Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Power

A night at a hotel, with the cats, after power went out yesterday morning. Basked in the heat and the plumbing - took a nice long hot bath last night. Winds up to 120 km and temps -11 C. Whether to leave the house was a guessing game: roads were bad, but the power company said power would not go back on till 11:30 pm last night. Not much time to decide, do I risk it and stick around, or take off ? So I took off. This morning, my neighbor says the power came on at 7 pm. Of course. But I don't mind; it was a good excuse to enjoy the luxury of heating and plumbing. I took a nice long bath and padded around barefoot. Rudy and Amelia stretched out on the king-sized bed, and enjoyed the view of the bridge to Halifax.

A lot of people around the continent are furiously circulating letters to one another to gather more support for me and Brindi. It's truly amazing. And about twenty facebook members, perhaps more, sent Christmas cards to the mayor with Brind's picture on it, in her silver antlers. I also received a few more photos from folks out west - in Erickson, B.C. Here's two.
 
Thanks to Lana Horan, in blue, guardian to a veritable menagerie and a formidable campaigner!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas from the SPCA: banned for six months


I can tell you that in our system here in Calgary I do have the authority to seize a dog involved in a serious aggressive incident for 30 days pending a dangerous dog hearing before the court. After the court rules and if they direct that the dog be destroyed, there is an additional 30 day period for the dog owner to file an appeal. We do not grant ourselves the authority to destroy an owned animal as we believe that that decision must be made by a court after full review of all of the facts. Even though an animal has been involved in a serious incident we allow the owner supervised visitation rights to the dog during the process.
It would seem that there should be many simple solutions to this dilemma, none of which seem to be under consideration. A simple fencing of the yard would seem to provide all of the necessary safeguards while Brindi continues with her training and socialization. Good luck.
- from an email in reply to my questions about Calgary procedures, from Bill Bruce, Animal Control Officer, Calgary, Alberta, posted with his permission

I never saw Brindi. They tell me she's alive, and that I am supposed to believe. 

Wednesday afternoon, it was a slow drive to the shelter in the snowstorm. So it was about 4 pm, and the shelter was just closing, when I arrived. I brought along a bag with two packages of soup bones with nice meat on them and a Brindi T-shirt.

A strong sickening whiff of ammonia hit me as I entered the little vestibule. Beyond that the small lobby was more cramped than usual. A fake Xmas tree stood in the far corner; cards taped tonthe walls flopped open. Almost as soon as I said I would like to see my dog, Cathy, a supervisor, said no and asked me to leave because they were closing. I sat down. I said I wasn't leaving until I saw Brindi: the newspaper had told me she was put down the day before. She´replied that she was following her boss's instructions and soon ducked out. I gave the bones and the t-shirt to a few young volunteers. Diana, the manager, came out, and I asked her to see my dog. She said no, and then in passing, that I had to call animal services. I asked her if she would call them. She ignored the question and all others. I never had a chance to call anybody: she said I had a choice: either leave or she would hit the panic button.  

Panic button?! Sure enough, there it was, on a steel switch plate right there on the wall opposite the chair I sat down in. I told her about the Herald. She repeated again, leave or I hit the button. "Am I attacking you?" I asked. Then she just hit the button. Less than sixty seconds had passed since I had walked into the building. 

The button triggered some sort of alarm that went "Woo-woo-woo-woo." Then she walked over to the entry, with her back toward me. I don't know how long it took, but it wasn't right away. She had to stand in front of the window for some time. Then in walked two patrol officers - a short dark-haired woman and a talk, slender man. I can't recall the conversation exactly; I told them I was there to see my dog, how long she was there, and what the Herald had told me. They ignored this and just kept telling me I had to leave. 

A minute later a third officer came in, saying something about having been "briefed". Then he basically repeated what they said. I told him, look, I've spent $15,000, these people expect me to pay $25 a day, and they won't even let me see my dog. I'll leave, no problem, but couldn't one of you first go and make sure my dog is still alive? He said I would have to leave first and then they would "see" about that. I said, it's been nearly five months, and they have no reason not to let me see my dog. Why can't he promise me he will go back and check on her now, and then I will leave? Again, no. I had to leave, I have to get off private property. They have my private property here, I said, and I want to see it. Finally, having made my point, I figured, I began to stand up - slowly. The woman pushed my arm, just as I was standing up. 

Outside, the first male cop asked me questions; I started dialing my lawyer's number, just in case. The woman asked if I had a lawyer. I asked if they were arresting me. No answer. I stood near my car, both of us clearly over the SPCA property line. They took my info, my birthday, the works. One stayed behind while the other went back into the building. Eventually the older taller one stepped over and told me, "I saw your dog." Great, I said, what does she look like? "Her name is right on the cage," he said. "She jumped up and sniffed my hand and she looked healthy and well-fed and fine."

Well then, that meant Brindi was alive after all. A huge relief and it isn't even possible to say how huge. The two men stood across the property line. They believed the police department could override an AC officer's decision. I used to believe somebody higher up in the force could override them; so did my HRM councilor. We were both wrong. One individual gets to decide it all. Telling them about Brindi, I started choking up. The woman came back, holding a clipboard stuffed with papers; the top one said I was officially banned from the SPCA property for six months, or I would be fined $250.

But you are not arresting me? No. But if you come back, then, etc. etc. Sure, fine. I signed it. She disappeared. The other officer asked if I had ever tried to see my dog before. I said no. Actually, at the very start, I did ask to see her, but that was two days after they took her, and my lawyer at the time had told me it was possible. The SPCA people told me to come back on a weekday. Which I did. I waited 40 minutes, only to be told that Lori Scolero said my lawyer would have to call her first. Which he would not do; he could only talk to a lawyer. About a week after that, David Hendsbee, my councilor, insisted we make sure Brindi was still alive. It hadn't even occurred to me she wasn't. But then they would not comply with his request. 

I only asked now because of the scare from the Herald. Otherwise I was not planning to ever do it. Oddly enough, just last week Heather Anderson of DAISY had passed on a suggestion from Steve Carroll, the president of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS), that I go to the shelter and demand to see Brindi. I said then that they would probably call the police. But at the same time, began to wonder if I was trying hard enough.

Last week, I sent yet another request to Animal Services. No answer. In the fall, I sent an email every day for about ten days. After about eight, they flatly turned me down with no explanation. I could get a court order to see Brindi, but since there is no rule prohibiting it - what would the judge be ruling on?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

IS BRIND STILL ALIVE?!

I want to see Brindi for myself, and I want her back NOW.

All night I've been worried. I called the Herald yesterday to ask if they are ever going to print the article on Brindi one of their writers wrote weeks ago. An hour or so later they called back. It seemed they weren't printing it because their files showed Brindi was being put down today - yesterday, December 16. I said, as calmly as I could, uh, as far as I know that's not the case. But I thought, how do I know? Then I called my lawyer, interrupting an important meeting. His first response was, "If they did that, they would be sued till kingdom come." He made calls, got the city's lawyer at home. He assured him Brindi was fine. But how does he really know? 

How can I sleep? I can't. I didn't. Finally I remembered in horror: an experienced advocate told me months ago exactly how they could put Brindi down without fear of lawsuits. (And by "they", I mean the SPCA together with Animal Services, because it's no secret they work together. Go listen to Andrea Macdonald's WOOF interview)when she says how much AS relies on the SPCA to tell them all about how a seized animal behaves in custody, etc. etc.)

Here's the thing: Animal Services already declared Brindi dangerous; all the SPCA has to do is claim she attacked, or even tried to attack, one of the workers. Your honor, she went berserk and couldn’t be controlled. 

Nobody could ever prove otherwise, till kingdom come. Tell me I'm wrong, go ahead, just try to do it without mentally clutching your dog to your chest.

All the other dog owners ever wanted, three dispatch reports say, was for somebody to speak to Brindi's owner. That's all. Now, all the city has is a much-revised affidavit by the very same officer that muzzled and seized her. The city has no case. Why won't it just let me take my dog home? 

Not one more day in that awful cage. I want my dog, and I want her now!

ENOUGH WASTE OF MY PRECIOUS TIME AND MONEY - and OUR LIVES!!
BRINDI MUST COME HOME NOW. END OF STORY.

