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.


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


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!


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


--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...

30 Million Dangerous Dogs?

Here's an excerpt from a recent paper that came my way, published by the Animals and Society Institute:*

"Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions - a Policy Paper"
Existing and Proposed Legal Remedies - Attempts to Identify and Remove high risk animals: Dangerous Dog Laws"

The second common legislative approach (the first is breed bans) to remove dangerous dogs from the population targets the behaviour of the individual dog, designating dogs with labels such as "potentially dangerous", "dangerous", or in some cases "vicious" based on actual incidents, and then either eliminating the dogs or limiting the conditions under which they may be kept (such as requiring sterilization, micro-chipping, training, behavioural consultation, muzzling, etc.) Such laws increasingly also specify civil and criminal liability incurred by people whose dogs injure someone after receiving such a designation.

There is some evidence that a "prior behaviour" approach to the "dangerous dog" designation may decrease injurious bite incidence. This has only been demonstrated, however, where the dangerous dog label is limited to dogs who have already bitten and injured someone. A program in Oregon showed a decrease from 25 percent to 7 percent in repeat injurious bites
(of people) after the implementation of a program restricting conditions of ownership of dogs who had injuries.

Many dangerous dog laws try not only to control dogs who have already injured people, but to predict which ones will do so in the future and attempt to prevent this. Typical legal descriptions of "dangerous" dog behaviour include "approaches in a vicious or terrorizing manner", "in a menacing fashion", having a "known disposition, tendency, or propensity", or "engages in any behaviour that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury".

Aside from the subjectivity of these descriptions, the main difficulty with such an approach is that the best research to date indicates the likelihood that a majority of dogs engage in such behaviour without hurting anyone.

One groundbreaking study found that 41 percent of the dogs studied had growled, snarled or snapped at a familiar person at some time, but only 15 percent of those dogs actually bit anyone. Of those who bit someone, only 10 percent of the bites were considered injurious, making the total incidents of injurious dog bites only 1.5 percent of the total dogs studied.

This means that a hypothetical net cast to identify the 1.5 percent of dogs actually captures at least 41 percent of the dog population. And since this study only included behaviour toward family members and other people well known to the dog, and only included guardians responsible and caring enough to provide veterinary care for their companions, the percentage of potential problems within the entire dog population must certainly be considerably higher.
A history of threatening behaviour has not been shown to predict that a dog will bite, much less that she will injure if she bites.


Other Outcomes

With regard to dangerous dog laws based on behaviour, as discussed above,
definitions of dangerous are so varied and subject to interpretation that most dogs' behaviour could be interpreted to qualify.

A conservative estimate would be about 30 million dogs would likely meet the criteria (this estimate is based on a study that found 41 percent of dogs growl, snarl, or snap at a familiar person, and thus does not include dogs that only threaten strangers, so the real percentage is almost certainly considerably greater).

Some statutes require only that the dog "endangered" a person in some way, leaving the way open for complaints by anyone who simply felt (but was not really) endangered.

All this creates a serious danger of abuse in any system that attempts to weed out "potentially dangerous" animals who have not bitten anyone. It casts a net far too wide to be enforceable.

When laws exist without the practical means to widely enforce them, the result is selective enforcement based on grudge complaints, and widespread non-compliance.

*Boldfacing, underlining, a few parenthesized notes, and paragraph separations, added by me).

Do You Feel Lucky?

Pump going again, did two loads of laundry. I owe the flow to a kind man named Sheldon who lives up the road from me and came to fix the second leak, and redo the first. It was a pretty gusty afternoon to be standing on a ladder cutting copper tubing, with the risk of getting drenched when it was time to test the system.

I have an obscene amount of dishes to do now. No rush...

Okay, I've been looking at this deal with my dog from all sorts of angles for almost four months now - the next badiversary is the 24th - and the more I learn, the more I see, the more absolutely incredulous I become. (Hint: see the poll in the left column). Animal control officials from the US and Canada write to me or comment on the petitions expressing their dismay and disapproval for what is going on. When the pros do that, something's got to be off somewhere. And it is not merely the system; that's a fundamental factor, but one of many. Even with the various bureaucratic limitations, there were and still are a number of ways out of it that do not require me to spend practically a year's salary to go to court.

