Sunday, January 18, 2009

See this chart to compare Brindi's case to others

To see a sampling of cases between June 2007 and July 2008, see this chart of HRM By-Law Prosecutions
Thanks to Joan for lending me her server to do this.
If anybody would like to drop off soup bones with a little fresh meat on them and some nice suet in them for Brindi at the Metro Shelter, PLEASE, be my guest! I used to go every week or so. I can't, it would cost a bit too much.

PS on the post below - the Global TV clip is interesting. I thought they would have included the part where I said, "Love is more important than a by-law." I wonder who edits these things?  Maybe they thought it was too controversial? I believe there is nothing more important than love, and my love extends to all dogs, who are in my opinion sources of infinite love, understanding, approval, and acceptance, who ought to be honored, not destroyed pre-emptively and dismissively.

Bittersweet Reunion in the Bitter Cold

Here is a rough description of my first visit to Brindi since July 24, 2008. Because it is already so late today and people are interested in finding out how it went, I am posting what I have so far and will add to it as I go. 

A friend phoned animal services on Friday afternoon to make a request on my behalf. I received notice that evening via email that they would be “reviewing” the materials of the case on Saturday, and would be phoning me with their decision regarding permission to visit. 

I replied to the effect that I expected to hear from them and visit Brindi that day and every day until her release. It seemed reasonable to me, having been denied visits so long, and since any day now, she would be released to me, I figured it would be a good transition.

On Saturday morning, I received three calls from the media before hearing from Andrea Macdonald just before 2 PM. She said I would be granted permission for a visit that day, and that day only. 

She explained the terms of the visit.
a. I had to specify exactly what time I would be there.
b. It would last for exactly 30 minutes
c. No other persons could accompany me
d. I was not to leave any high-value items behind that I might bring for “the dog.”
e. This would be a one-time visit.

When I asked why she says I can have only one visit, she said they are still examining the documents and so it will be only one visit until a decision is reached about what is going to be done with "your dog". Although section 8 (2) d was quashed, she said, there are other parts of the by-law, and they are being looked at. I tried to say, in so many words, the right to visit is not contingent on any of that , on the outcome. And she cut me off “Francesca I can’t discuss this with you right now.” Any further comments were met by the same response.

On arriving, I asked for permission to enter the property. I was assured it was okay. I assumed that this meant the ban was lifted. It turned out I assumed wrong; I'll get to that later. 

When I arrived: Richard’s SVU had a thermometer and he said it was minus 15 degrees. But that was 4:15 pm, and with every minute it got colder. Before seeing her, I was told I had to go around the back and see her in an outdoor pen, which was, it turned out, layered over with ice. I was told I would have to stay outside with her for the duration of the thirty minutes.

This posed a huge problem, needless to say. I was not dressed to stay outside that long- I only had one layer on, and I felt the cold as soon as I left the car – was headed into the building but was directed around the back.
I was told I could go in and warm up and come back out as many times as I liked, but not together with Brindi -  I would have to separate from her, which would put her through the agony of separating multiple times, so I could not do such a thing to her, it was definitely not good for her to have that done! 

Lori Scolero accompanied me around the back, quietly telling Richard and Linda that they could not stay with me. Then she told me to wait in the pen, and "the dog" would be brought out to me. "Brindi," I said, "She has a name." Meanwhile, I was thinking, how can I deal with this, in minus 15 weather??

When she was brought on a leash into the pen, I was waiting at the back door, on the other side of the pen, thinking that was where they would appear. He came up behind me, so I was behind a chain-link gate at that point, and as I struggled to open it, I saw Brindi reacting at my sight, wagging furiously and pulling on the leash to get at me. There it was!! The "fickle finger of fate" rotator wag, specially reserved for beloved humans!! All right!! Nobody knows how glad I was so glad to see this. But I could see in an instant that she was no longer the dog she was on July 24. 

She had gained at least 20 to 25 pounds; her coat was dull, not the shiny thing that glinted in the light (and photos); I took my gloves off to pet her, and it was saturated with dirt and quite musky smelling. I'd never seen it like that before. Her expression, once she calmed a bit and moved about, was not the confident, happy pooch I had so enjoyed caring for. A half a minute later, as I walked around and up to her, in the middle of the pen, she seemed very confused and her face was marked with an ingrained look of insecurity, I would say fear, of a kind and extent I have to say I never witnessed before with her. The only remote comparison happened about a month after I got her, when I happened to raise my arm above her. Then, she had instantly dropped to the floor and turned up to look at me as if expecting a blow, terrorized. This time, the look had a weariness about it that I was even sadder to see - a kind of resignment. But in seconds, she recognized me all over again, and greeted me all over again, and went off, happily prancing about. She grabbed a soft toy and began bucking and prancing around the pen, which had a pocked layer of ice about two to five inches thick, so that I had to walk slowly with her, checking every step, as I badly sprained my ankle about five weeks ago.

