Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Is there any better argument to revise the animal control laws to reflect how much North Americans value their pets (and the number of people who own them)? Is there any better argument why I want and need to have my Brindi back?

Pet owners look to four-legged friends for emotional support before family
Your partner's relationship with your dog may be closer than you thought and it might be going on behind your back.

Your partner's relationship with your dog may be closer than you thought and it might be going on behind your back.

Photograph by:,

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Have you ever had the feeling that your loved one misses the dog more than you when he or she is away on a business trip? You may be right.
A third of Americans admit to pining for their pooches more than their partners when out of town. But maybe that's because nine out of ten of them feel their pet is more pleased to see them after a hard day at work and is even more likely to notice when they've had a bad day.
Your partner's relationship with your dog may be closer than you thought and it might be going on behind your back. Around one is seven dog owners say they have "shared a look" with their dogs at least once and even more than that claim to be able to read their pet's facial expressions.
And ever wondered what's behind the long gaze into pooch's big brown eyes? Your partner may be one of a third of dog owners who swear it's an entire "conversation" without words.
And it doesn't stop there.
Many Americans turn to their four-legged friends for solace before friends and family. Nearly two thirds believe their dogs are more dependable than their closest comrades and over 70 percent would rather go for a walk with pooch when feeling uptight than hang out with their best buddy.
These are the results of a survey commissioned by dog snack maker Pup-Peroni that questioned over 1000 U.S. dog owners about the feelings they have for the pup in their life. The hold dogs have over their owners' emotions is striking.
Over two thirds say they feel more guilty about leaving their dog behind when traveling than leaving friends or loved ones. A majority say their pooch makes them feel happy, loved and relaxed.

More Worries: A Dog Bit a Man in the Pound

ED: Since the papers did not specify what kind of pest control was being used, my concerns are understandable. Anonymous comments came in, ostensibly from SPCA people or people close to them, saying that the pest control company was there to deal with mice. I wonder why they don't use cats instead, to save money, but whatever...

So today, I learn that a dog bit a man in the SPCA pound, a pest control guy, and he had to go to the hospital to have it treated. They made a point of saying it wasn't Brindi. Nice to know, but that was and is never my worry. My concern is, how the heck did it happen, and what was the pest control man doing in that area? Was he spraying pesticides? Why did they need him?

The day she was taken away  - literally behind my back -  Brindi was in perfect health, top condition, had all her shots, check-ups, everything. Not an ounce of extra fat, no sagging, just trim muscle. No health problems at all. Nothing.

Pancreatitis showed up early last fall, with daily vomiting. About a year ago, she had a cancer scare with four cysts on her back that thankfully turned out to be due to blocked pores (indicating a lack of bathing/brushing - lack of care). Her velvety black muzzle went white, and I'd say prematurely, probably due to stress. Her once beautiful white teeth and gums are disastrous, with some permanent enamel damage. You can see them and her black muzzle in my photos, like the one on Support Brindi. I didn't get to check them till last April, but the SPCA refused to do a cleaning. About a month later I got a letter reporting the enamel, yet she still didn't get a dental cleaning by a vet. Instead the staff gave her an oral rinse, and now they are brushing her teeth daily. I'm afraid that is not going to remove the black from her bottom teeth, the tartar on her eyeteeth, or the permanent encrustations on her molars. A BONE would have done the job, and since she is supposed to be separated from other dogs, there should be no problem. In fact she could enjoy a bone outside, away from the other dogs, couldn't she? But no.
Her first bone
I'm sure her life is shortened already. I don't think they've renewed her vaccines, keep wanting to ask, and that's another worry. Asking means going through the HRM lawyer, by fax, because I cannot simply call the shelter and ask them, that's forbidden.

But as of today, I have to worry about something else: the use of chemicals - seriously deadly chemicals - in the shelter. And the reason for those chemicals is another worry.  What kinds of pests have to be controlled??? How did they get there? What kinds of diseases do they carry?
here's what my friend Holly wrote to me:

Was he spraying pesticides at the time? Were his feet covered so he was not exposed to the chemicals? Were the dogs' feet covered? Did the dogs have masks on? Was the area allowed to dry and was it properly ventilated before animals were returned to the area? Were their bowls removed and washed during this spraying?

I have no idea!!! And I can't figure out how to find out.

Most of the chemicals shelters buy to kill the various germs and pathogens and such (beyond fleas, they are spraying to cut down on infectious disease like parvo, bordatella, coccidiosis, etc.) are highly dangerous while they are wet. I have a few containers of stuff I bought and never used because of the strong warnings on them.

Does the shelter undergo any kind of health inspection? Who knows? But something is wrong. And I want my dog back, please. It might be too late to prevent her from getting cancer, but I want her back, please. I don't understand how this happened, but clearly, somebody is responsible. Or irresponsible. Will they be charged under A300? I doubt it. But they should be, because there was a serious lack of control.

The funny thing is, there is a contingent, a minority that is persistent and loud, that likes to argue that I don't care about Brindi anymore, I'm just fighting the city for a principle, or for fun, or for the glory, as if a person would do that. How twisted can you be?? Maybe they, unlike countless others, just cannot imagine what it is like to have your best friend and companion locked up out of your sight for endless days and nights. That's the only way that somebody could possibly blame me for Brindi being in the pound in the first place, a decision that was totally arbitrary, not supported by any law or order, and totally contrary to the routine handling of cases here.