Essentially Brindi is being held without charges. The charges should go to me of course, and I'd have the option to challenge them in court. But they didn't, and I don't. So the result is either sign her over, or take on some sort of court process, and the question becomes, which kind? There are so many ways to shape injunctions, applications, and suits, with a spectrum of risk vs. timing. I'm no lawyer - though at times I may seem as argumentative as one - but from what I gather, it's like this: you cannot appeal an injunction, but you can get one within a matter of days. You might reverse the kill order and even win damages in a lawsuit, and you can appeal the outcome, but takes a year to schedule the first day; an interim application takes a few weeks, and I have no idea actually if it can be appealed; we've filed another kind that takes two months to go before a judge. And we could base them on a number of different factors, from the lack of charge to the by-law itself. How much more confusing can it get? And the way things are going, I'll probably wind up with whichever judge ruled twice against the poor dog that roughed up a greyhound last year. As if he never heard of training, or a fence, or anything.

It pains me deeply that so many dog owners out there in HRM seem to fail to grasp the danger, never mind the injustice. Maybe it's easier to label the owner irresponsible, rather than the authorities, if only to be able to sleep at night. I really don't know. But I doubt my lone struggle will tone down the zeal of animal control. The truth is, an order to destroy can happen to any dog at any time. If nobody from the city deemed it appropriate to apologize to Jean Hanlon for the loss of her family cat, anything is possible, it seems to me. If I happened to own some other dog and not Brindi - and there's lots of big strong dogs out there, bigger than her - could I quietly watch this struggle? It's a troubling thought. Like everybody else, I'm distracted by the animal abuse cases popping up on a regular basis; they deserve all the attention and action they can get. But the threat of a seizure and kill of our own dogs is still there. You don't always get a 14-day grace period, either; it can be as few as three days. I know of no local group actively working to change that.

So, if you have a dog in HRM, I guess what it all comes down to is, are you feeling lucky?
Just how lucky?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


OK. So the pump is fine, it just blew a fuse, which I grudgingly found out. I say that because accessing the fusebox means mounting a lightweight ladder balanced on the rocks and dirt next to a footing with two-foot rebars sticking out of it, and carefully removing plastic covering and tape. Fortunately, a friend who happened to stop by on her way to a tea in Musquodoboit Harbour (gosh I hope that's the spelling) was willing to hold the ladder for me so I wouldn't fall and be impaled on the rebars.

As soon as the pump started, my joy was detoured, because had to shut it right off again. A pipe split open right over my head and the pump, cascading rusty water on both of us. Only an hour to spare before closing, I made it to Home Hardware, looking absolutely lovely of course, and bought some plastic joints. It was dark and rainy once I got home so I waited until today, when it was gray and rainy, to attempt to repair the break. This meant the ladder straddling the water tank, and using a hack-saw to trim a section of copper tubing - which had broken cross-wise along a copper joint. Then a struggle to reach up and sand the ends smooth so they'd fit into the plastic sleeves, and match them up straight. I didn't have great sandpaper and I should have sawn off an extra millimeter or two, because it was not quite aligned. But it was close enough for jazz, and when it comes to repairs done over the past 100 years, this is a very jazzy house. Extremely jazzy indeed.

Then a prayer and a throw of the switch. Instead of a cascade, this time, a torrent of water from directly under the kitchen soaked everything in all directions - the floorboards, the steel, the cribbing. Great stuff. Took minutes to slow and stop after I shut off the pump. I cried. The break was at a joint with a shut-off valve. I must have been psychic, because yesterday I happened to buy a valve just like it. I moved the ladder over to the spot, and once the water stopped pelting my head, I took a closer look, and soon realized I cannot possibly fix it myself. I can't get it off, for starters. So another day without water. At least there was plenty of it around the footings. I filled one jug for flushing the toilet. It's not pretty in and out of this house, let's face it. Tomorrow I will have to find somebody with plumbing tendencies, if not a plumber, and try it again - I won't be surprised if another waterfall turns up. Then I've got to wrap the pipes with the stuff I bought last week. Loads of excitement.

Meanwhile. I have another serious problem with my laptop. After a period of loosening, the power supply stopped working altogether in early September. A friend took it for repairs as a favor. I haven't seen it since. It's my brain; Brindi's my heart; both gone. Don't even ask what's on it; everything, just everything. There was no way to back it up, since it had no power and the battery was dead, of course, no power to charge it. Last full backup was three months old. Inexplicably, it's been torn apart so much that it might be useless now. If I don't already have an ulcer, this will give me one. I didn't want anything more than the power supply to be fixed but my wishes evidently did not count. I don't know what to do now; I hijacked a Dell from a friend and he needs it back. He will get it because I intensely dislike PC's, no offense, and physical limitations make anything other than the Powerbook feasible for me. Apple no longer makes the one I have (titanium G4), which even Apple salesmen regret. Last I looked, they don't make anything comparable. If I had the money to buy a new one, which I don't. As it is, I have to buy myself a crown to cover my implant, about four thousand. Been walking around with a gap for months. I only mention this - why do I mention it? Not really relevant. Sorry.