Time to visit the SPCA. Show me my dog, and get the hell out of the way.

Monday, December 15, 2008

























More FREE  BRINDI photos! Above, from Laura Johnson in BC, and below, another gang from Colorado, 
Free Brindi supporters Sherry and Michael Moore of Golden, Colorado; Betsy and Bill Moore of Bel Air, Maryland; Nick Moore of Denver, Colorado; and Steve Moore of Scottsdale, Arizona, sent with the words, "We oppose to having Brindi incarcerated." (or destroyed, presumably!)

Message from Calgary

A second photo already! This one is from Laura Johnson, an animal activist 
who lives in Calgary. (That's her body - she sort of lost her head here!) 
Tora is a female from a reservation that was found pregnant. 
She had seven puppies, and all eight were successfully adopted out. 
Thank you, Laura and Tora!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Message from Colorado

These are some wonderful friends of Rolo, a German Shepherd
who was in a situation very much like Brindi's not long ago.
They took a break from his birthday party to send a message to Halifax 
from the icy cold of Evergreen, Colorado. 
My sincerest thanks to Monika Courtney! 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Letter to Peter Kelly from !"Stop Animal Cruelty in Canada with effective legislation"

Dear Mayor Kelly,

My name is Paula James and I have over 25,000 people on my facebook group and cause alone that have been fighting for effective animal cruelty legislation in Canada, along with the SPCA's.
We've been trying to get our politicians to do something about serious acts of animal cruelty and neglect and help by doing things that make sense for animals.

This issue surrounding Brindi has become quite a topic around facebook and many other sites and I'm sure you've probably received many emails and nasty phone calls.
To me, this does not make sense for Brindi, being locked up for so long, or her owner, having to go to such extremes to save her when she's harmed no one, inc a dog? Other than a few small scuffles with another dog at her fenceline and no serious harm was done?
I agree if she is threatening she should be more protected w fencing, secure environment, etc, but it's my understanding a fence was being, or had been built, so this wouldn't occur again?

From the information I've gathered, Brindi has suffered through some very traumatic times.
However, she doesn't appear to have done anything serious enough to warrant this action and in the end will only hurt her more the longer this continues and she is locked up without her owner she probably lives for, esp. if she's been through rough times previously like she has!
I think most animals have a great chance of rehabilitation if the owner invests enough time, energy and love into it. I believe Brindi's owner was doing a good thing for her and was trying to remedy the situation and do just that and they were on a good track.

I ask you to please HELP FREE BRINDI and show people that you are a compassionate and understanding being, and much like Brindi, also possess feelings and intelligence.

Unless this is somehow proven to be completely untrue info posted on so many sites and places around Canada, I really don't feel her behaviour warrants this terrible punishment for not only her, an innocent animal in all this that only wants love and understanding, but her owner as well.
Francesca has proven to many people across Canada that she does care and love Brindi deeply and is willing to do anything to save her, along with many people across Canada, including myself.

If I don't have the right information, and she has seriously injured a dog or person and you feel she really deserves this then please let me know!? If I am wrong I'll do my best to help clarify the situation on all these websites.

Protests are being held all across Canada, many people are watching and waiting to see what happens!
I really hope we have a good ending to this story and you do the right thing and bring Brindi home on time for Christmas, let her and Francesca have another chance! I'm sure they won't let you down!

Thank you for your time and attention on this matter,

Sincerely,

Paula James
Stop Animal Cruelty in Canada with effective legislation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the air waves

My chat with radio host Tom Young yesterday went pretty well, I think. It was a bit of a strange experience though. For one thing, I did it over the phone from home, and I didn't set eyes on a real human being all day. A big disjuncture between the media connections and the physical world! Such a fast half hour, too. I just got started, looked at the time, and saw it was already half over. The nine or ten calls in the second half hour were mixed. They started out generally positive, a few became critical or skeptical, and the last two ended up strongly positive. All in all, very glad of the chance to speak, and hopeful that they do continue to follow the story at News 95.7, as they indicated they would. 

Can I just say, all things aside, it still takes me aback to hear how freely some folks would like dispense with a dog and/or its owner, never troubled by their limited knowledge of a situation. Perhaps I didn't get across all I did and do to "take responsibility" for things. What do you call paying a vet bill for another dog, putting up a fence, taking time for training, volunteering to pay fines, etc. -- my dog, who is vaccinated, microchipped, licensed, has health care coverage, and passed a rigorous obedience class? 

Then there are the people getting very righteous about a dog getting loose, as if there is something immoral about it. Okay, it's not what anybody wants, I am very upset at messing up. But it's not the number one cause of teenage death... Dogs that are tied up wriggle out of collars all the time, it's an everyday occurrence, usually harmless. Lord knows I've had plenty of people knock on my door looking for their runaway canine. 

And that is exactly why I did good training with Brindi, and lining up more training all the time. Every dog owner knows there are days when you just can't control anything, let alone the dog, as precisely as you'd wish. Stuff happens, we do what we can, and ultimately, animals are, well, unpredictable. Ask Jay Leno. Don't we teach children to be careful around animals because we recognize this fact? Where does this expectation come from, that it's possible to be in control of an animal 100% of the time? How can such a notion reasonably become the basis of a law or a euthanization order all by itself? Why should death be promoted as a catch-all solution?? It's not as though everything else in society is so perfect, that people such do a flawless job of controlling objects or themselves. A lot of people do a pretty lousy job with cars, for instance, but the city doesn't seize the cars, even though a whole lot of other people die. Not remotely near the number of people who die from dog-bite injuries every year (in Canada, 2007: two, vs. 30-something from lightning strikes). 

Maybe these waves of anti-dog laws - from breed legislation to subjective by-laws - are remnants of primitive human fears, just like a dog's undesirable behaviour may be rooted in its own primitive fears. They evolved with us, though. Why not put it into perspective then, and see to it that the law is applied consistently and fairly before calling for radical measures like death or removal of private property. This is an issue I would expect a humane society would be very concerned with.
 
But perhaps because I talk about the unfairness of the law and its uneven application, some people assume I don't care about public safety. I certainly do care. That's why I built the enclosures and that's why I'll be putting in a permanent boundary fence. I care a lot about public safety in my community, including the threatening dog on the beach who seems to be loose all the time, charges up to you barking its head off like it owns the place, and
 even bit a friend of mine's dog last summer (she never called animal control). I am not happy about that dog, or about another dog that chases the kids next door when they walk down the street. Again, no calls on that. When we had our meeting last week, a man who lives down the road came along who said when he has issues with a neighbor's dog, he goes to the owner and deals with it - "I go to the source, there's no need to involve the cops," he said. I sort of felt that way too - especially when the other party is responsive and caring.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

When people so freely call for the death of any being - especially an animal they will never see in their lifetimes - it really gives me pause. Somehow they seem to think in one dimension, leaving aside their knowledge (and experience) of the deep bond between humans and dogs. Such as mine!! Brindi and I have/had a very strong bond. She always connected with me, let me know she was ready to learn, and by July our routines were set well, everybody here was flexible and peaceful - meaning the cats, Brindi, and me. They were my comfort through a lot of pretty tough days with the excavation work. 

Look at my face in the photo with her - a rare happy moment! It's not looking like that anymore, I can assure you. Nearly half a year of my life and hers - a big chunk of her life - has been stolen. Half a year in a cage is not good for any animal, and a waste when it has a home to go to. And I'm out of shape now from no more daily walks with her. I can't bear to walk solo along the same routes we used, and we used all the routes in the area. 

Once I forgot to close the car windows and it filled with mosquitos, huge black bombers swarming in the car. I drove off without realizing and had to pull over and started smashing the inside of the car, all over. I was moving erratically and glanced back to see Brindi, calm and quiet. She was not anxious, and just moved aside cooperatively when I was aiming at one near her. She tolerated it for a long while (there was an unspeakable number). I thought it was pretty remarkable; I know other dogs who would have become quite excited and upset by that sort of thing. It's just being in tune with each other, and I think that's a great start for advancement.

