Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Fond and Loving Farewell in the Midst of Chaos and Fear

My beloved cat, Rudy, is no longer by my side. He was a true and valiant companion whom I loved and admired deeply. I cared for him for ten years. The kidney disease that began mid-2009 could not be cured and caused him to literally waste away. He put up a good fight and so did his vet and I. I am grateful that he was able to die with the dignity that marked his life. For this was a very dignified, intelligent, affectionate, and talented creature. The very best of cats.

I could write volumes about Rudy and my life with him on two continents and in various settings. His aerobatic exploits were known to many visiting academics and distinguished guests. He was my first real pet for me alone. As he comes from Berlin, his formal name was Prinz Rüdiger von Fleischfresser ab und zu Mausenjägerberg. (I sometimes got it wrong and he was kind to allow me to shorten it...)

I will say here that with regard to Brindi, it is a shame that the two did not have the last year and a half together. They were on their way from polite tolerance and acceptance to being fast friends when she was taken. Rudy was not a big fan of dogs but he was not a violent sort. He understood without rejoicing in it when I adopted Brindi. He was not quite as pleased about Howard, her predecessor, but he was not the kind of cat to either agitate or run away and hide.  He was not afraid to stand his ground against strange dogs if needed, nevertheless. (Last night, I was miraculously able to immediately locate exactly the photos I wanted of him to scan and one of them illustrates this perfectly-I will post them, if only I could find the red envelope I put them in!)

Rudy sometimes accompanied us on walks. Amelia, my other cat and currently my only animal companion at home, did that more often, but Rudy was no stranger either. All of us enjoyed a snooze together on many a night. I considered it a key milestone when three months after I adopted Brindi - who hadn't been around cats at all in the shelter or probably before that - joined us in the family sleep.

I knew that Rudy would not last much longer, after his last full checkup in November, and January's visit showed it was rapidly winding down to a matter of months if not weeks. Meds, special food, and more could not stop him from shrinking him down beyond half his normal weight. My vet was so kind to spend the time with us in his last hours. I want to thank her here, but I will never be able to thank her enough. She gave him wonderful relief and comfort when he most needed it, and above all, respect for his needs. And the same for me, I must add. She patiently listened to a host of Rudy stories all Friday afternoon and then again on Saturday morning in her clinic. She is one of those rare individuals who understand and believe in the human-animal bond and views it on a par with human bonds when it comes to moments like this.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ 

Rudy's last days were the chief focus of my attention and energy since the court ruling was announced last Tuesday, Feb. 23, and I am still working out the "final arrangements" as they say.

I still cannot write about the court; it was a terrible day and another followed and another since then, and though I form blog posts in my head several times a day, including about that, I have not been able to write one. And then something else would happen to supercede what came before. Anyway, observant friends were most surprised about the verdict on the charge of "owning a dog that attacks", as it had been established in court that there was no evidence for it. But now is not the time I can discuss it. I am also not able or willing to discuss the dismaying "discoveries" and comments that have erupted once again on Joan Sinden's blog. I have been attacked before and it won't be the last time, I'm sure. I also cannot afford the time and energy, not to mention the emotional cost, of dealing with it.

Many kind people are mounting a massive internet campaign directed at contacting the mayor and the council. I am grateful to them, and anyone responding to their calls to action. I get requests for information all the time and I cannot keep up with it  - I have not kept up with it especially this week. I have taken the risk of posting videos taken of Brindi at the pound, to allow people the chance to see for themselves. But I regret to say that I do not entertain a lot of hope that the calls and letters will change anything, as the mayor has been fairly deluged for some time already. However, it goes without saying that I would be the first to sing their praises and never stop, should I be wrong about this latest campaign. May it work!! If anything, it would be nice if the council and mayor learned some key information about the case when there is still time to drop - if not the charges - the euthanization request. (Since HRM counsel forbade the politicians from publicly discussing the case, how can anybody keep them informed, let alone exercise their right to democratic participation?)

I have received about five calls from new strangers, one each day since Tuesday, each one concerned, upset for me and Brindi, and determined to help. Some with amazing information. I wish I could instantly write about them each time it happens.

