Rick George could pass for Santa.
"Well, I could," he said, if it weren’t that playing his full-time role as makes it preferable to keep his facial hair trimmed back to a mustache and goatee.
Otherwise, at 6 feet tall and 265 pounds, he easily passes for Old Saint Nick for events such as at the Milford Senior Center’s children’s Christmas party on Dec. 9 and the Animal Shelter’s pet photos with Santa fundraiser on Dec. 10.
"I have been known to have long beards," George noted. Twenty-five years ago he grew a beard down to his chest.
As animal control officer, Rick George has many stories to tell about animals. ", which is getting a huge amount of attention," he said.
The animal, a Black Angus bull or steer, has been spotted near Gulf Beach, and is believed to be hiding in a patch of woods off Calf Pen Meadow Road where Milford residents hid their cattle during the Revolutionary War.
He once kept a red tail hawk at his house while its broken wing mended. One day it got loose and chased his cat down the hall.
And once he was called to a residence to retrieve a number of exotic animals, including a 13-foot-long Burmese python and several deadly Egyptian death stalker scorpions.
George said one of the best parts of his job is when he gets to introduce school children to live animals they seldom get to see.
"I think it’s important for children to be exposed to things you don’t see every day," he explained.
George is a lifelong area resident. He grew up on the Fin and Wing Farm, located in the 1950s where Platt Tech is now in Milford.
In the 1970s, he worked as an apprentice mechanic, then as a Milford police officer for three years, then as a marine mechanic at a boatyard, and finally as a self-employed home remodeler. One of his remodeling customers was Milford Animal Control Officer Patricia Liptak, who asked him to fill in for her while she took some time off from work.
He did, which led to his job as the assistant animal control officer, and he succeeded Liptak two years ago when she retired.
Orange ended its association with Bethany/Woodbridge Animal Control and joined Milford earlier this year.
George also has an affinity for trains and trolleys. One of his community activities was to learn to be a volunteer trolley operator for the Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven and Branford.
His love for tinkering extends to the model railroad group he helped to start at the Milford Senior Center. They are building an ambitious, HO gauge model train layout in the center’s basement, replicating what Milford Center looked like a century ago.
"We’re not throwing a few plastic buildings together. We’re actually recreating what was there," George said. "We’ve laid over 400 feet of tracks so far. It’s not like your little Lionels that go around your Christmas tree. It’s actually very sophisticated."