The more some stranger says I can't have Brindi back, the more I am sure I can and will. A minute later, I get nuts just thinking about it. I just don't see how one can justify implementing totalitarian regulations for a species that does so much to sustain and enrich human life - urban life too, all poop problems aside. Everybody loves dogs, right? Apparently not everybody, not as much as they seem to.
So many people don't have the time to go to classes, and it's real work. It's totally worth it though. It paid off around my house so much, and I am so frustrated each time she slipped out; each time was a sudden fluke, believe it or not. Most of the time, she wouldn't bolt anywhere; she was my shadow. SO much that I got used to it. Except for a few moments spread out over a ten month period.  
________________________________________________

I don't want to have any problems with my dog, I want her to fit in with me and anywhere, rather than having her eat off my plate when my back is turned, or having to shutting her in a bedroom when guests come over, and so on. I want a well-behaved dog. That is why I spent so much time socializing her and being as consistent as I could in training her. I am ready to put in the time it takes to drill the recall commands so that she can be 100% socialized. She's about 90% - or WAS!!! She formed a strong bond with me and anywhere else would be another stress on her. I am her rightful owner - and legally, I have not been charged with anything that would disqualify me as owner, so the idea seems so erroneous. 

The issue for the public should be, in terms of safety, to ascertain whether she is verifiably dangerous before carrying out a death order that would destroy my "property". The flip side of that is the law. Once we finally get a chance to present our case to a judge, it will be very clear just how much it differs in enforcement from so many other cases with more serious infractions and injuries, in which a fines, or even less, was meted out. 

*************************************************************************

There are other issues, but the fact is, on the spectrum of danger/threat/damage, Brindi is at one end, and they are on the other, yet she receives the ultimate punishment, and others are untouched. I am in no way dismissing the need to prevent any incidents. BUT, and I wonder if the callers actually heard it when I said it, there has to be some consistency across the board. Animal Services' Andrea Macdonald speaks about each case being addressed on its merits. Really? When you have each officer practicing their own version of law enforcement, total discretion without review by a higher-up (the law awards the officer, not his bosses, the power to issue fines, declare dangerous, and order euthanization, or should I say euphemization), what mechanism exists to insure consistency, let alone fairness, throughout? Instead it is a very subjective system of enforcement, without accountability.

I would think it would be very alarming to hear that dogs that bite people and/or dogs or even kill other animals are typically handled with fines, while one dog that did neither is condemned to death. Anyone talking about community safety or owner responsibility should put that in their pipe and smoke it, then come and tell me where I stand. I took the trouble to do obedience class and take Brindi all over creation precisely because I wanted to socialize her well and be able to count on her good behavior. It worked very well for the most part, and within less than a year I would brag she was doing just as well or better than most dogs we ran into or knew - but just my luck, the part that didn't work so well became a police matter before I could correct it fully!
_________________________________________________________________

Yesterday, as I was preparing for the Tom Young interview (that's him above), I received copies of very vehement letters from folks in Colorado to Mayor Kelly and others here. Out in Alberta, Heather Anderson tells me she's called his office at least 17 times, and two of her friends have called a handful of times. They have yet to get through to him or get a call back. Others have 
had mixed receptions when they call Animal Services. I don't know how many are calling and writing every week, but it's got to be at least a small trickle if not a steady stream at times. 
______________________________________________________________

The good news for today is that it appears the trainer can do her assessment at the SPCA tomorrow. The results will take a bit more time, and I don't want to pressure her at all. Otherwise, things are not moving fast in the legal department, as is sadly so typical. I am hoping for the Herald to publish an article soon. I didn't get a chance on air to talk about some key th
ings, unfortunately, including fundraising, the link to Montreal  - the benefit last night, the jewelry - or to express my gratitude to all the people out their who have been so committed to helping me. It is not every day that a person sees something on the TV news for a few seconds and decides to ring up the person in the story whose name was flashed for a few seconds; it is not every day that several people in New Zealand decides to start calling elected officials in Nova Scotia. And around here, the donations and the donated auction items have been so great. Which reminds me - I do hope the auction moves a little faster - it's not too late to bid and win on things, and have them sent to you before Xmas!! We just got a few more lower-priced things, like a man's watch, an alarm clock, and a book on "Birds of Prey of the World". 
_______________________________________________________

Yesterday, I was working in the office (for once). I noticed that Rudy, who has been ever-present at my side while I work in the bedroom, was under the drawing table curled 
up on a makeshift bed I had put there for Brindi - it's her spot. Normally he would never dream of using her bedding (she once hilariously tried to squeeze into a cat bed, however - missed the photo op). Normally Rudy (aka Prinz Rüdiger Weichenpels ab und zu Mausenjäger der I.) implemented a strict policy of detente towards the dog. But there he was, with well-gnarled bones ringing the bed.
 Who knows, he might even be 
missing her. 

Which reminds me, there's a cat up the road I need to feed...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Radio Time Wednesday Dec. 10

Thanks to various emails from others, and an interested producer, it looks like I will be on talk radio News 95.7 tomorrow afternoon, the Tom Young Show. I will have a chance to put the facts out there. I should be on air as a guest after 1:35 PM (Atlantic Time) After I go off air, they will take calls for a while. Maybe if you have time you can try to call in, or somebody you know.

Afternoon News with Tom Young
TomP.Young@atlanticradio.rogers.com
Toll Free: 1-866-411-0889

You can listen online here.

Wish me luck!



Because all I want for Christmas is my life back, and my life is with Brindi, I really hope this helps.

from Kijiji

This is a message similar to others I have received - it arrived last week:


Hello, this is so unreal that they won't give you the chance to do your part!! Go to your local MLA"S office and see if they can help you out, I had to do the same thing a few years ago, my dog got loose and was running and playing just as your dog did, then animal services came and took her for no reason... I call my MLA's office and within 3 days my dog was returned and, now we have a fence and she can run in the yard all she wants to.. Also try posting a add on facebook to help save your dog... have faith in your MLA and hopfuly things will work for you. Please let me know what happens in this case.. my e-mail address is ___@hotmail.com and my first name is L.. Thanks for taking the time out to read my message to you.

Well, L, as I wrote you back, did that. Would that it worked out the way it did for you.
I first had to call a lawyer and maybe by the time I called the MLA it was too late, who knows? I was told that my MLA was very powerful though.

Here is one I just discovered in my yahoo email inbox - I don't check it very often, and this is dated Nov. 9:

Hi Francesca,

Please don't give up. You have to be strong and fight for your dog. Have you contacted the local newspaper ? I supported a huge campaign here to help free a German Shepherd that was in a similar situation like your dog. I put my life on hold for this for 6 months. We won the dog back. We rallied in front of the courthouse and in town for weeks and months... holding huge signs. You need to get people's attention - I don't know what you have done so far.. the website looks great and is informative - please Francesca don't give up - let me know if I can help compose something, I have written many articles on the other dog's behalf and published them online. Maybe you can use some of those articles and just change them around to Brindi's situation. Let me know.

Hang in there,

Monika Courtney, Evergreen, CO.



Yes Monika, I have certainly contacted the local papers and local everything. If you page back in the blog you will see links as well.
I would like to be able to list the blog posts by title and date but I can only find a way to do it with the date, not the title too. If anybody knows how to have both, please tell me!


And this is a story about a woman in Saskatchewan who lost several dogs to the dogcatchers. She sued for pain and suffering. By US standards the amount she won is laughable; not even close to legal costs. But at least she won.
I don't want to lose my dog in the first place. I've already spent far more than she got for her pain and suffering.

Waiting more

Well there is no news, and in this case, it's not good news.

Seems there is another holdup on Silvia Jay's assessment. She is still waiting for the go-ahead. Something to do with the court order still. I guess it had to get colder before she could go. Friday was fine; today we have snow and a subterranean temperature.

As soon as I hear anything I will post it.

Meanwhile... Wednesday night is the comedy benefit at Bourbon Street West in Montreal, and Saturday there may even be some news from Calgary, Alberta.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Further to that

to explain... because our court date was Dec. 16 and we hadn't received anything much in response, I had hoped Brindi would be home by Christmas. Our by-law case is good, but the city managed to do things to delay the case being heard - including submitting erroneous information and stalling on turning over requested info. They are very likely tripling my legal expenses because my lawyer had to spend most of last week dealing with the last-minute stuff. And now I have to wait until January 5 at the earliest, barring any further unspeakables that the city tosses at us to delay things more or drag them in other directions.