Today I wrote to more people about Brindi, and forwarded the letter to Best Friends in Utah with a brief note. We don't have a place lined up for a Facebook meeting yet, but I hope we will soon. Yesterday I spoke to Heather Anderson again; she was so kind to call. She sure has her hands full with her own animals, four or five dogs, six cats, hedgehogs (!), and more, plus running the D.A.I.S.Y? Foundation. It's amazing. She was hoping to call Tom Young's call-in show tomorrow, on 95.7, if her duties permit her. Other radio possibilities: on Friday afternoon I may be a guest on CKDU (88.1 FM at Dalhousie University. The only station left, as WRFL at the University of Kentucky says of its same location on the dial). More on that as and if it develops.

Since this whole thing began, I've heard from two people with dogs that look remarkably like Brindi. It's really something, because I'd never come across anything like her before. I remember that when I dropped Brindi at the kennel last January, there was a dog that looked so much like her, it fooled me for a second. She was paired with another dog owned by the same people. She might even be a puppy of Brindi's, or maybe a littermate - none of Brindi's pups look exactly like her. She and her larger friend, sort of a greyhound, were recent arrivals and the kennel owner put them in an outdoor pen to get Brindi used to being there with other dogs. She was fine, just directed all her attention to me, out there on the icy ground. I hated to go, and I just cringe now when I remember her look of confusion changing to distress as I began to leave; it's so awful. It was a great kennel, new, clean, lots of room, lots of outdoor runs, but she was not thrilled, I can tell you. She didn't spare a second to look back once when I picked her up. That was a ten-day stay. I don't blame her, after being cooped up for two years, she paid her dues in spades. Now her stay at the SPCA is well over three months, going on four. I know she's tough, but inside, she's got to be hurting, and who wouldn't be?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Running dry

So. Another week sped right by.

No response from HRM's lawyer, Scott Hughes, to a number of letters and documents filed by my lawyer, Blair Mitchell.

No response from the SPCA's legal counsel to a letter Blair two weeks ago, with a second letter to the Minister of Agriculture.

We are filing an "interim application" to request access to Brindi for Silvia Jay to assess her. I forget why we are doing this now.

I am trying to organize a meeting for local Facebook members somewhere in HRM so we can meet face to face and work on strategy, and possibly a benefit concert. Where to meet???

Without a dog around to get me up and out in the morning, I'm losing the battle against major insomnia so that I have slipped into an odd schedule and I only see about three hours of daylight. Usually I only see it out the window. The muscles in my back, neck, and arms are really sore and tender; ditto my head. I made it to the last yoga class on Wednesday my the skin of my teeth about ten minutes late. As soon as I joined in, though, I felt an overwhelming urge to run from the room and sob, not necessarily in that order. Somehow I made it to the end of class, but my thoughts and emotions never stopped working like a roller-coaster, even during the relaxation/meditation at the end. The tears welled right up again when the teacher added a new instruction to the usual relaxation aids: "See if you can think of three positive things about yourself." Hmmm. I could hardly keep focused on the task. As it is, I forget urgent things to do from one day to the next.

Partly because of the insomnia, partly due to logistical reasons, I still have no water. No laundry or dishes done for over a week. To be honest, I couldn't care less. I really could not. I might run out of glasses. but I've got lots of plates. I bought prepared frozen food so I don't have to cook.

Rudy, one of my two cats, has taken to my side more than usual, snuggling in bed (where he's claimed the geographical center for his own). He's been licking my hand lately, a weird thing for a cat to do, especially when your hand is not covered in tuna fish or cheese. Amelia would be snuggling with me too, except that Rudy has become more territorial lately for some reason. One glance from him and she scatters.

Several more contacts this week, promising, I hope. Heather Anderson of D.A.I.S.Y? Foundation is connecting with local media. On the auction, so far there are bids on four of the eight items I posted on I have to go pick up a few more - some WWII-era German stamps that a kind man in Dartmouth is offering.

Nothing more to report.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Posting the media list

I don't know why I didn't think of this before. It may not be well received, but I'll wait and see.
It's in the left-hand column, down low, under Brindi's close-up.

The most media coverage we got was when total strangers called and emailed the media directly. It's worth a try!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What if? (off the subject, just this once)

I was thinking about the recent tragedy at the SPCA, when a staff person accidentally backed her car over a kitten and a pregnant cat someone placed behind her wheels. Both kitties succumbed to their injuries. The staff were understandably upset, and the unknown person behind it is now the target of anger and hatred.

