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William Warrior Honors all the Animals He Encounters

William Warrior Honors all the Animals He Encounters

The Art Center’s current exhibition, Encounters: Honoring the Animal in Ourselves, emphasizes real and imagined revelatory encounters the artists have had with animals. But for longtime Palo Alto Animal Control Officer William Warrior, up-close and personal interactions with wildlife are daily occurrences.

“We have a lot of wild animal issues in Palo Alto,” says William, who is fairly well-known in the community, and has been working for the City for the past 40 years. “We get calls ranging from a dead mouse on the front lawn to problems with large deer, which tend to get in trouble with one another, stationary objects, and cars during the rutting season.”

William says he first became interested in animals in middle school. Soon afterwards, he joined a group of animal rescue volunteers and then became an animal control officer in 1979, following a ride-along.

His “encounters” with wildlife in Palo Alto have included an opossum rescue, the salvation of a duck family, helping a deer stuck in a picket fence, coming to the aid of orphaned coyote pups, helping a seal and seal pup, and tortoise wrangling.

“We had a man in Palo Alto who owned nine tortoises, and they would occasionally break out of the house,” he says. “One time there was a fire at his residence, and we got the call to gather up some turtles, which are actually much smaller. We were quite surprised to find these much larger tortoises that we had to collect using large plastic tubs.”

But William also complimented Palo Alto residents on their encounters with wildlife and their approach to dealing with wild animals.

“I can’t imagine a better community to work in where the people are so aware or concerned for the environment,” he says. “It didn’t always used to be this way, however. In the late 1800s, there were wild dogs running around, and we’ve had our controversies regarding leash laws over the years.”

He adds that it’s always a unique situation when urban dwellers encounter wildlife, and that anyone who is not sure how to handle the situation should contact City of Palo Alto Animal Control (part of the Palo Alto Police Department) at 650.329.2413.

William’s current “partner” and goodwill ambassador is Lilly, a nine-year-old border collie who happens to be completely deaf, and blind in one eye. The good-natured dog has been that way since birth, but manages to identify people and other dogs through a keen sense of smell, he says.

Lilly also travels to schools, where William tells students about the proper way to approach wildlife. Lilly is so well-known in the community, in fact, that she has her own badge, trading card and web site (

He says he never anticipated having another dog, but that adoptable dogs “have a way of finding you.”

When asked what he thought about the current Encounters: Honoring the Animal in Ourselves exhibition at the Art Center, William says, “I like the anthropomorphism in the exhibit, especially the full-size woman holding the animal/baby in her arms [artist Patricia Piccinini’sThe Bond, 2016].”

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Last Updated: November 14, 2019