I wonder how many people are going to be working at the shelter over the holidays, how much attention Brindi and the other animals there will get during all the celebrations. How is that place heated, anyway?

I just cannot get it out of my mind that the very same people I see there, surrounding me all of a sudden in the lobby, who are taking care of Brindi and talking about her to everybody and saying how well they are taking care of her, etc. etc., are the very same people who will just as readily put her to sleep if I wind up losing the case and running out of money. The same people who tell me that they are upset by my coming by and talking about the case. No wonder they're upset - they should be. But I'm more upset than a thousand of them put together.

And meanwhile, it sure seems to me the city of Halifax, maybe the province too, doesn't really give a damn about immigrants (or single women). At least they are certainly sending a clear message to that effect. (Too bad because pets keep medical costs down.) And people on the global petitions are taking it seriously; more than a few have said they are canceling vacations here. At the same time, emigrants - people who've left the Maritimes - are among the strongest supporters I have in the rest of Canada. 

So no Brindi until - when, 2009? What's there to celebrate this holiday season - the end of a terrible year. It would have been only our second Christmas together. I guess I don't have any need to go Christmas shopping now. My family is scattered from east coast to west coast; this year I believe we all are going to donate money to various causes, hopefully also mine, instead of buy things nobody really needs and pay tons for shipping. So the cats don't need anything, and they don't use leashes or toys or clothing, like dogs do. I bought Brindi a lined raincoat last winter but she could use a better raincoat to cover her head - it helps keep the house cleaner too. 

 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Brindi home by Christmas? . . . probably not.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

(Halifax, December 5) Despite the postponement of a December 16 judicial review intended to bring about the dog’s release, Brindi’s supporters across Canada continue to hope that the dog, already impounded for over four months, will go home in time for Christmas.

Due to recent actions of HRM legal counsel, the judicial review of By-Law A-300 on Animal Control by the Supreme Court was delayed and is now scheduled for January 5. Solicitor Blair Mitchell, acting on behalf of Brindi’s owner, Francesca Rogier, applied for the judicial review in early November.

In a related matter, this week a judge granted Mitchell’s request for permission to have dog expert Silvia Jay assess Brindi’s behaviour. However, the court-ordered assessment, originally scheduled for today at the SPCA pound, was postponed pending clarification of the order’s wording. HRM continues to deny Rogier’s requests to see Brindi, who she has not seen since July 24, nor will Rogier be allowed to be present during the assessment.

Meanwhile, plans are in place for a benefit concert this weekend at Bearly’s Pub in Halifax to help raise funds to help Rogier pay for Brindi’s defense. Already in the thousands, the total increases with each new delay. A further benefit is scheduled for December 10 at a comedy club in Montreal.
END
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I just sent this out to the local media. I don't expect it to be printed anywhere since it's the weekend and they don't seem to do much on weekends. I posted it because it is the easiest way for me to respond to the many inquiries I've received today. I was exhausted last night and spent most of today resting. It really doesn't look like I'll see Brindi before New Year's. It's a low blow to say the least, after months of working only on this. 

Silvia Jay is ready to go to the SPCA Monday. I sincerely hope we get the go-ahead in time. 

Though the turnout was not huge, we had a productive meeting last night at Dalhousie, very productive in fact! There is a core group of supporters working actively on a number of things, and in some ways this is preferable to a lot of turnout with little action. 

And even though the court proceedings for that day are now only about preliminaries, there's a possibility of setting up a chain of demonstrations across the country before the 16th, from Halifax to Moncton, Montreal, Calgary, and places in BC. Folks everywhere are invited to join in, send me ideas! It may be as simple as gathering your friends together with Brindi's photo and recording a group chant, who knows? 


-

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Update

Silvia Jay is slated to be at the SPCA at 9 am Friday morning. They are under a court order to let her see Brindi and are to be advised to allow her the space to work with her - unmonitored. 

Without going into too much detail - it seems to me the city is doing its best to stall anything else we do, even things they already agreed to, like providing information about Animal Services officials. Stall. More money, less time, and they just keep on keeping on. I don't understand it. Is the goal to keep people safe from dangerous dogs, or to be right no matter what? Is it no difference to the lawyers whether it's a case about property lines or a dog that means so much to me?

Meanwhile, our meeting at Dalhousie is tomorrow night, Student Union room 316, 7:30 pm. Finally I will absolutely have to be driving into town.
Odd as it may seem in this context, it so happens I have two tickets to DJ Mark Farina at the Pacifico club for tomorrow night - starts right after the meeting. They can go to the highest bidder, whoever shows up. The tickets are worth $20 each in advance, $30 at the door. 
If nobody wants them, maybe I'll ask Bob Riley to step out... ; )

And since each time the city stalls or blocks something, it adds up in my bills, if I may, here's another plug for the epier.com auction - to put in a plug: time is ticking away on it too, and the quilt is still up for sale; there is still time to get it made and sent out before Christmas! Same for the pretty porcelain figurine, the Hallmark Legacy Keeper, and of course the candy-striped dog sofa. Please pass it around!  And thanks once again to all those who have bidded and won other items, as well as their generous donors. More is on the way!

Wake up, it's show time! Two weeks to go!!

Okay, I haven't blogged anything for days because the days have been so rocky, and when stuff happens I need time to absorb and recover and then emails take over...
SO I originally posted this under "seven days to go" - and that shows you how messed up I am trying to keep track of my own life. I've been answering emails back and forth since Monday at a record-breaking case with all sorts of folks including my "solicitor" - at every turn it seems the city's "solicitors" are sending objections to things they already agreed to, generating extra work, time, money for both of us. 

I can report quickly, the Dec. 2 hearing was nearly blown off course because at the last second, the city tried to block it by calling for it to be postponed and merged into the Dec. 16 hearing which is of a different nature altogether. Somehow they succeeded, but not totally. 

I am glad to be able to report that we are getting a court order today for the trainer Silvia Jay to visit Brindi at the SPCA and do an assessment - something I requested through David Green way back in, what was it, August?? The city turned it down then. Now it's not a request; it's a court order. 

Silvia Jay, who I hope will be available, has only tomorrow and Friday to get to the SPCA. And I really hope the shelter will cooperate, the weather will cooperate, and she can do whatever she needs to do in time. 

I am not sure what other details are wise to share, actually, but my lawyer has been working intensely on this for a long time now and we are gearing up for the 16th. I think it is safe to say we have a good case, very good, especially since there is not much on the other side. The attempt late last Friday to block a Tuesday morning hearing was really unexpected, since the lawyers already conferenced with a judge and the city had plenty of time to object before then. They did not leave much time for my lawyer to block their block... It is wonderful that he managed to succeed in getting a conference in chambers; truly a great thing. 

BUT, and it's a BIG BUT (even though I dropped another five pounds): the city, as I was told at the outset by so many lawyers here, is not at all worried about the cost to them of long lawsuits or any legal proceedings, or how long an animal stays locked up. The city's lawyers - somehow there are two of them on the case now - are very likely to appeal if we win next week. They have deep pockets and all the time in the world. They have indicated they do not plan to release Brindi immediately if we win on the 16th. 

So it's another Catch-22, really; if we lose, she'll have to stay there longer while we appeal. If we win, they are going to do all they can to hang on to her so they can appeal. 

In case it wasn't already crystal clear, this is no fight for the faint-hearted. Right now I do feel faint, actually. No sleep and not sure what to do from one hour to the next, as important news comes in every minute. I've been on the phone a lot with D.A.I.S.Y?'s formidable director, Heather Anderson in Calgary, who is rallying more troops, including a man from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and others from Voice for Animals, Prairie Dog Society, and NOKA (a no-kill group). Heather has been speaking to reporters , animal services, the mayor's secretary, and anybody else who will listen; she also rallied two women activists way out in BC, one of whom is mailing out an amazing first-person story by Brindi, about Brindi. 

There is talk of a big protest out in Calgary also - it could be quite interesting. The Montreal contingent of angels carry on their plans for fundraising and letter-writing; publicity is so important for the comedy night on Dec. 10. 

