‘It’s like losing a family member’

GLENS FALLS — Losing a beloved pet is hard for many people, and not knowing what happened to them is even harder.

A Glens Falls Department of Public Works member is helping city residents answer this difficult question with a valuable service that goes above and beyond his job title.

Gary Baker’s job includes keeping city streets clear of debris, which sometimes includes clearing the remains of beloved pets who have passed away while outside their home.

Baker is going the extra mile to help provide dignity to these pets, as well as closure for their owners.

For years, Baker has been preserving the remains of cats and dogs found on city streets. He delicately places them in a plastic bag and then to a freezer at a city garage.

Going the extra mile
Through word of mouth, city residents know to call the Department of Public Works to learn if their missing pet might have been found by Baker or his co-worker Jimmy Brown.

It’s emotional for the pet owner, but also for Baker, who is often on hand when owners identify their pet.
“My heart just aches for them,” Baker said. “It’s like losing a family member.”

Recently, Baker assisted a resident who had been searching for weeks for her beloved cat, Jack-Jack, who had been taken to the Department of Public Works without initial identification. According to local media reports, Baker was there when Jack-Jack’s owner showed up at the department to identify her cat.

“She was there with her baby and when she saw it was Jack-Jack, she started crying,” Baker said.
Baker said that while Jack-Jack’s owner was heartbroken, she was happy to know what happened and to be able to take him home and bury him.

He noted that she didn’t have anything to transfer her cat back home.

“Don’t worry,” Baker told her. He placed the cat in a box, drove it to her home and placed the box on the porch.

A love of animals instilled in childhood is at the root of Baker’s efforts.

“They don’t ask for anything,” said Baker, who grew up with dogs, cats and horses. “They are your best friends and they deserve all the respect a human does.”

He currently cares for chickens and enjoys the interaction with them. “My wife says they can tell when I am coming home,” he said.

After a local TV station aired a story on Baker’s efforts, an anonymous call came in to the city questioning if these actions are the best use of taxpayer resources although Baker’s job includes clearing the bodies of deceased animals.

To these comments, Baker replied, “How would you feel if it was your pet?”

Baker’s work is yet another example of how our union members are truly adding value to our communities, even during difficult times.

“I’m proud of the work I do,” Baker said. “I’m happy to help people.”

— Therese Assalian

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Therese Assalian

Therese has been working as the Capital Region Communications Specialist since 2002 handling all facets of internal and external communications for the region. Therese started her career at a Madison Avenue Public Relations firm and held several positions in public relations, marketing and event planning in corporate and non-profit roles in New York and Pittsburgh prior to moving to the Capital Region in 1999. Therese holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Communication Studies and is also a published freelance writer on travel, food and the arts.

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