Now that my own horror and shock are beginning to subside, a few nagging thoughts have floated up that I'd like to share here, as an exception to my Brindi focus. The prevailing assumption in this story is that it is the result of an intentional act. But something else occurred to me, mainly because I can't help asking, is it really true? Is there a Nova Scotian so incredibly mean and cruel that they'd deliberately do such a thing? How awful would it be if they had a very different intention, and just messed up royally? What if they meant to bring the cats to the SPCA for adoption - and for some reason choked, because they were too shy or ashamed to go inside, and just left them in the parking lot and ran off? Or similarly, what if they had gone in, were told the shelter doesn't accept "owner surrenders", and didn't know what else to do? Did they take a chance that the SPCA would have to take the cats in as strays - and the bag or box ended up getting shoved too close to the car as others walked by?

Frankly, I don't know which scenario is better, on purpose or "on" accident. But if in fact it was unintentional, I doubt that person will never be able to come clean. Nobody would believe it or forgive them.

Aside from this unpleasant speculation, the story also made me aware that the Metro Shelter doesn't accept "owner-surrendered" pets. They estimate an additional 30 extra cats a day would turn up. Where do all those cats end up instead?? Does it mean that every day, people are drowning litters of kittens - or dumping a dog on the highway - because they can't drop them at the shelter? I don't know.
What also stuck with me was the judgmental - and a bit contradictory - overtone about those pesky "irresponsible owners" who want to give up their pets. The term always hits me hard, having been called an irresponsible owner myself lately. I realize lots of people have a low opinion of their fellow humans, even their neighbors. But surely not every person wishing to give up an animal at a shelter is just a selfish, shallow twit who failed to grasp or appreciate what pet ownership really means! I mean, come on!!! And even if they were - is that a legitimate basis for turning them away? Who really suffers then? A.: The animals.

The truth is, however, there are plenty of good reasons for giving up a beloved pet. Work schedules make keeping a dog impossible; allergies crop up and/or become more severe from one day to the next; a new member of the family, by birth or marriage or adoption or whatever, has allergies; the household budget can no longer afford a pet due to job loss or the addition of new family members, young or old; seniors become too weak, ill, or poor to care for their animal companions; single people of any age contract an illness and/or disability; couples divorce, both move into apartments that don't take pets; employees transferred out of town for a year or two with no one to take their pet; and so on. These are all legitimate scenarios that any "responsible owner" may have to confront one day, and in my opinion, somebody ought to be there to help. Like many others, I had always assumed that somebody is the shelter.

Saying goodbye to a pet is awful enough; having no shelter to bring it to is a sad discovery indeed. Sure, there are private shelters, but too often they're filled to the brim (and no wonder). Running an ad in the paper or online is all well and good, but doesn't always work, and how do you invent your own screening process? And if illness is the reason, how do you find and interview prospective owners, or even use word of mouth?

What's the answer? Fortunately, many others have gotten there before us. When there's not enough room in a shelter, they continue to accept animals, and send them to foster homes, which are vastly preferable to a kennel. (That's how I ended up with Princess Amelia - I fostered her when she had her kittens, and we found we just couldn't part.) There are networks of shelters across the continent that can help redistribute the extra "animal wealth" instead of destroy it. This cooperation happens a regular basis, not just after natural disasters.

I don't have any way to learn the truth about those poor cats at the SPCA last week. We may never know. I just so hate the image of some poor soul mustering up their courage and strength to give up their pet, walking into the shelter, ready to face disapproving looks and answer a lot of personal questions, only to be turned away. What do they do then? I hate to think. But somebody better!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

News from Nowhere

Many people call and write to ask me how Brindi is doing. Not allowed visits, I rely on reports from others. These are usually one or two words long, until recently.

This is part of a series of emails I received. I've placed them in chronological order. They start with a letter from a Facebook member to Mayor Kelly. I forwarded her letter to SPCA board member Sean Kelly. He replied to both Jen and me. It is the most detailed information I've received to date, after a note from Sean about two weeks ago answering my questions. Sean included the vet’s letter as it appears here.

I am, as may be imagined, utterly and absolutely grateful for these and all reports on Brindi's welfare. I hope it turns out to be a step in the right direction. And in that spirit, Jen's reply raises very pertinent questions.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jen [mailto:]
Sent: Samstag, 1. November 2008 19:18
Subject: Save Brindi!

Hello Mayor Kelly,

I am writing you with my heart on my sleeve. There is a desperate issue that needs to be addressed right away, it is a life or death matter, which makes it all the more urgent.