I have been getting good luck emails from people in Brazil and Holland; I've been messaging the whole thousand-odd members on the Facebook group, all over the place, and my fingers are aching, while my cats politely visit my bed-office purring their hunger, hoping I'll look up long enough to notice and get my butt downstairs to feed them. 

Tomorrow night is already the day of the meeting at Dalhousie, in the Student Union tomorrow night! And I have to see a dentist in the afternoon, a remnant of normal life cropping up; also I have to work on the auction.

I have been trying to get into Halifax for several key errands for a week and a half now. Every day something happens or I am not awake enough to do it. It's maddening. 

The sun is shining and I just want to sleep. But we are tough, this scattered group, and we are going to make some big noise, one way or the other. You can't kill a dog for a list of grievances that include not having a dog tag, or getting loose twice, for goodness' sake! Animal Services apparently added those to the minor incidents she had in order to make a claim that I had "many chances" - and hope that people won't ask what exactly they mean by that - which they then parlay into a death sentence. If I had to compare it to something, it would be like having a few parking tickets, running a stop sign, and a fender-bender or two add up to losing your license AND your car. But the comparison doesn't work because in those instances, you'd get the chance to go to court if you wanted to - without a lawyer. Not to mention your car is not a living breathing thing.

My stomach is gurgling, and I am drifting. 









Saturday, November 29, 2008

Those bones

Man, is it me, or is it just impossible to escape dogs? Staying home won't protect me from the stab of pain I can get from the sight of a happy canine. Every time I turn on the TV, pet food commercials and Animal Channel vet shows, and somehow an incessant stream of dogs popping up in the most unlikely programs one way or another. Even comedy shows. And tonight CTV's story about protecting your pets during the holidays, featuring a beautiful blond lab in its lead images.
I can't escape.
And yet I have to, as two women tried to tell me earlier tonight. They came to pray with me. We discussed forms of faith for a bit, but it was mainly to pray that they were here. To me, the labels you use aren't as important as the intention behind them, the sincerity of the faith and the love. And that was clearly there - and just all right with me.
Will it help to banish all the dogs so that I can concentrate? There are chewed bones and a makeshift dog bed underneath my drawing table, where I'd have Brindi stay while I worked. There's a few more bones lying around in my bedroom, and of course the big padded bed in the center of the kitchen. Sigh.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New and sad discovery- and a plea to readers


It looks like the officer behind Brindi's muzzle order and her seizure and euthanization order - the man who swore an oath that she is dangerous and then took her out of my house and about 100 feet into public space without using a muzzle, Tim Hamm - is the same person responsible for last year's case of a dog with one incident of attacking a greyhound, and never bit a human, and was put down. 

Why am I not surprised? I am only surprised to realize that my first lawyer was fully aware of this connection and did not mention it to me. I wish I had known. I still don't know who the owner of that dog was and I would so much like to find out what happened - were they ever charged with anything? I only want to get the court records. It's not unimportant; there may be a very deadly pattern here that should be dealt with.

Apparently Hamm is speaking to others about my case. He is now claiming he never charged me with an offense because he thought I was too poor to pay the fine. That's what he says orally. (In his affidavit, he says other things. But the police file contains email correspondence between him and one of the owners that contradicts those things. It's provable but it just takes time - and this lost time is the crime in this case!) Mr. Hamm also seems to be claiming that he believed I would simply sign over Brindi, rather than fight to get her back. AS says most owners just do this. I don't know what their dogs did, but I would never just turn over a dog like Brindi and anybody who ever met me with her could tell that in a second. He sat and gabbed with me all about her for over an hour; he knew very well I wouldn't sign her over just like that - ever. You'd have to be deaf, blind, and thick to not see how much I love Brindi and how proud I am of her. In late July she was doing so beautifully. We had our routines worked out perfectly.  
  
I suppose the information I received is technically hearsay. But this is not an affidavit or a court of law, it's a blog. But there is also a report online about his past work.
Both of his claims are rather implausible in my view, based on my prior personal encounters with him, in which I was very clear about how important she is to me and how much I would do to insure she is okay and behind a fence - and gets extra training. Just not credible at all. 

The man had only two years of experience on the job, admitted he knows little about dogs, and had a bad back. One would think that he ought to be very concerned about taking a presumedly dangerous dog out of a house without putting on the muzzle he himself ordered (and used as grounds to seize her after a non-injury event). He signed an oath that she was dangerous; he ordered the muzzle - if he doesn't use it, and we know he is no dog whisperer, doesn't it cast some doubt on his own sworn statements?

What if it were true, what if Brindi were dnagerous? What if somebody had been walking a dog along the road just then? With his lack of experience and knowledge, he coulnd not have controlled her. He had no gloves or a pole or a muzzle. He was both breaking the order and risking public safety. She went quietly and obediently and sat curled up in the truck's refrigerator-like cage compartment, never making a sound. Was friendly as you could ever want. He knows very well that she is not a dangerous dog. And that is my claim.

Right now, Mr. Hamm may be the mainstay of the city's defense of my case against it and the law. So far none of the other dog owners have agreed to enter a statement (affidavit) against us. And in fact our case doesn't require them, since we are challenging the law. The city needs to defend itself regarding the soundness of the law. Today I received a second affidavit sworn by him that the city wants to use on Dec. 16. It does not relate to the principal issues of our case - and remember, we are bringing the case, I am not defending myself because nobody is charging me with anything. I wish they would, it would save a lot of money and time.) So that affidavit is something that actually does not belong in the courtroom. We have filed objections and are waiting the results but it is going to take more time.

I haven't been able to bring myself to read it just yet. I already had another totally sleepless night after receiving this information around 10 pm last night. I wish I had known it before I wrote the press release. How many more dogs has he caused to be put down?

I would like to say again that I am so terribly sorry about last year's case and I believe it was very wrong. I so wish it had been publicized because I really believe it would have garnered a lot of public support. It is a tragedy that it happened and a tragedy that nobody evidently knew about it. Would A300 be written the way it is now? I wonder. At the very least, I would like to reach out to that family and express my sympathy.

The danger is human and real and it is everybody's worry until things change for the better. And they are not going to change for the better until more people get upset enough to do something about it.


Thankful

Well, the US Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone.

It is the real Thanksgiving to me, since I grew up with it. I was so into it that when I lived in Germany I went to great lengths to throw a huge dinner for ten people every year - before I became a vegetarian, of course. I ordered the turkey fresh weeks before because it was never in the stores that long before Christmas, and I scoured the markets for yams and sweet potatoes, and made pies without pie pans (Germans don't make pies like that), and so on.  A huge production, but always worth it to see the surprise and delight on faces that never tasted the unique combination of flavors before. A few Italian friends I knew - the most skeptical guests, naturally - famously had five or six helpings apiece, of absolutely everything, and still managed to have a few pieces of pie with whipped cream. I never saw a 25 pound turkey demolished so fast.
***********
So this year I skipped it. It would have been so great to be able to really celebrate and be thankful for getting Brindi back. Or for my house being finished. Instead I spent part of the day hauling water, literally. I never dreamt she would be gone this long or my house would not be finished - instead of both hanging by threads. No way to cook and serve a turkey dinner with my pots and dishes and floors unwashed.

Not that I am not thankful. There are many things I can be thankful for. I am thankful my transmission hasn't given up the ghost just yet. I am thankful I am not exactly a petite flower when it comes to womanhood, or I would have gone mad with the condition of this place eons ago. I am thankful I know how to change a fuse, use a tester, and so on. 

But those are material things. What really counts is that I am thankful for my two healthy cats, Amelia and Rudy, who are the best ever. I am thankful for my lawyer, it's only fair to say; he stepped forward when dozens in Halifax and other cities stepped way back, and he's been awesome. And so has his assistant. I am grateful for a few neighbors who have not ceased checking on me and offering H2O and solace now and then, even if I don't see them for weeks on end.

I am very thankful for the loving and kind people I've met during this hellish ordeal who care deeply and unreservedly about all animals, and don't exclude people from their caring. I am so thankful to people that genuinely care about me and my dog, even though I have never set eyes on most of them. I am deeply thankful they are willing to sacrifice time and effort and hard-earned money and even possessions to help us out. They really do keep my spirits going. 

