Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Indian Givers*

* No offense intended to first nations people; this is an old expression that actually refers to the powers that be, not the native people subjected to their mercy.

I have learned the hard way in the last year and eight months not to count on anything to work out, even the most definite and well-prepared things. But today Halifax went back on its word in a way that I never anticipated.

click on this image to see it larger:

In early December, HRM's lawyer, Kishan Persaud, agreed to allow me to have a vet go examine Brindi. He reconfirmed it several times since then. From then until early March, I tried to schedule an actual appointment twice, in fact, hoping to have results by the end of the trial, but to no avail. The vet went on vacation at one point, and also, the dates did not work out. I advised HRM that she can only do it on Mondays and Tuesdays, but both times, the SPCA (who was given the power to set the date) offered a Wednesday only. After the last failure, I had to turn my attention to preparing for the rest of the trial and on getting a new assessment, which became a saga unto itself and led to the delay of another month and a half. Once the third attempt at an assessment finally succeeded last week (barely), I came back to organizing the vet exam, and luckily my vet was available this week. By yesterday, I did all the necessary notifying and calling. 

Today, just before 2 pm, I heard from my vet that the pound said she could not do the exam. I told her I was sure it was a matter of lack of communication. I hunted down an HRM fax from January 6 that referred to the vet visit, thinking I would fax it to the pound. I also called the city to get them to tell the pound they had permission. That proved difficult, but I persisted until I was lucky enough to get the right human on the phone, only to learn that HRM is now refusing permission. They will not grant access to Brindi until and unless I get an order from the court - the Supreme Court. When I asked why the change was made, I was told there was no reason - in those words exactly.

The provincial judge decided in December and January, respectively, that she has no jurisdiction over anything when it came to getting a court order for this, or for getting visits, or for transferring Brindi to a place suited for long-term care. I do not fully understand this, as the judge obviously does have the power to kill my dog. As far as I know, the provincial court is supposed to have jurisdiction over all municipal matters, including by-law infractions. All I know is that the judge and the HRM lawyer agreed that I would have to go to the Supreme Court - even to get visis. This of course would require extra paperwork, a few more trips downtown, and several months of time to get on the docket, and who knows if it would work? The fact is, clerks and judges from the two levels of courts waged a fine tennis game for much of the time since January 2009, ever since HRM refused to give Brindi back. My lawyers were told various things and speculated various ways on which court to apply to, so nobody really knows. The city's action effectively put Brindi and me into no-man's-land. No due process is a given; but how can you even take action yourself, at your own expense, when nobody knows which court to go to?

It so happens that Brindi had another pancreatitis attack sometime in the last two weeks. She may have become ill again right after she was transferred to the new pound, but I don't know for sure. Nobody told me about the attack at all; I found out by chance. I suspected it, after I glimpsed her shaved paw in the video clips Bob Riley was able to take during part of the assessment. (He was not allowed to film all of the assessment, which reminds me of another thing HRM changed its mind about. I asked for and got permission for it to be filmed, all of it, well in advance, with lots of faxes involved. But when the day came, Bob was told he could film only the outdoor part.) Brindi's shaved paw indicated to me that she must have been on an IV recently - something only an attack, or possibly blood tests, would necessitate.

So I only heard about the recent attack of Brindi's illness, which she contracted sometime last summer while in the care of the SPCA, because yesterday, in order to arrange for the vet's visit, I called the new pound, Homeward Bound, and happened to ask about her paw. I was told that she had "tummy problems" and on further questioning, they confirmed that yes, it was pancreatitis.

They cannot possibly blame this one on me. Not that they could plausibly blame me for earlier attacks either, of course. This time, I know the culprits are the people working for the shelter and maybe the new pound - for certain, the SPCA staff gave her treats they were not supposed to. I know this because in the CBC radio documentary aired last Sunday, the shelter manager is heard to say this very clearly, laughingly. Never mind that she treated me like a criminal, without any proof, and on that empty basis, decided to prohibit me from seeing Brindi outdoors, so that they could watch me more closely, since it was all my fault that she got sick (not possible, according to my vet).

