
These days her dog â technically it belongs to Adam â is a beautiful American Staffordshire bull terrier mix three or four years old who had a big litter, all of whom were adopted, and then sat in the shelter waiting for a home.
Damned by the slang term âpit bullâ, a name synonymous with danger, there were no takers for two years.
âI saw her; I'd heard her story,â recalls Holly. âShe's gorgeous and I couldn't believe she'd been in the shelter two years. Nobody gave her a chance. âIt's not the dog, it's the personâ responsible for an animal's aggressive behavior.
Although he initially resisted, Holly says Adam came to the shelter, saw the lonely pooch âand it was love at first sight. He adopted her.â
Holly was worried that the dog, whom they renamed Bella, might have trouble adjusting to a new environment. Instead, she settled in and quickly became a princess. Adam's rules barring her from the couch and the bed immediately went out the window.
âAll Bella wants to do is cuddle,â says Holly, laughing. âI wake up every morning, look over and she's cuddling with him. She likes to stretch out with her head on the pillow.â
Holly's adoption success doesn't stop at home. By networking through Facebook, she's having a remarkably good turnover rate with pets going out the door nearly as quickly as they arrive.
âFinding the right forever home for each animal is my favorite part of the job,â she says.
Recently she paired a beaming little girl with a beagle and it was a perfect match. At the other end of the spectrum, she placed a 14-year-old cat with an older lady who, she recalls, âwalked in and fell in love. He was here two years; the volunteers thought he'd be here forever. They couldn't believe I adopted him out.â
Animals stay until they find a home, she notes. âWe're a no-kill shelter. We do not put anything down.â
Although she finds her situation âperfect for me nowâ, eventually she'd like to pursue a degree in animal behavior and environmental studies.
Her immediate plans are to get more involved with the community through fundraising, educating the public on North Kingstown's animal ordinances and increasing her presence around town so people get to know her..
âEvery day is different,â she says. âI never know what to expect and I love it. I couldn't be more thankful that the chief gave me a chance.â
A rabies clinic scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the shelter offers a great opportunity to take advantage of a service â $15 for your pet's vaccination â and to meet Holly and Erin, the new faces of animal control in North Kingstown.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.