It's amazing to talk to people in Alberta and BC and Texas and Montreal - places I've never been, let alone had phone calls from - emails from Colorado and California and Wisconsin. These are of course not superficial chats; they are from the heart and go right to the heart. Not to mention the comments on the petitions, so many telling me not to give up. 

I guess I have to be thankful for at least one or two more material things, then, because without the computer, the phone, and the internet, I would not be able to connect to these people.
Of course, it would have been far more preferable to meet all these wonderful people under less horrible circumstances. And I have to say, I am not without frustration and a bit of shame when the calls are over. This is a truly emasculating experience. I've not been successful at a whole lot lately, didn't really need any more lessons in humility, or so I thought, right? But I would love nothing more than to be able to return the concern with some really great news and it hurts so much that I just can't; not because of pride but because I hate not being able to leave people with more positive reports - all I seem to have is more bad stuff to relate, even when I'm holding back the real crap...

Often I wake up totally bewildered and then remember the horror just as descends. In the past I would usually reach for the laptop to check my mail and facebook for a bit of reassurance before losing myself to agony and more bewilderment, because frankly, I have no idea what I am supposed to do every day, and little satisfaction whatever I manage to get done. There's always so much more to be done and it doesn't seem to add up to a whole lot.

Sometimes I don't make it as far as reaching for the laptop - okay, I admit it, a lot of times - and I just roll over, checking the cat's whereabouts as I move, and climb right back into dreamland. I can't fight the urge anymore and I don't even try. Often the phone is the only thing that gets me fully awake - although it's no guarantee I won't go right back to sleep afterwards. Because 999 times out of 1000, that's where I'd rather be. I can often influence my dreams; certainly more than I can influence reality for the past four months. This doesn't really explain why I don't let myself fall asleep at night. It's just harder to do somehow.

**************
I was thankful Thursday night for something special: I was able to help cheer up my friend Tracy just a little bit. Her dog Kasba - I'm sure I spelled it wrong -  is a beautiful white boxer who is sadly losing the use of his legs to a deteriorating nerve disease. She's been so stressed out, and who can blame her. He's a sweet guy, and his sister Chevelle is just as sweet, but the sight of him dragging his legs around is so heartbreaking. 

It's been really hard on Tracy, understandably. She found two medical treatments and can't get her vet to prescribe the one that could really deal with the disease; the other slows it down, but she couldn't afford the customs fee and sent it back! And weeks and weeks ago Tracy acquired not one but two different doggie wheelchairs, of different designs, but hasn't been sure which one to keep. Tonight- after I dropped by to fill the water jugs and invited myself to a shower -we took him for a spin in one of them (pardon the pun), mainly to satisfy my curiosity to see if he could manage. 

We took both dogs out for a little turn around the church's well-lit parking lot, and everybody felt so much better. Kasba seemed truly surprised - this was his first walk in the contraption, I think - he kept standing still, gazing around in awe. He'd move about thirty feet with no trouble, then just stop and do it again. After we got home I swear he was smiling. I mean, I could see the difference. And Tracy was smiling right along with him. Excellent.

We tried him in the other wheelchair - they actually look like chariots - and weighted the pros and cons of each. Then we played around with adapting them a bit, to see if we could improve on the weight and straps. The main thing was that it all worked! It was so great to see how he can really navigate around the house, and how thrilled he was. As I tried to check out the fit with Tracy, he kept blocking my view to lick my face, eyes alert and happy. When I sat on the floor he came and positioned himself over my lap as if figuratively sitting in it, though in reality he was suspended over it - nearly ran over my knees, but it was totally okay. It was more than just hope, it was a very positive experience.

I will continue to look for more things to be thankful for. It's a very worthy exercise.  

***********
The questions that come up again and again. Yes, Brindi is still in the pound. No, I still have not set eyes on her since July 24. 

The next key date is Dec. 2: we ask a judge to order the city to give access to her so that a behavioural assessment can be done by Silvia Jay. This is one of the things I was telling the SPCA last week, to give them a head's up. I figured they'd done this before, they must have a drill or something. Imagine - I was told, "no, never." Hmmm. Not that I consider the assessment all that valid. The real issue is, is this law enforceable? Is it being fairly enforced?

The next date: Dec. 4, a meeting for all of Brindi's angels at Dalhousie University next Thursday night in the Student Union. With Joe Cool. 

Then December 16 will be here before I know it, and the nerves will be increasing proportionally as it gets closer. I saw the courtroom last week; I counted the spaces, fortunately not too many. I know where to park. I'm nervous even writing this, so I'd better stop, or I won't sleep at all, and it's well after 3 am already. 

Let's quash that thing, quash it real good. Get that dog back home, for good and forever.


Monday, November 24, 2008

JULY 24 - NOVEMBER 24: FOUR MONTHS AND COUNTING

Torture is not a good word to bandy about. People are being tortured every day and their pain is unimaginable.
Emotional torture is in a different category, and that is what I feel I am suffering without Brindi here, and knowing where she is, and the agony of this unending nightmare and the necessity of fighting against the insensate system that brought this about - regardless of my attempts to steady myself it is emotional torture. My heart has already been broken so many times I thought there was no way it could ever happen again, but the universe found a whole new way to do it - not with a man, but a dog. Who would ever believe it possible.
It is a badiversary worth sleeping through, instead of not sleeping at all the night before, which I have not. Last week I had two completely sleepless nights, and in between those nights, a few with only about four hours, and a very slow recovery. It starts all over again. 
I am not satisfied with where I am in this fight and it is a frustrating thing to visit the SPCA to drop off bones and share information, only to be told I'm upsetting the staff, and that the supervisor doesn't know if I am a good dog owner or a bad dog owner. Bad attitude, SPCA. Bad timing. If your staff is upset, ask them why. Have a discussion, for a change. It doesn't look like that happens much, because nothing has changed over the last four months: I still encounter staff and volunteers who believe things that are not true - about the pound having "nothing to do" with the shelter. Some of them still don't know who they're working for - or don't want to know, since one of them claimed the shelter had nothing to do with the provincial board of the SPCA; none of them seem to know or want to know who is financing the shelter - hey, the annual reports are online, and it looks like the six-figure pound contract pays for a goodly chunk, if not half, of the annual budget - money from, guess who, HRM taxpayers. To run the pound FOR THE CITY: not separately; BY THE SAME ORGANIZATION. 
Ah, but the truth is upsetting. It's not my fault, nor is it my problem, if the staff is upset. In my opinion they're not upset enough. Because they're not upset enough to check all the facts, or to speak up if they don't like them. If they are volunteers, they still have a right to express their opinions. Muzzling yourself is not the way to improve things. Telling me that the staff get attached to the "long term residents" and get upset... leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished. Let me finish it: they get attached, and then they get upset WHEN THE RESIDENT - the DOG - is KILLED. Euthanize is the powder-puff term that doesn't make anybody feel better about it. It's not euthanization for Brindi, it's out and out killing that one day, ladies, who knows, you may have to carry out, especially if I end up running out of money and health. Because nobody else can adopt her under the circumstances. In case you don't know, I have not been charged with any offense; therefore, animal services does not claim that I am guilty of anything in particular. So one could conclude that as an owner I am no different from anybody else. The law actually says I am guilty of an offense, but the department chose not to charge me with it, and no such offense was even mentioned in the papers used to seize Brindi - I suppose any such mention would require that I be charged. It's very perplexing. 

I do know that the lack of charges is why it is taking so long for me to get to a judge: I had to BUY my day in court, and it costs a pretty penny indeed. Meanwhile other dog owners (even when their dogs bite people) before and since get their day in court free of charge, and much sooner. Until recently, the mayor firmly believed, like most of the populace, that it was impossible for Animal Services to seize a dog without charging the owner with some sort of violation. He also did not realize the sizable number of cases of by-law prosecutions - well over a dozen - since last year involving owners of dogs with two to three incidents of biting humans and/or other dogs, supplemented by "running at large" charges, in which the owners were charged, went to provincial court a month or two later, and were either fined a few hundred bucks, or had the charges dropped. With the one exception of a human-biting dog that was put down, they all fared eons better than Brindi and me. He knows the truth now, but so far it hasn't prompted him to do anything about it. He ought to seriously question the advice of HRM legal counsel that he remain apart from the matter, because he and Council created the situation facilitating the denial of due process. Following that, he ought to seriously review the motives and practices of animal services in regard to my case, because it's the only way to prevent something like this happening again - or something even worse happening again, like Ducky.