But I do not have a lot of time to prepare for when the judge hears evidence about Brindi being dangerous or not - which take place on March 9. My growing list of calls to make and other things to do must come before all else. I am told that a very good lawyer is waiting to talk to me, as is a woman in New Brunswick who just got her dog's life spared even after it attacked and injured an elderly lady in her town. Maybe you heard of her dog - Sophie?

So I am not willing to use my time and energy by engaging with people inclined toward negativity of any kind.

What I can do is assure everyone, as I have from the start, that Brindi being returned to me will mean that she will be protected from harm and prevented from harm equally, with the help and guidance of a good trainer, a fence, keeping to the muzzle order as required, and anything else humanly possible. I will not hesitate to repeat that as often as I can.

I can also thank all those who have been working so hard to help me. I do know that the vast majority of people here and around the world are good-willed and understanding, and willing to help as much as they are able. A foremost example is Olive Pastor, whose letter was published today in the Chronicle-Herald:

Brindi case a travesty

I suppose today that Peter Kelly and his council are smug in the wake of winning the court case against Francesca Rogier. I am angry because this court case was won for the mayor using my tax dollars.

I do not support the animal control laws as they stand, and I want them changed with input from pet owners and animal lovers. As far as I am concerned, this case is not about a crime committed by Francesca or her dog. Instead, it’s about the fact she challenged somebody’s authority.

And unfortunately, she depended on the justice system for help. I hope Nova Scotians will take notice that this could happen to you and your pet. We should have given Francesca more support in this terrible time as she tried to save her dog.

It is not too late. Protest this move and demand that Brindi be given back to Francesca. Brindi was kennelled for 19 months, Francesca has been financially devastated. This is abuse. What kind of society are we running anyway?

People of HRM, I beg you to vote this mayor and council out as quickly as possible and demand new laws to protect animals and pet owners, and select animal control officers with a stringent new hiring policy.

Olive Pastor, Caribou

 ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ 
Tonight is a great Olympic victory for Canada's hockey lovers, and the country has won more gold than any other country. I congratulate them!

I wish Brindi and I could have some gold too - the golden love we share and the golden moments we enjoy together.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What is man without the beasts? 

If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected.  

Chief Seattle

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A letter to the editor that made it

Thank you, Ms. Bridgewater, for this letter, and to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald for printing it Feb. 19.

HRM exceeding its power

Brindi’s case is an example of how HRM’s order to euthanize the dog exceeds the power of the municipality as stated by Supreme Court Justice Duncan Beveridge in January 2009. HRM should have dropped the charges against Francesca Rogier and Brindi at that time, but instead reinstated the charges.
Ms. Rogier obviously loves Brindi and has spent over $30,000 fighting to have her dog, free of charges, back in her home from the SPCA, where Brindi was ordered placed by HRM in July 2008. Ms. Rogier has not been allowed to visit Brindi since January 2009.
Recently, the executive director of Nova Scotia SPCA, Kristin Williams, has said that the SPCA will not euthanize (kill) Brindi, nor will euthanization take place on SPCA property.
Brindi’s fate will be decided on Feb. 23, and I am praying the dog will not be killed, but released to go home.
HRM needs to pay Ms. Rogier for her legal bills because of all the injustice which has needlessly been done to her.

Hope Bridgewater, Wentworth

There is another fat bill pending, regardless of the outcome here, and that is the bill the SPCA plans to charge me: a whopping $25 a day for boarding Brindi at an inadequate facility where she contracted a chronic illness: something like $13,500 to date. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Voice of the people ??

Who is this about, anyway??

Decision not SPCA’s

Re: the Feb. 5 article "Judge reserves decision in Brindi case: Seized dog a safety hazard, says HRM."

As part of the HRM animal control contract, the SPCA is obligated to house animal control dogs and cats that are retained for court cases. Brindi has become a high-profile, long-term resident at the SPCA, but remains under the control of HRM.
The SPCA is not involved in the determinations made by the court and has no influence on the final decision.
Over the course of Brindi’s residence, the SPCA has advocated for and provided for exceptional care. We have kept an open dialogue with HRM regarding Brindi’s health and well-being and we have ensured that all of her needs are met, including medical, behavioural and social.
This is a very sensitive matter and we have great sympathy for all parties involved. The SPCA is never in favour of euthanasia where a viable alternative exists; however, the court will ultimately decide what is right for the community. If the judge rules that Brindi is to be euthanized, it will not be carried out by the SPCA, nor will it occur on SPCA property.