Brindi is a dog being held on death row at the Nova Scotia SPCA in Burnside. No one is allowed to visit her, including her owner. Her owner rescued Brindi and gave her a loving home. Brindi was removed from her home for doing what comes naturally to her - defending her property. No one was hurt by Brindi, yet she was taken from her safe and loving home and put into a cage to await her fate.

Please, visit Brindi's Facebook page ( and read the history for yourself. Brindi needs all of our help, financial or otherwise. I can't help financially but I believe, Sir, that you can step in and be a hero for the animal community, and a positive role model for children.
Please Mayor Kelly, please help Brindi in her desperate time of need. She is scared, she is lonely. She's been locked up since July 24 with no visitors.

I used to work at the SPCA where Brindi is being held. I know what kind of attention she is getting - none. Dogs in those holding pens are not allowed to interact with the public at all. Brindi will get walked once a day, twice if she's lucky. She will have to live in a pen that is bleached out daily, that is cold, that is lonely. It's a very scary place for dogs. Having come from a nasty home in the first place, Brindi is no doubt reverting to old behaviours, behaviours that humans themselves display when they feel unloved and forgotten about. She is pacing in her pen, panting, searching desperately for any way to escape, eagerly awaiting the humans who will feed her twice a day and take her outside for 10 minutes while her pen is being scrubbed with harsh-smelling chemicals and a fresh piece of scrap fabric is placed on the hard floor for her to sleep on. alone. in the dark.

It breaks my heart and if you're the empathetic person you appear to be in public appearances, you will help Brindi be reunited with her one and only loving owner she's known. Help her escape the awful cycle she's been living in, being in and out of shelters. Be her rescuer, her hero, and mine.


Jennifer Burtch

(Isn't she gorgeous?! Her coat is so shiny, it causes glare!)

-----Original Message-----
From: Sean Kelly Sent: November 7, 2008 6:31 AM To: 'Francesca Rogier' Cc: Jen Burtch
Subject: RE: Save Brindi!

Hello Francesca,

I just wanted to pass on some information. Last night I was out with Brindi in the backyard. She was having a great time we tossed the ball, she mainly played keep away J The people at the shelter are doing a lot of training with her to keep her mentally stimulated. Her weight is good she is eating very well. I have attached a letter from Dr. Pauline Giffin who is one of the vets we use. I can assure you that the information that is in Mrs. Burtch's email is incorrect!! It may have been that way in the past but it certainly is not now. I hope this information helps you in this difficult time.

Cheers, Sean Kelly Chair of the Shelter Management Team

Dr. Pauline Giffin's email is below:

I am a local veterinarian who was asked to address your concerns regarding Brindi's emotional and physical well-being during her time at the Metro SPCA. I am pleased to inform you that Brindi has adjusted well to her surroundings, showing no signs of stress-related problems. Her weekly physical exam by a veterinarian indicates no health concernsat the present time and her vaccines have been updated. Brindi has been given a quiet kennel that gives her some privacy from other dogs. She sleeps on a Karanda Bed with a blanket and has access to a large dog run. Her daily routine consists of a minimum of two 30-minute walks (during which time she is unmuzzled) allowing her an opportunity for interactive play with shelter staff. It should be notedthat a catch pole is not being used during Brindi's exercise/play time. Brindi is also provided with enrichment tools every day in her kennel to give her the opportunity to chew/play on her own while shelter staff is performing their daily duties. In conclusion, Brindi has adapted very well to her surroundings. While I realize this is a very difficult time for you, I assure you that Brindi's emotional and physical well-being is of utmost importance to the Metro SPCA and we will endeavor to continue to address all of her needs.

Sincerely, Dr. Pauline Giffin Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

-----Original Message-----
From: Jen []
Sent: November-07-08 10:30 PM
To: 'Sean Kelly'; 'Francesca Rogier'
Subject: RE: Save Brindi!

Hi Sean & Francesca, I am very glad to be proven incorrect! I am also very glad to know that conditions are much improved compared to when I worked there.

Sean, while Brindi seems to be adapting to her situation, what is being done to free her and send her home? I only want to see her happily returned to her home, and not needlessly killed. It was mentioned in the vet's email that she is being trained and worked with easily and without a muzzle. Why can she not be returned to her home? Her home has all of the necessary adaptations made to it to ensure she is safe and kept penned in her yard. Why is she still being held? Her execution date may have been pushed back, but has it been disregarded in light of how wonderful a dog she has proven herself to be?