Our last four months, the outrageous sums involved, and the agonizing separation without visits, are a form of punishment (not yet over) that nobody else has had to bear for the kind of minor infractions involved, not even for worse ones!

Brindi is a bad dog, according to HRM, and in the one-dimensional world of the by-law, bad dogs must be destroyed, just like a bad... (actually I can't think of any comparison, because there is none). So she is not up for sale. She is up for dying, that's all. 

As far as I can make out with the law, it makes no difference if I sign her over. Nor would I ever do that. HRM would not let her out of its jurisdiction even for training subject to approval; it would not let her go to a foster home, and it will not agree to release her to me pending the December 16 date. It won't even hear more proposals out of court - how, since it renegged on two meetings? Brindi, my friends at the SPCA should note, is being cruelly caged again after two years in a shelter and barely a year out, in part also because no one at that organization has stepped up to help. And so the battle drags on, and I am powerless to stop it, despite thousands of signatures and notes from folks all over the planet, despite letters to every relevant public official in the province and beyond. 

Brindi is punished very severely by this long wait, a significant period of time in the short life of a dog, all because of a loophole that was used to create a black hole of bureacracy, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In fact it's irrelevant which it is. Much more relevant are the intentions since that time of the parties involved, once the contrast is known between our case and the others on record. A contrast, I should note, that nobody was going to ever mention or notice, unless a crack internet researcher took the time to find the records - and thank goodness she did. 

Brindi has been condemned to death for an alleged propensity to attack "unprovoked". You all know the latter is debatable. To a dog, the natural territorial boundary is the road edge, not the easement - (what's a 16-foot easement to a dog??) - and since a dog remembers quite well when another dog was aggressive to it at some point in the past, there can be a prior provocation, and the response detached in time, but a response nonetheless. These are all provocations in the dog world. And what does it mean, "propensity"? Some kind of propensity to attack is quite obviously inherent to the nature of every dog on earth. No dog does not possess this trait in some degree; if it didn't, it would be a stuffed animal, not a live canine. 

So I haven't sobbed hard, the really hard and long sobbing, in a few days now and I know I am overdue. I am not feeling well enough to sustain it so I pray the sobbing will pass me by today, against the odds. It's so hard, I can't predict what will trigger it. Every other commercial has a dog in it; every other series or movie plot seems to involve a dog, and a look out my window is easily pierced with the sight of a happy human-canine pair strolling down the street. A call-in show on the radio is invariably about pets; or somebody comes up with yet another bad story about a dog and the law. I cringe and cringe. 

About me being a good dog owner or not - I guess it would be a lot less upsetting to believe I'm not? Good luck on that one, ladies. Willful ignorance is no answer and certainly no excuse. If my dog is unjustly ordered euthanized, it doesn't hack it to say "just carrying out orders"; that is, as I#ve said, tantamount to the infamous Nuremberg defense (which didn't stop the court from convicting the Germans). But to add to "just carrying out orders", the claim "I don't know who I work for," "We are separate from the NS SPCA," -- well, it's a bit like saying not only am I not responsible; heck, I'm not even in the German army. A bit hard to swallow.

And I'm feeling sick enough and angry enough on this four-month anniversary to say: you are participating willingly in this ordeal. So please, keep it to yourselves if you're upset, unless you plan on doing something constructive about it - like speak up (not to me). Otherwise, you have no right to tell me how upset you are about Brindi, or how attached you are. I'm absolutely sure you are, but with all due respect (however much is due), so what? I believe I'll begin to care about your upset staff and volunteers right about the same time the SPCA starts caring about how upset I am, and how attached I am, not to mention how upset Brindi was to be taken away; when it starts caring enough to intervene on our behalf, if only to give me permission to visit her; when it starts caring enough to include ALL dogs, including the ones in the pound, in its mission to protect animal welfare.

Otherwise - talk to the paw.

One last thing: since you work for a group holding the monopoly on anti-cruelty law enforcement in this province (which in turn works for the group holding the monopoly on violence against animals in HRM), if you really cannot tell a good dog owner from a bad one, well then, perhaps you'd better get out of the business, hadn't you?


 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nice news from near and far

Under six to eight inches of snow, huddling with rudy on the heating pad, it's so wonderful to read there will be a comedy fundraiser for Brindi on Dec. 10 - in Montreal! 

It's happening at a place called Bourbon Street West, at 9 pm, with the help of the facebook group "Comedy with a Cause" and comic Kenny Robinson, at the request of a very kind and determined young woman named Tammy Kramar. Tickets are only $10 and the place seats 100 people. Wish I could be there! 

Those angels in Quebec, what would we do without them?!

In the comedy mode - this is the most comic picture of Brindi I could find. Other than the ones with antlers or masks. In this one, she's listening out for small furry creatures under the snow. Or trying to tune in to a Montreal station. (The youtube clip of her trying to ski on her back isn't bad material, either!)

Other good news: three more bids on the auction items!! Both the quilt and the week at a lakeside cottage are off and running, and a first bid is in on the private obedience class by Meaghan Lumley. Meaghan's second item, a dog grooming session, was already scored by Jenn Richardson for her Jessie, the Chessie. Jenn, please send me a picture of the results, please!

AND two new items donated for the auction! This elegant candy-colored sofa, and a Pedi-Paws trimmer, both brand-new. Thank you, Joan!! As if it isn't enough that you've been the best legal eagle on the case even my lawyer is getting nervous. Hopefully the city's lawyers too. If they only knew what we know!!
 
Here it is modeled by Buttercup, of Me and my Dogs in Halifax fame. It's a bit too small for her, sadly, because she looks marvelous otherwise. But it's perfect for dogs of a more diminutive persuasion --  perhaps 15 lbs. or so.

Meanwhile, Halifax is subdued by this weekend of storms, and everybody's staying off the roads after the sobering experience of a four-hour highway shut-down last week. It caught a lot of people off guard.  

Water is gone again here, and I'm deeply worried about the concrete. On Friday morning they first broadcast the storm warning for that night. I was not sure what to do. Nobody was available to get a truckload of dirt down, and then straw; the ditches next to the footings always fill with water anyway. So I ended up sprinkling calcium chloride around them, mainly to dissolve in the water, so it wouldn't freeze (I hope). I had the sense that it was either a very smart precaution or very stupid fatal blow. No way to know until it's too late.

The clouds look very dark and full with more snow right now. 


Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today my father would have been 89. We lost him ten years ago. Today my four sisters, my mom, and I are all remembering how blessed we were to have him and how much we miss him.

Had multi-infarct dementia passed him by, he would be fit as a fiddle today. He was so very good at taking care of his health. Dementia is a cruel trick to play on a man like him.

My father was not known to be overly sentimental about animals, so we never really knew how much he really loved our dog Scooter until she was hit by a car. It happened not long after he and my mother moved to a suburb of Chicago. My private theory is that she got loose and ran off to hunt for our previous home in another state. When we first moved from New Jersey to Michigan, she wouldn't want to go back home on walks; she'd just keep pulling ahead. I figure she was doing it again in Illinois, looking for our dirt road amidst the sidewalks of Hinsdale.

Fortunately, my folks lived around the corner from a vet's office. After she was hit, some kind soul scraped her up and took her there right away. She had some broken bones and a terrible concussion. Many people would have put Scooter down there and then. But not Dad. He took it very hard, perhaps out of guilt, knowing she was probably trying to run to Michigan. He nursed her back to health himself (my mom has a hard time with blood, injuries, etc.). When my mom called to tell me, I instantly got chocked up - I could already tell something bad happened from her tone when I answered and she said "Francesca..."

I went to see Scooter as soon as I could get a ride from Ann Arbor. What a nightmare to see this lump of fir bandaged up, and still wagging her tail. My dad would take her outside to pee on a piece of plywood. He gave us all regular reports on her progress. It seems to me it was weeks and weeks before she could lift her body, months perhaps before she could walk along, and she never really lost her lopsided limp.