Kristin Williams, Executive Director,
Nova Scotia SPCA

One would have thought that the main point of the story was about Brindi and me, not the SPCA. Apparently, the Chronicle-Herald didn't think so. But the SPCA was mentioned in the story only in passing. 

And people wonder why things are so bad here.

Needless to say there are doubts about the veracity of the statement above. For one thing, it simply cannot be true that all of my dog's needs are met; she has been kept in a short-term facility designed for a maximum of 30 days, and it's been eighteen months. Who are they kidding? 
It is the SOLE task of the NS SPCA to protect the welfare of animals in this province. They are not obligated to do anything that might be harmful to an animal. They are the last ones who can or should, even for half a million dollars a year.
And as for sympathy, there's a nice one; just to name a few sympathetic gestures: a ban, a false arrest of a friend, and lying straight to my face while secretly refusing to give my dog bones I bought for her to keep her teeth health, then refusing to give her a teeth cleaning - not to mention the most fascist restrictions on visits imaginable - I've met more sympathetic border guards at Checkpoint Charlie in the old days.
As far as the contract goes, it gives the SPCA the task of carrying out euthanasia orders. I can send it to anybody who wants it. I did send it to the Coast, but they were not interested.

All I know is, I wouldn't mind making $80,000 a year for writing letters to the paper and to threatening single women whose animals were taken unfairly.

Sent today:

Dear Editor:  

Over a week ago, on Feb. 4, I sent you a letter regarding the same article to which Kristin Williams replied. You chose to print her letter over mine. It seems to me that in the interest of fair coverage, you should also print my letter. It strove mainly to correct significant errors in the original article, and also to point out some too often overlooked facts. It did not attack the SPCA or anyone.  

I do not understand why the Herald restricts information and coverage about my dog Brindi and myself, let alone has refrained from asking key questions about our situation for well over a year. That cannot be in anyone's interest.  

If you claim to be fair and objective in any way, you will seek to cover both sides - or as many sides as there are - of this issue.  


Francesca Rogier

------ Forwarded Message
From: Francesca Rogier <>Date: Thu, 04 Feb 2010 23:34:53 -0400To: <>, <>Cc: "" <>Subject: CORRECTION and comment on Brindi story
Dear Editor:
Steve Bruce’s account of the conclusion of the trial yesterday (“Brindi the dog saga still not over”) was a welcome sight. I am glad that the Herald allowed a reporter to return to the story. However, please correct two points: first, the judge confirmed no evidence exists of any wounds to the dog in question, contrary to Mr. Newton’s claims. Second, there were two, not three complaints from other dog owners prior to Brindi’s seizure. The first led to a warning; the AC officer Hamm informed me he would lay a fine after the second. But, as he testified, a week later he changed it to a muzzle, only because (unbeknownst to me) the other dog owner involved asked him not to fine me.
The question of what actually led to the seizure has never been answered. We do know that Hamm never conducted a required investigation beforehand. And to get a seizure warrant, he used false reports that my dog Brindi attacked people. He also falsely claimed that he had to seize any muzzled dog after any complaint was received, an action unauthorized by any law in Canada. To this day he appears not to comprehend A300’s statutes, let alone the gravity of his actions.
Once again, Brindi never killed a chicken or badly harmed any other animal; her offenses cannot be termed serious. Yet Brindi and I have been seriously harmed. Thanks to the SPCA’s care, she now has diseased gums and bad teeth, plus chronic pancreatitis. No reasonable person could deny that this is about animal cruelty on top of serious infringement of a human's rights. The fact is, my property has been held illegally the entire time, given the Supreme Court decision and the law limiting the detention of property to three months.
Is HRM really acting to insure public safety? Few people know that between 2007 and late 2009, HRM obtained convictions on no less than 67 dog attacks on animals and/or people. Four owners have multiple convictions; their dogs are at home. Only one dog was seized or euthanized. Yet By-law A300 clearly defines each and every one of those 67 dogs as a "dangerous dog". It’s no wonder Mr. Newton didn’t want the court to admit a record of by-law prosecutions. But regardless of the outcome on February 23, people in HRM deserve to know the truth.    