Sincerely, Jen

Saturday, November 8, 2008

calling out #2

Once again, I am asking for daily calls to Mayor Kelly and especially to Animal Services. The numbers are (902) 490 4010 and 490 1791, respectively. Email gets deleted. A human voice is harder to ignore, somehow.
Call every day if you can, it doesn't take long, and it can really help. What to say? Please request that they meet with me, and that they let Brindi go, and if they keep listening, ask them to scale back a bit on their interpretation of A300, because a muzzle order is NOT a mandate to automatically euthanize for violations, not under that law - not by any stretch of the imagination. Fortunately so, for other people: Brindi is not wearing a muzzle when she is walked at the SCPA. And she was not wearing a muzzle when they seized her.

The administrative and legal situation is unexpectedly complicated. What's important to understand out of all the details is that Animal Services does not actually have to meet with me or anybody in order to let Brindi go. It has sole authority; it needs no judge to act for it other than provide warrants based on Animal Services' reports. It can review its own decision and the process leading to it, anytime it likes. There is no law or rule or policy or limit on their ability to do this - despite what they may tell the public. It may be hard to accept, but it's a lot easier and simpler than anybody having to testify in court. The system needs changing, agreed. Let's all fix it. I'd prefer it, however, if I could just get my dog back first, please.

Not my job - thankfully

Two different people sent me a job ad recently for what I believe is a new position in the HRM Regional Police for a "Regional Coordinator Animal Services". I hope they weren't thinking I should apply; it sounds like a very difficult job, starting with being available 24/7 to handle emergencies, plus supervising nine employees, and working on legislation. The full list of job duties falls into the three categories of management, customer relations, and operations, and it is impressive to say the least. And this person's boss will be Andrea MacDonald, the manager of Animal Services.

I just can't figure out how somebody with the qualifications requested, if there is such a person, can possibly do a good job with the duties expected of them. That is, a good job in terms of both animals and people. The duties are so wide-ranging, and several have wide-reaching consequences. I really worry about which of them will wind up getting the most emphasis in the final choice of applicant, because the list of "Competencies" already gives the animals the least emphasis.

Just glance at some of the job duties listed under "Management" in the HRM job description:

• ensure veterinarian care of animals in the care of the HRM
• ensure that services are delivered in the most efficient and effective manner
• participates (sic) in setting and recommending benchmarks and performance measures
• responsible for the standardization of case file management practices
• document and address performance deficiencies
Added to this under "Communications" is the duty to: "serve the corporation as the subject matter expert in animal related matters."
Why do I worry? Simple: the job qualifications lack any requirement for actual knowledge of animal behavior, experience in the care and training of animals, or, heaven forbid, certification in animal control, let alone any other animal-related certification.
Without one or more of these, how can anybody serve HRM as an expert in animal-related anything?? How can they set standards, review the work of others, or monitor vet care?
Having a degree in business administration and experience in program management is fine - provided you're in charge of licensing limousines, parking fines, or the like. But it's not enough, if you've got power of life and death over people and animals. This job is full of pitfalls. Failing to prevent a dangerous animal from attacking people is as grave a concern as seizing and killing the wrong animal.
Without basic knowledge and understanding of animals (and by animals, I mean primarily dogs), the poor person walking into this position will surely find he/she truly "continually addresses concerns raised by Regional Councillors and disgruntled citizens" - emphasis on continually - because there are bound to be a whole lot of concerns and loads of disgruntlement.
Given that roughly half of Halifax owns pets, certification and training in animal control is an excellent idea. It so happens that the National Animal Control Association in Kansas City offers workshops and all kinds of resources and assistance. The NACA tells us:
"An effective program is no accident. No program was ever successful without well trained personnel. Personnel cannot be held accountable for making mistakes if they have not been instructed on what they are to do and trained how to do it properly.

The National Animal Control Association (NACA) was formed in 1978 for the express purpose of assisting its members in performing their duties in a professional manner. One method of accomplishing this goal is to make personnel training programs available. This training must be designed to prepare animal control personnel for the challenges of solving the animal/people problems in today's world."
Granted, the NACA is an American organization, geared to the American legal system. And I may not even agree with all of their policies. But I know NACA training would not be wasted on HRM's staff. The NACA Policy Statement states:
All Animal Control personnel should receive minimum training and seek certification in compliance with state law. Training should include ongoing in-service training in animal control.

Training provides Animal Control personnel with the minimum skills necessary to adequately prepare them for the duties they are about to perform.