I took my gloves off to pet her, and my hands froze up, but it was no use wearing gloves. I tried to get her to stay so I could photograph her, but it was tricky because she kept moving towards me, so at one point I put the camera down and just kneeled down gave her a big hug. She responded in maximum joy, knocked me down on my back, flooding me with kisses. Suddenly we were both engulfed in waves of love, flowing back and forth. I looked over at the cameras posted behind a fence, about three pens away, wondering if they caught that. Amazing. It was clear she was very, very happy to see me and still felt a close bond with me. The feeling was mutual.

I was at a bit of a loss about what to do though, out in the cold. She would not play fetch – she never was one for that, depended on the day, and she hadn't been raised with toys anyhow. But she seemed to be asking for something, expecting something, and I didn't know the protocol out there - we usually walked together instead of standing around a yard. I tried to use the commands she knew before, and she would not respond – she would come, but then run off; she would sit, but only for a fraction of a second, before leaping up and pawing my chest. I realized after a few minutes that she was expecting a treat – which I had had no need of before when she was seized. (I commented on this a bit later to the SPCA official, saying she was never this crazed about treats and food, that when I first got her, she didn’t want a treat at all – in fact she spit one out when she thought I was leaving without her. He said, “well, she’s food-oriented now.” More like food-crazed!! All that why she would still be so hungry, I don’t know. Although when I was heavier, I was the same way; when I got more exercise, I wasn’t as interested in snacks.)

The response to all commands were the same, pretty much. “Down” – fraction of a second, then popping up expectantly. She was looking at my pockets and even lunged at them. Wow. I thought, boy, do I have a lot of work to do now. She was clearly distressed at the lack of goods, and was scouting the bins in the yard, so I asked the SPCA to help out and give me some treats. It turned out to be fake bacon – the same kind my neighbor, with the boisterous shitzu, used to spoil her with. I regretted not making my home-made chicken hearts, but who had time to do that? I didn’t even know I’d be there that day. She was so intense and wound up at the prospect of treats, very demanding. But when I just leaned in and petted her, she'd drop that idea in a flash.

After ten minutes, I was frozen solid; my hands, which I didn't want to keep gloved when I petted her, and needed to use the camera, were numb, as were my legs and my face, and the camera had stopped working. (Right now, it won't transfer the pictures, so I wonder if it was even damaged.) I asked again if we couldn’t go inside, and was again told no. It seems that the place was under renovation. I tried to move around to get warm, but the sun was disappearing. Brindi went up and took a poop, and then pranced around with the ball, more of a game of keep-away than fetch. I turned my back, walked away, and she came right after me, and then dropped it at my feet so I could throw it.  

A few minutes after that, I asked if we could go for a walk - I said, you can come with us if you want, at least we could stay a bit warmer if we moved. The SPCA official went to ask the Animal Services official, Lori Scolero, for permission. The answer came back: no. 

It was really alienating to see how she would jump up on me, or on him, with a crazed look - I know saying that might be unwise since there are folks convinced she is "dangerous" - but this is a food-crazed look, and one that reflects an awareness that she had to make every second of freedom - i.e., outside her cage - pay. To say that I was dismayed to see it is putting it lightly. I remember her jumping up on me once or twice after I first got her. I soon, and easily, trained it out of her, and swiftly discouraged others - usually men - from allowing or inviting her to do it, so that she would not jump up on frail people or kids. I mean, it was easy to stop, but then, she wasn't doing it for treats; now, I wonder how hard it will be to train out of her. 

Repeatedly, she would come in close for petting, and once or twice, she'd curl herself down on the ice, wriggling on her back in ecstasy. I noticed her stomach was a bit red and I realized it was the cold. Not until about 22 minutes into the half-hour was I told I could go into the building with her - but only into a tiny 3 feet by 4 feet airlock, really an entry with two interior doors, unheated. By then it was probably about minus 17 outside, so maybe it was about zero there. I can tell because my kitchen is currently around that temperature when I don't turn the heater on. 

So she was suddenly in a close space, with both me and the SPCA official, kind of crowded. I talked with him as I petted her. I tried to tell him not to let her jump on him, to say "no". He seemed unfamiliar with the idea, to my surprise. In the next moments, several times she put her head into my lap, but with the extra weight, it was quite alarming - I couldn't comfortably circle my arm around her, and her head and shoulders didn't fit into my lap snugly anymore - we've both changed. I've lost 25 pounds, and I think I know where they went to - my thighs are no longer the tree trunks they once were, so there was not enough of them for her to lay down on.
Anyway, as the man and I chatted, Brindi turned to him for attention, and jumped up on him again. Since her focus was on him, even though I still had five minutes left, I said, let me just slip out while she doesn't notice, so it would be easier. He said, we have to leave through the door behind you, and taking the leash, moved towards me. This brought her attention back to me, and of course made the whole thing pointless, so I began to say something like, "Okay, then I'll stay a bit---" but suddenly he was reaching around me to open the door and take her away, and she was being dragged out, because by that time, she certainly noticed and was pulling with all her might to stay with me, shoving her head through the door, and putting up quite a fight with her added weight.
Wow, I thought. That didn't work at all, did it?