Francesca Rogier

Judge reserves decision in Brindi case 

Seized dog a safety hazard, says HRM

An East Chezzetcook woman says Halifax Regional Munici pality only charged her with vio lating its animal control bylaw because it wants to destroy her dog, Brindi.

“HRM is seeking to accept nothing short of murdering my dog," Francesca Rogier said Wednesday at her trial in Dart mouth provincial court.

“They believe my dog is dan gerous and should be put down. . . . The issue isn’t whether or not I broke bylaws.

“I’m very unhappy with the fact it was handled this way."

Ms. Rogier is charged with be ing the owner of a dog that was running at large, owning a dog that attacked another animal and failing to comply with a muz zle order.

Judge Alanna Murphy, who is presiding over the trial, reserved her decision until Feb. 23 after hearing final arguments Wednesday.

Animal control officers, acting on a complaint from another pet owner, seized Brindi in July 2008 and ordered the mixed-breed dog euthaniz ed.

But a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled last January that the bylaw that authorized the killing of Brindi exceeded the power of the municipality. Justice Duncan Beveridge also said Ms. Rogier was never given a chance to oppose the decision to seize and destroy her dog.

Three days later, and one day before the six-month limitation period would have expired, the municipality laid the charges against Ms. Rogier.

If Ms. Rogier is convicted, the municipality will seek to have Brindi euthanized.

Brindi has been kept at the SPCA shelter in Dartmouth since she was seized.

Judge Murphy heard three days of evidence and arguments. The trial got underway Oct. 13 and also sat last Friday.

Dartmouth lawyer Geoff New ton is prosecuting the case for the municipality. Ms. Rogier,
who has spent more than $30,000 on lawyers since her dog was seized, ended up representing herself at trial.

Fifteen people, including Ms. Rogier, testified at the hearing.

Brindi was under a muzzle or der in July 2008 because of earlier complaints about her be­haviour. On July 20, she allegedly ran off Ms. Rogier’s property and attacked a dog that was being walked along the road.

Ms. Rogier told the court that Brindi got away from her as she was putting on the muzzle.

“I can’t be sure what was going through her mind when she es caped my double-handed grip," she said.

In her closing submission, Ms. Rogier said she had rescued the dog from a shelter where it had been locked up for two years. Brindi needed more training, she said, but was making progress, despite “understandable lapses."

Ms. Rogier said she showed due diligence on the day in ques tion by trying to muzzle the dog. Mr. Newton, in his closing com ments, said the dog allegedly at tacked by Brindi suffered punc ture wounds to its neck area.

He said “if that’s not a public safety issue, I don’t know what is."

“She took Brindi outside the house without a leash and a muz zle," Mr. Newton said of Ms. Ro gier. “She’s guilty of all three counts on the information and I seek convictions on all three counts."

------ End of Forwarded Message

I didn't "take her"; she got loose. And there were no neck wounds; no treatment, no photos, not even a mention to HRM Animal Services. Newton deliberately distorted and misrepresented the facts. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The (next) Day After, and another three weeks, and then?

Will justice be served??? 

Tired, sore, tired, weary, achy, sore.

Just all the sensations after a long day in court, another day after another court day. Even being in court for an hour is tiring but this was 9:30 to 4, with a lunch break and a few other short breaks; it followed last Friday, another cold day, with snow crippling my house yet again, when I could not get into town at all and multiple attempts through neighbors failed to get the message past the courthouse administration's answering machine for hours, witnesses having to wait around and miss work, judge irritated, and at home, no water or heat to be had, impossible to fix with or without help, even to this day. Minus forty with the wind chill factor is not the best of weather to deal with power outages. Once I could finally leave the house on Friday afternoon, I was horrified to find the highways still slippery, with ridges of ice and snow between the tire tracks, making it dangerous to change lanes or even take an exit.