A certified training program, preferably the NACA 100 Level 1 and Level II Training Academy which would include all aspects of animal handling, disease detection, report writing, constitutional law, and professionalism.
Proper training should be a concern for any municipal government, since, as the NACA wisely points out, "Animal Control Officers make four times the public contact of other law enforcement officers . . . 4 times the exposure = 4 times the liability."
The new Regional Coordinator will manage a budget of $700,000. Implementing a program of certification for animal control officers is a great way to use some of that money. And/or, for a few thousand dollars - less than I've already spent on legal costs!! - the NACA will even come and review the entire HRM animal control program, and make recommendations for improvement.
Seems like a great idea to me. But as Dennis Miller says, that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview with Andrea Macdonald, Manager of HRM Animal Services

...and Taxi and Limousine Licenses

Andrea MacDonald was interviewed for Live Haligonia. The interview is about 24 minutes long. It has many bearings on Brindi's case.

Joan Sinden's comments on the interview received further comment.

Meanwhile, sorry to say, looks like the well pump is broken - can't get it to turn on, no restart switch, no sparks. Not relishing the idea of replacing it, but not much choice is there?

The online auction is going slowly - more items are available now, though!
And the running total of funds donated directly is about $1850.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

below basics

Pipes froze a few days back and didn't burst, but something happened with the well pump, so it didn't restart in today's warmth. No water. No resident or visiting male around to get it going again, and insomnia made it tough to get at one during business hours.

Probably needs re-priming or resetting. Can't do it, although I consider myself fairly handy around the house ("If women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy," as Red Green says - just before trying out a home-made elevator). I knew how to fix the old red cast-iron pump, ever since Charlie (?) Webber showed me. Sometimes the water would run out mid-shower, and it was necessary to exit the bathroom wrapped in a towel, climb down the contorted wooden stairs to the dirt cellar, switch it off, play around with the flywheel in a Zen fashion - not attached to outcome - switch it on, and over again from the top, till it restarted its comforting chugs. The preposterous connection to the ancient switchbox I won't describe here; certainly disturbed some plumbers on occasion, but works fine. But I draw the line at jet pumps. I know that air can get into the line, I sort of know the elements of the pump, but that's it. I have no problem being a classic helpless chick after that.

For pipe-freeze remedies I shopped at the mammoth Dartmouth Corners to Canadian Tire for a long while. But before that, a medical appointment and a stop at the pound. To prepare I took a shower at a friend's house so I could get to the oral surgeon more pleasant smelling, which made me a bit late (thanks, Otis!). The visit took only minutes - those digital x-rays are practically instantaneous; the implant is AOK - so I was off again to Burnside. I wanted to drop off soup bones with some solid beef chunks on them for Brindi as a treat. They had long since thawed in the fridge and sat around longer than I'd prefer, but I knew, as I explained to the woman at reception, Brindi's doggestion will have no problem with' em. They'll be gone in five seconds, of course, a bone-pulverizing workout to follow. One at a time dosage. (BTW, I am a stalwart vegetarian - okay, fishitarian - but Brindi makes her own choices about meat-eating; I'm not imposing my beliefs about meat on my dog. Some do; it's a choice.)

The white-coated woman chuckled at the beef, at my explanation, and looked at me kindly. She promised she would deliver the treats as requested, adding that she was very sorry about what I'm going through with Brindi. Who is doing great, by the way.

Well heck, if they wanna play rough! I mean, kindness? No fair! And what a great and rare thing in these parts, especially when sincere; how welcome. My face instantly got all crumbly and threatened to dissassemble into tears as she spoke. I couldn't keep it under control and speak at the same time, so I just nodded, then turned and left. Forgot - I guess I did manage to utter something in response; all that came to me was "I miss her so bad," however. Impressively put, Francesca...

Once back in the car, testing out the feeling, I noted once again that on these brief SPCA incursions lasting only about ninety seconds on average, I never think about Brindi actually being in that building. Try as I might, I can't place her there at all in my mind, or connect the spot I occupied to her actual location, breathing and sensing. It is not possible to visualize. My brain can only struggle under the sight of stacked metal cages of kitties looming into view in the next room, framed by the photos of dogs on the entrance walls.

I have no cognitive understanding of her location, of the space where she actually exists. I often wish I did. To cope with what that comprehension might feel like, my mind simply sets aside the question, as when a loved one has gone out of the world. That's how it is for me; she is no longer in my world. When your world is seriously off balance as a consequence of this removal, everything in it goes off balance, and setting it to rights again requires enormous capacity - not only for survival, but maintaining self, in every possible sense of the word. It may be impossible to convey what that's like, I don't know.

So then, anyhow, as I leave the parking lot, I have a dim sense that somewhere, she's enjoying a boney, without being cognizant of where it. Yet for a split second, I can feel a tad better. Then I beat it out of there before other thoughts mug me.