I left the vestibule, wound my way around the building toward the front entrance, and heard him behind me, saying, "Francesca, just so you know..." The ban has only been lifted that one time. I had told him I intended to visit her every day, until her release; he replied that I would have to take that up with HRM, he had nothing to do with it. Really. So now, he was following me to say that I was not permitted to return there, ever again, until the end of the ban. Even to drop off bones? No. He did allow me to get inside and warm up for a minute - and I sat down, opposite the TV tripods, the camera people standing behind them. Later I wondered - the reception area had now been cleared out and it was so spacious inside, and the two TV camera people and their huge tripods were there, taking up plenty of space, along with my friends, Richard and Linda, who were waiting inside for me. While I was outside. No room for me and Brindi in the building?
But at the time, I was too cold to notice. I just realized after a minute that I now had to speak to the cameras. How?
Sean came and asked us to leave before I could think. We went outside to film, so we all went to the parking lot. I couldn't think about how I felt - the usual question - I hadn't formed any feelings or thoughts yet. So I wasn't very outwardly emotional, yet, but I answered as best I could. They were satisfied, and Mike, from CTV, stopped shooting and began packing up. Sarah, Global TV's person, hesitated, then started filming again, asking me one more question - I can't even remember what is was, and I haven't seen either report yet. But whatever it was, it got me going, and I broke down. Mike looked back, startled, and I found myself staggering through the answer. When I finished, I went and hugged Sarah, because she had begun to lose it herself. I compared the way Brindi and I mean to one another to a marraige, more than a parent- child relation, because she was a mature dog when we met, and now we are about the same age, dog to human years. Okay, she's female; so it's a little quirky, but it's the truth. Having to leave her behind, in the condition she is in - you can guess what that felt like. 

I left the "premises" with Richard and Linda, not wanting to drive, and we went to Tim's, where they bought me a sandwich and a Boston creme doughnut - first in about twenty years, I'd guess. I couldn't eat though, and we talked, even though I could see they were anxious to get home. Yes, I finally saw Brindi. But the information gathered on that visit was deeply disturbing. I was grieving for the time lost, half a year practically, a big chunk of a dog's life. I was in shock at her condition, horrified to think about the months of recovery and remedial training ahead (and nightmares -like the ones she had for the first six months after I got her until they waned away). Knowing this gave me a deep shudder, because of what it meant to the great backlog of work and projects I have waiting for me once she's out. How can I do all of that at the same time? But I was terrifically relieved and joyous that she still loved me so much, and all the signs were there, the rotator wag, the pushing me down to lick my face and give me love. I was anxious to get her home and get it all started. 

But I don't know when that will be.
That's because the city has to sign off on a "form of order" document prepared by my lawyer for Monday. If the city, i.e., Mr. Persaud, agrees to the way he set it down on the same day, she could come home immediately. However, if something is not to his liking, it has to be worked out. When we got a court order for Silvia Jay to visit and assess Brindi - a document that incidentally was not used in the court proceedings, though we submitted it - it took two weeks before an agreement was reached and the order could be executed. And, given Andrea Macdonald's remarks, I wonder if I should expect other obstacles to arise. But what can they do now, after all this time? I honestly have no idea. 

All I know is, my visit was painful - uncomfortable due to the cold, and pretty unhealthy, since today I have a sore throat and an ear ache, making it very painful to speak.  
All I know is, I won a case in the Supreme Court. 
All I know is, I don't know when - or if - I will ever see Brindi again.
All I know is, I won a case in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the result of a good deal of work on my part, and a great deal of work on my lawyer's part, yet I still have to wait - and hope - that I can get my dog back

Ever since July 24, I feel as though I am constantly approaching and jumping hurdles; once I make one, another one is staring me in the face.  Or, as though I am running a marathon of indefinite length, but somebody keeps pulling back the finish line.  I think of Charlie Brown and Lucy's football swipe, a joke that is not really meant to be a joke, unless you love black humor. 

Do I have it in me to keep going? I have to. How many more layers of uncertainty are there to come? How ever many there are, I guess. I'll know sooner or later. I do know right now that she's still there, and that she definitely loves me, very much, and that we are a unit, and that's all there is to it. 

As I thought when I stood up to leave the courtroom, after learning the judge would turn in a written decision at some unnamed date, "This is not a battle for the fainthearted." But why is it even a battle?