First thing yesterday morning, dumping my files in the fast-food seats anchored to the floor of the lobby, I was a bit astonished to see the AC officer approaching in the most friendly way possible, not to offer help but to ask for a preview of what questions I might ask him on the stand (for the second time). Trying to organize the unruly mass of papers plaguing my files, I was not quite up to a conversation with the man responsible for this entire ordeal. I was very grateful that Jenn Richardson was with me, as Brindi's most faithful supporter, Bob Riley, was in the hospital for surgery last Friday, and couldn't make it again yesterday due to medical appointments. Looks like he may not even be able to attend court on the 23, when the judge will be announcing her decision. Turns out that the officer, Tim Hamm, went to school with Bob's sons, though he didn't mention it till a few weeks ago. 

Representing yourself in court is something most people would never want to do. It certainly was the very last thing I wanted to do. Even though the search went on and on, I never expected that it would prove so difficult to find a good lawyer. Even then, I felt it was preferable to having to confront the indecipherable maze of the legal system by myself. Being in court on your own feels like trying to dance to foreign music while surfing (which I don't know how to do). Preparing for this last day was worse than cramming for an exam for a course I skipped all semester. On the one hand, by yesterday at least I had some idea of what was supposed to happen, but the short interval of time since last Friday didn't allow much time for rest and re-organization. There was barely time to write up and obtain subpoenas and then serve them, which I had to do after learning last week that the prosecution was not going to accept affidavits at all. As it is, I didn't have the heart to subpoena all six people who had signed affidavits exactly a year ago. 

Oddly enough, a year ago to the day, I was arraigned on charges that dated from events nearly seven months earlier - Feb. 3, 2009. January 29, 2009 was the day that Judge Murphy, who is now hearing the trial, declined to hear an application to quash the warrant that was used to seize Brindi the previous July, stating that she didn't feel she had the authority to do it. Her colleague said the same thing when I asked him in February and May to consider releasing Brindi, and she repeated it in December when I asked her to allow me to resume visits and to transfer Brindi to a kennel suited for long-term stays. 

My last lawyer somehow never bothered to give me the files, as the judge had ordered him to. I faxed this information to the court a few days ahead, and phoned to see if the fax was received, but nobody returned the call and I never heard back. In the confusion on Friday, I forgot to even bring this up before the judge. I didn't think about it again until the end of yesterday's session. It brought a look of concern to the judge's face, and she asked if I was missing anything important, but how would I know?

After last Friday's session I slept for nearly three days straight, first of all, and tried to overcome disappointment about the affidavits - which my previous lawyers had not only advised me to solicit, but asked me to write and organize, which I dutifully did, with the kind help of people willing to sign them. Most had already supplied letters soon after Brindi was taken. I had no indication from my lawyers that affidavits are not commonly used for this kind of case, no indication from the prosecution - present or previous - that they would be flatly rejected. Having imposed on them a few times already, I was really loathe to subpoena people who weren't expressly willing to be there in person. Yet I had no choice, and as it was, about half of them didn't make it for one reason or another. It was one thing to set up live testimony, another to prepare for it, and I didn't even have time to re-read the transcripts from October, let alone the application for the "abuse of process" claim that was supposed to be presented simultaneously in this proceeding.

In fact, defending this case was a three-layered affair: the charges, euthanization, and abuse of process... Not being anything close to a lawyer, I could only hope to tackle one of the layers with any effectiveness. Ignorant about the process and argumentation for the abuse of process, unsure exactly how and when to fight a possible euthanasia order. Another sleepless night was a given; the weather again cold, my car was crystalized, my toes and fingers numb, and my mind wishing I were almost anywhere else but on the cold road to Dartmouth Provincial Court.

A long day in that grey building, juggling papers, facts, conversations, and emotions. No way to eat anything, let alone finish an apple juice. Time going by and each segment scarier than the last. Glancing backward during the day, I saw the brand-new courtroom #5 gradually went from empty to full, with staring faces I recognized from the SPCA and HRM. No sign of media. I didn't take time to send out a press release myself. After a long year of a virtual media blackout, there was no point anyway. 

That's about all I can put down for now, as I'm about to pass out again...