Scooter was a great dog. She fully deserved the special dispensation to have her life prolonged. She was smart, fun, crazy at times, and a real dog. Our family life was far too chaotic to focus on her training, but kids and adults muddled through it somehow, and did our best with vets, tags, collars, and the like.

We chose her because she was the most active, sharp one in the litter of a beagle-type mom and unknown dad, advertised on a residential lawn by means of a scrawled sign offering free pupies (sic). As far as we were concerned, it came down to choosing her or the beauty of the bunch, a honey-colored, gorgeous male. But Scooter won paws down because she literally scooted all over the place and exuded sheer glee at everything. We used the same reasoning when we picked out our canary, who my folks named Enrico (after The Caruso of course).

I gave training Scooter a try, though I was only ten. I found a huge book on dogs in the bookcase, and skimmed through it one evening while sitting on the kitchen floor with our new, rubbery-limbed puppy. I worked on "sit" and "come", but didn't succeed much further. In a family of seven, it's kind of hard to be consistent. We spoiled her rotten, there's no denying it. Luckily she was good-natured and trained herself more or less, like so many family dogs do. Still, it was a real struggle to deal with the poop until she got the hang of walks. She did prove tremendously smart - and terrifically talented at getting into things she shouldn't. When that happened, she'd run and hide under our beds, with a pincushion or a hairbrush chomped halfway through, or worse, our miniature turtle. If I could get to her before Dad did (he could be a bit rough), or sometimes, after he gave up, I'd extricate the object from her jaws, being the only one
of five girls willing to do it. My sisters were either too afraid or grossed out, but I was pretty rational-minded about such things. Blood never made me faint, though I don't know why. So whenever Scooter got something in her mouth, I'd race to pull her from under the bed and carefully pry her jaws apart with thumbs pressed on the inner jaw joint, a technique I read about somewhere. Scooter was just small enough for us to pick her up, so I'd hang on to her, and she never snapped at me, though reluctant to give up her catch of the day.

As a puppy, Scooter nearly gnawed through the rungs of all eight kitchen chairs. Forever afterwards, you couldn't rest your bare feet on them without risking a splinter, even though Dad tried to sand them down. Eventually Scooter taught herself a special way of begging for food invisibly from under the kitchen table, by persistently beseeching one and all for tidbits, with a ghostly wail of howled arias, launched as shortish alto murmurs and worked up into lengthy and elaborate soprano phrases. Sometimes she'd eerily match Grace Slick's voice from the Crown of Creation, one of my sister Mary's favorite records. Scooter used the same high-pitched voice to utter squeals of delight whenever a man arrived at our door. The one exception was my friend Pat, who responded just as warmly, declaring her reciprocal and undying love above Scooter's crescendo shrieks and wagging body.

Scooter was indeed a very friendly dog.  But she was no fool, just the same. You never really saw Scooter at the dinner table, but you could certainly hear her. She stayed quiet, though, whenever my dad carved the Thanksgiving turkey and tossed her bits now and then. It was an unspoken deal between them. He wold scold us for doing the same thing, so he kept his transgression quiet. Scooter would just park her little body below the counter while he worked, and he'd toss her pieces of skin, gristle, and fat, and the odd scrap of actual meat without a word.

Scooter never failed to catch a piece of food thrown to her, however badly aimed. It became a past-time of ours. Some of us argued that she caught and swallowed in a single motion. I tested this theory by throwing something she wouldn't normaly eat, like a piece of lettuce. She caught it expertly as always, then spit it out a second later. (Whereas, Brindi will catch dog treats in her mouth just as accurately, but if she doesn't like one, she'll discreetly move to a corner and gingerly deposit them on the floor, as if reluctant to seem ungrateful or impolite!)

We used to take Scooter, squirming in our arms, up into our treehouse, where she could see birds a little closer; on occasion we'd walk her to the "sand pit" (an open slope where we sledded in winter), to let her run around in the deserted grass while we rolled down the hill. My little sister called this a "vacation".

After college, when I shared an apartment in the city with my sister Nancy, we took Scooter in for a week when my folks went away. We found we could cure her of her begging habit without too much trouble, and were very proud of ourselves for it, too. Sadly, we neglected to train my parents not to feed her from the table after they returned, so Scooter of course resumed begging as usual. It was useless to lecture my parents about it. They'd agree vehemently that begging was bad, then within seconds my mom would absentmindedly drop a scrap of food over the side of the table into the patiently waiting little jaws. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but human habits die pretty hard.

Our experience with Scoooter is a big reason why I was adamant about not giving Brindi food from the table, whether tossed to her or placed in her dish, from day one. I never did it. As much as I adore her, I know that giving in once virtually means a lifelong battle and I didn't want a dog constantly at my elbow with that expectant look in her eye. I found myself having to keep a sharp eye on friends and guests here because she sometimes gave it a try with them. It paid off, though. For instance, I don't have to think twice when I leave a plate of my food next to the bed or even on it to go down for a glass of milk. I know I will return to find the plate unmolested and Brindi lounging quietly two feet away, just as I left her. Not bad, I'd say! (It's a different matter with kitty food, however - it's got to be up on a table or out the door!)

My dad and Scooter were a funny pair, though. I don't remember him walking her all that much before I left for college though he must have. In general I guess it was our job, and fair enough. He made occasional comic half-hearted attempts to curb Scooter's begging, bellowing at her in his fluent Longislandese, "This is human food. You're a DAWG!" He gave the impression that she was a full-fledged German Shepherd as he ruggedly moved her around by the collar. But he didn't seem to mind if we dressed her in our old pajamas for fun, and was good-natured about it if she slept with us instead of the blanket "box" he set up for her downstairs. Usually she'd make the rounds of our beds and her box throughout the night - not his bed - but she'd always insist on being invited up first. I remember many a night being roused by her soft doggie murmurs. Not until I'd pat the bed once would she fling herself up and snuggle into the curve of my body for an hour or two before departing for somebody else's bed.

Scooter lived to be fourteen years old. The last few years she not only still limped, but her little head, with its big brown eyes, never fully lost the palsy from the concussion after the car accident. She was still our beautiful girl, though. And we all loved her deeply and told Scooter stories with relish. 
Dad used to pretend to complain to guests that he was the only male in the house of six women, "Even the dawg!" Scooter was a woman to us. I guess he felt the same. I will never forget how tenderly and devotedly he took care of her after that accident. I can forgive his impatience with her in later years; if I could have taken her to live with me, I certainly would have. 

In many ways Brindi reminds me of Scooter, even some of her markings. Brindi's luxurious eyelashes are more prominent, though, maybe because Scooter was only half of her size. Brindi is just as loving and affectionate, I think, although much more sparing about kisses. Scooter had deadly aim with her tongue and was quite aerobatic: during her customary gushy greetings, Scooter could jump up mid-wag, lick the kid or crouching adult right on the mouth, and be back down on the floor with split-second timing, never touching their bodies. They never knew what hit them.

We were so lucky to have Dad, who had a great sense of what kids liked without being asked. He built us girls a tree house and taught me how to hammer a nail and use a screwdriver, and let us have Scooter, tolerating the extra pandemonium she brought to the household. It made for great copy, if nothing else!

I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday, wherever you are! I'm sure Scooter is right there with you, waiting for savory treats. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You decide


Chickens and dogs. 

Well, I heard another story. A German Shepherd in Shad Bay about three weeks ago killed a few chickens while their owner watched out her window. She hadn't had the birds for very long. Horrified, she called 911, and the cops that arrived put the dog in the back of their cruiser. They were followed by animal control, who issued a ticket to the marauding dog's owner, on the scene by then. End of story, except to say that the woman soon got rid of the surviving chickens. 

Was this a proper application of A300 when a dog kills two or more animals?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Follow and click!


Follow:

--I've added a "Follow this blog" feature. (If you sign up, please let me know if it works.)

CLICK!

--Every time someone clicks on one of the little blue ads in the very bottom left column, Google will send me a few cents. You'll be helping Brindi, so please, click away! Thanks!

And now back to our regularly scheduled program...