On many occasions, however, I must add, not far down the road from the pound, the tears overwhelm the comfort of the bone treat fairly quickly. I am getting a bit better at not giving in to it all the way at such times. Ormaybe it's truer to say that I am physically unable to. In any case, that massive impulse, the dread feeling, embeds itself firmly just below the skin and steadily draining energy and awareness past Wright Avenue and on to the highway connecting to Route 7. Sometimes I'd make it that far, though, without any trouble, and suddenly that mass would burst and expand. It's a gamble. No wonder I can't get back out and do any grocery shopping later on.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ASPCA Policies and Positions: What a difference an "A" makes!

(Another "compare and contrast" - to the SPCA guidelines and Halifax By-Law A300)

ASPCA Position Statement on Dangerous Dog Laws

The ASPCA recognizes that there are dogs who by virtue either of training, or lack of training and socialization, especially in combination with a genetic predisposition to be wary of strangers, aggressive toward other dogs and/or predatory toward other animals, may pose a serious threat if inadequately supervised and controlled by their guardians. In order for dogs to live harmoniously with people and with other companion animals, it is critical to hold guardians responsible for the proper supervision of their dogs and for any actions on their part that either create or encourage aggressive behavior.

At the same time, laws that address “dangerous dogs” must be mindful of the rights of pet guardians and must afford them due process. They should target only those dogs who truly pose a serious, unjustified risk to other animals or to people, and they should recognize that there are situations where aggressive behavior is justified, such as when a dog is protecting himself or herself, her guardian, her offspring or her home, or where the dog has reason to fear a person or animal who has harmed her in the past.

ASPCA Position
The ASPCA believes that dog guardians should be held responsible for unjustified harm or damage done by their pets. Guardians who breed dogs known to be aggressive, or train dogs to be aggressive, or to fight, should be liable not only civilly for damage done by their dogs, but also under criminal provisions that prohibit such conduct. The ASPCA opposes “dangerous dog laws” that designate/define specific breeds of dogs as “dangerous,” “vicious” or potentially “dangerous” or “vicious” without regard to the temperament or behavior of the individual dog.

Dangerous dog laws should be narrowly drawn to define dangerous dogs as those who without justification have either attacked a person or other animal, causing injury or death, or who exhibit behavior that creates a grave risk of such an attack, as determined by a certified applied behaviorist, board-certified veterinary behaviorist or other trained and experienced expert.

Dangerous dog laws should focus on the behavior of the dog and all of the circumstances surrounding it, including those that may justify the dog’s actions. The law should ensure that common puppy behaviors such as jumping up, rough play and nipping are not deemed evidence of dangerousness.

Once a dog is deemed dangerous, the court should have at its disposal a range of dispositions from which to select those that suit the needs of the particular case. The choice of dispositions should include:

- Evaluation by a certified applied behaviorist or board certified veterinary behaviorist and completion of any training or other treatment as deemed appropriate by that expert;
- Spaying or neutering;
- Secure humane confinement in a manner that permits the dog adequate exercise, protection from the elements and that prevents escape and unauthorized contact with the public;
- Direct supervision by an adult eighteen years of age or older whenever the dog is on public premises;

- Restraint on a leash whenever the dog is in public;
- Muzzling in public in a manner that prevents the dog from biting any person or animal but that does not injure the dog or interfere with his vision or respiration;
- Microchipping.

Euthanasia or permanent confinement of the dog, being the most extreme remedies, should only be utilized when the dog, without justification, attacked a person and caused serious physical injury or death, or where a qualified behaviorist who has personally evaluated the dog determines that the dog poses a substantial risk of such behavior and that no other remedy will make the dog suitable to live safely with people.

Dangerous dog laws must accord pet guardians adequate due process to challenge the charges, including a full opportunity to be heard, the right to appeal a dangerous dog finding, and a stay of the disposition pending such appeal.

Enforcement of dangerous dog laws is ultimately the responsibility of local government authorities, and it is important that they exercise their responsibility with vigor and discretion to protect both the public and responsible pet guardians.

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

This position statement, pubished on the website of the ASCPA in New York, is respectfully directed to Mayor Peter Kelly, the HRM Council, the SPCA, and the Animal Services division of HRM Regional Police. The document's many points of departure from the current version of By-Law A300 strongly suggest the desirability of, and offer an appropriate basis for, a comprehensive review of the latter. Such a review may be taken up and conducted by groups constituted within HRM bodies as part of administrative or legislative processes, or by HRM citizens in advisory and/or advocacy roles.

In other words: there's an awful lot of work to do out there. Thoroughly necessary, eminently doable work. The road map is there. What could be easier?