Re visits, in our telephone conversation a few weeks ago, the HRM lawyer, Kishan Persaud, led me to believe that visits would be possible at the new pound, as the SPCA was presumably the reason for problems before. The city has of course claimed that it was the reason for cutting off visits, but that makes it even less acceptable, because the city has no reason to cut off visits. There is nothing preventing visits, no law or rule or written policy anywhere.

The new pound operator was supposedly going to have a place for long-term care. This is good, because their facility in Burnside has a woefully tiny outdoor space for the use of all its animals, devoid of any organic surfaces or materials. While stray dogs that are picked up and deposited there by Animal Services may presumably be taken for walks, HRM prohibits walks for impounded dogs, so the only outside space they see is a fenced in area the size of about two parking spaces. This photo shows it at the rear of the pound, which is ensconced in a row of retail spaces in Burnside:

SO I got the above fax at 3:30 pm. The vet was scheduled to see Brindi at 2 pm, as I notified yesterday by fax. (I have to do everything in writing; they will not speak to me on the phone, regardless of the reason.)
This fax came after I called Persaud when the vet told me the pound told her they had no permission to allow the exam. I had to track him down at court, because he was not in his office; Tuesdays are court days. Rather than leave voicemail, which is truly "speaking into the void" (apologies to Adolf Loos), I called his assistant, who said she knew nothing about the visit or permission, or when Persaud would be back. She was kind enough to give me his cell number, though, and sure enough, he answered, since he was not before a judge at the time. When I asked about the vet exam, he said I was supposed to have gotten a fax reply today, and that he had dictated it this morning, blah blah blah. "Didn't you get it?" He also acted as though he thought the vet visit granted ("as a courtesy") already took place - a convenient lapse of memory on his part, I dare say. But when I rehearsed that history, he didn't change a thing. HRM goes back on its word without explanation, just as it did everything in this case without explanation. (I can't say I blame them for not explaining, because it would be a joke anyway, but still...)

What this does to my health, who can say, but it's not good. I definitely felt my blood pressure rise a few more notches, and my guts twist just a few more turns. I've been watching clips of Absolutely Fabulous on youtube to get back my peace of mind, fragile as it is. On a practical level, the calling and the faxing has wasted precious hours. Logically, and legally, and of course, in terms of the welfare of my dog, there is absolutely no reason for what HRM says in this fax. I am prevented from looking out for my dog's welfare, something I have good reason to be concerned about, as the facts totally back that up. But nobody cares. I tried to call David Hendsbee today, but there was a city council meeting and it went on all day and evening, including a closed, secret session. I tried calling police superintendent Bill Moore and the head of the legal department, Mary Ellen Donovan, about the vet visit, but neither of them were in.

I found out a few more upsetting things as well today and in the past weeks but I am too upset to post them now. One has to do with the case in New Brunswick and the issue of the city not having legal authority to hold Brindi. Another is that, according to the CBC, Homeward Bound promised HRM it would never speak to the press. But more on these and other things later.

At least the assessment is done, and it went well, as I knew it would, even though Brindi has been denied any contact (even visual) with other dogs since December 2008 (that's what I'm told, anyhow). And yesterday, Bob Ottenbrite, backing up what he said to me a few weeks ago in front of a judge  (his words, spoken vehemently and repeated variously, were, "I would love to see you get Brindi back, and I would love to work with you and her!" He also denied ever saying he was against me getting her back. Take that, ARPO and the Chronicle-Herald!) was kind enough to send me an email saying, "I will have no problem working with you and Brindi if the judge decides to give her back to you." 

Those are both very good developments. Whether they are enough to get Brindi back, remains to be seen. 

UPDATE: Superintendent Moore returned my call the next morning 9. I explained the situation and he said he would make inquiries about the decision on the vet visit and get back to me.