[Original story published in the Oct. 29, 2013 edition of the Longview-News Journal]

An animal control officer's job description typically includes many responsibilities, such as performing emergency animal rescue service, enforcing County and State animal laws and regulations, and responding to calls concerning domestic or wild animals. But, when one local officer received such a call, what he found was far more than an average animal rescue.

Longview Animal Control Officer Saylor Knox received a call in late July about an "emaciated" dog and a woman sleeping in a vehicle near a duplex in Spring Hill.  Knox, having nearly one and a half years of experience in animal control, thought he knew what to expect upon receiving such a call.  However, he quickly found that the harsh reality of the situation was far worse than he ever could've expected.

“There was no dog anywhere, but there was a lady sleeping in the cab of the truck,” he said.  “And this was in the middle of summer when it was over 100 degrees out.  She was pouring sweat and she had some blankets over the top of her.  Obviously, there was something going wrong in this situation.”

Upon responding to the call and being unable to find the dog, some would say Knox's responsibilities as an animal control officer had been fulfilled.  At that point, he had no other obligations to stay, but the tragic state of what Knox found weighed on his heart.  He had come to remove a dog from an unfit environment; how could he simply leave knowing people would still be living in such conditions?

Knox said an 18-year-old man living in the Spring Hill duplex told him the air conditioning had been broken for months.

Knox took in his surroundings and after spotting what he thought to be trash hanging from a battered old ceiling fan, Knox said turned to fellow officer Chris Kemper and said, “We’ve got to go inside.”

“At that point, it is our business,” Knox said.  “We have to investigate the inside of the house to know this is an okay place for animals to be in general.”

Knox said he found the home to be infested with rats and bags of garbage scattered throughout the home - later found to be the reason why the woman outside had been sleeping in her car.

Current project prior to renovation; Facebook: Saylor Knox
Current project prior to renovation; Facebook: Saylor Knox

Since that day in late July, Knox, with the help and support of family, friends, and the community, has taken it upon himself to restore the unfit home to livable conditions.

This isn't Knox's first big-hearted renovation project, however.  In March, Knox restored the home of Deborah O'Kane after responding to an animal control call and finding her house in shambles.

With help from Knox and other members of Motion Church, O'Kane's home - and life - were completely changed for the better.  O'Kane said that without their kindness and hard work in restoring her home, she would be homeless.

O'Kane had inherited all of her husband's collectibles when he passed.  The grief of losing her husband and her ongoing fight against cancer sent her into depression, and in turn, left her house in a state of neglect.

“It was a real hard time in my life when they started,” she said.  “I was embarrassed, naturally, but they treated me with such kindness.  It was basically showing Christ’s love with what they were doing.”

Deborah O'Kane and Saylor Knox; Vimeo
Deborah O'Kane and Saylor Knox; Vimeo

Since the restoration's completion, O'Kane has kept her home spotless and tidy, grateful for the generosity that has turned her life around.  Now, with Knox's new project, O'Kane has heavily involved herself in the renovation process.

“I went over there and saw that there was somebody else basically living the same life I was living,” she said.  “It became a chore but it’s been a good one.  Finally, I was able to help someone else the way I’ve been helped.  I am a pay-it-forward kind of person.”

To find funding for the current reno project and provide temporary housing for the family during the process, Knox set up a PayPal account online where anyone who feels moved to do so can donate to the cause.

“The initial $1,000 that we went through for the first month, I raised on Facebook in like three days,” he said.  “I put the information out there and it spread like wildfire.  I set up a Paypal account where they just clicked a button and put in the amount they wanted.”

Knox said he has also received donations from Motion Church to go toward the project, not only monetarily, but also by members giving their time to help with the renovation process.

Volunteers, such as Cary Weisinger, 24, and Carmen Towery, 20, said they spent days removing garbage from the home.

“This place was definitely crazy,” Weisinger said.  “The TV show ‘Hoarders’ doesn’t even scrape the surface of this place.  It was crazy.  But to see it now, there’s cleanliness.  There are no holes in the wall.  Before, there was like a swamp of sludge.”

Much-needed (and greatly appreciated) help was given in other areas of the project, too.

Longview Sanitation Department removed much of the trash, which Knox said sped the renovation process up by weeks.

Knox's aunt, Caryn Reynolds, owner of Powderpuff Painters, volunteered her time and some paint to transform the walls of the home.

“Being a Christian, I’m always going to bring the Lord in on this,” she said.  “Because He orders our steps.  Saylor gets this job with the city where he takes dogs out of unfit conditions and it weighs on his heart after he takes the dog.  He’s like, 'People live here.'”

With more donations, Knox said he can have new furniture in the home in two weeks.

“We didn’t budget for the floor,” he said.  “And this is a hurdle because even though we might have enough money for cabinets, doors and other things we can’t start putting stuff down.  At the moment we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.  We’re tight for money.”

Below are some before and after pictures from the current unfinished project.  Click here for the link to the PayPal donations page if you'd like to help.  You can also donate by contacting Chris Reid at Motion Church in Longview, 110 Triple Creek Dr., or by addressing your donation to Saylor Knox and bringing it to the City of Longview Environmental Health building, 410 S. High St.


*Sources: news-journal.com, Leslie Reynolds, Saylor Knox

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