They say that I didn't keep Brindi safe?? On the contrary! She was always safe with me. She was also fed the best food (NutriSource), given tons of exercise and love and attention, and lots of socialization with kids, adults, dogs, cats, pheasants, you name it. She was bathed regularly, though she didn't like it so much, and she went with me just about everywhere; she was rarely left alone. I can't remember ever leaving her, except for ten days, when I visited my mom. She was mad that I left her at the kennel - and there, she could run free with other dogs in special large runs, and she never had any problems.

It's in the SPCA's pound that she's had all these health problems. They are not a product of her age. She was barely five when they took her. They blame the city for not allowing her and other dogs to be walked. They are the SPCA!!! They prosecute people for neglecting animals! How can they justify willingly taking orders that they know are not good for the animals in their care, and possibly against the law? A contract is no excuse - it would not work for me, if somebody paid me to take care of animals and ordered me not to walk them or give them proper food, or if I exposed them to deadly pesticides. I would be charged with neglect, if not cruelty.

By law, the SPCA are required to protect animal welfare, every animal. They do not exist to make money off of risking my dog's health. It's a good thing they lost the pound contract, because it clearly demonstrates what Nathan Winograd says about a conflict of interest. One can resolve a conflict of interest if it is done up front, and arrangements are made. But this has never occurred to anybody, apparently. If it had, they doubtless would have seen to it that Brindi was given back to me.

I'm sorry, but I get shocks like this every other day, it seems, and it really gets to me. I just can't yell loudly enough or long enough to release the anger that I feel, or cry hard and long enough to get the pain and sadness out, when I think about how happy and gorgeous and FIT and HEALTHY she was when they took her!! I just can't, it's not physically possible. So it gets pushed down, and who knows, one day it could turn up as cancer for me. My mind and soul just cannot deal with it, when I think about what her future is going to be like - what diseases are down the road? What complications can she get from the pancreatitis? It's a good thing I got health insurance for her, I think, but it won't stop her from getting cancer from all these chemicals.

If I talked and thought just about Brindi and her welfare on the day to day basis, I would be a total wreck. What am I saying? I do talk and think about her every day, and I AM a total wreck! My nerves are shattered - court is enough to do that, but it's the ongoing ordeal, she's not dead, but she's not with me, and my mind just cannot grasp this. Rudy is gone, she won't ever see him again. The weekly visits were a horrible, horrible torture that left me useless for the following two days, yet I can hardly bear not having them. I'm desperate to get my vet to do an exam on her; been trying for months to work out an arrangement. I now have to pay a trainer hundreds of dollars to do the behavior assessment on her, because the ones who were donating their time and patiently waited at the SPCA to see her (in vain) are no longer available.

So do I care about Brindi? Is there anybody on earth who cares more? Do these people really think I took all these photos of her just because I wanted to fight with the city someday and they would come in handy? Do they think I moved to East Chezzetcook just so I could get on the TV news and become a target of threats and harassment from strangers, and ridicule from city employees and the media?


I moved here to get a break from living in cities, even though I love them; I wanted to get off the beaten track and rest from a very challenging, non-stop career so I could enrich my life; I came here to be near the ocean that I love, to do yoga, to volunteer helping animals and get a peace pole erected; I came here to live in Canada, because I could no longer support my native country's disastrous path of war and destruction; I came to Nova Scotia, because I'm from an Atlantic state and love the east coast;  I came here to take on a residential project all my own, to turn a long-neglected 100-year old cottage into a great little house that works off the grid; I chose my house after months of searching, and I spent more months talking to contractors and suppliers and drawing up a design and figuring out the construction, just like I spent months and months searching for a dog, and that dog turned out to be Brindi, ignored by others for over two years in a shelter, and who I spent months and months training, having her spayed and vaccinated and microchipped and socialized at every opportunity, and who turned out to be a really great, smart, affectionate, and gorgeous dog that I love with all my heart. And yes, who turned out to have an unknown issue that was totally uncharacteristic, and about which I consulted her trainer for advice, and which, nevertheless, did not lead to a serious injury or a killing, nothing close to it.

But to get back to the question: no, I didn't come here to attract attention. Um, definitely not.

I'm so glad I did take photos of my baby girl, and a few videos, because thanks to them, people have somehow fallen in love with her. But they can't ever know quite how special she is, what it was like to see her every morning, when she'd sit perfectly still near the door as taught, while I leashed her up to go out, gazing up at me with her big sparkly brown eyes while I put on the gentle leader, and later, the muzzle - her look of utter joy, trust, gratitude, brimming in anticipation of a nice brisk walk through the fields. I got to have that gift of joy every day and it kept me going through the some of hardest times in my life. In the spring and summer of 2008, it was Brindi's face, her love and joy every morning and night, that got me through the frustrating, exhausting work of getting the excavation done through solid bedrock and waiting for the guys to finally pour some concrete. At the end of each day, it was her happy face and wagging tail that made it all worthwhile.

They only got the footings done by the time Brindi was taken away. And by then, the contractor, who had long since proven incompetent and incredibly untruthful, was no longer around at all, skipping out on a detailed contract with finish deadlines. He left the ramps without railings, he left the property torn up and lined with mounds of rocks making a fence impossible, and he managed to lie over and over to me, to the bank, to Price Waterhouse Cooper, and a host of other companies and workers and clients, and then simply disappear, abandoning his own girlfriend with no food and no electricity.

I was just starting to figure out the next step, on a wonderful summer day, when Brindi and I had just had the best time together, and she was incredibly obedient and happy, making great progress on everything, when this white truck and two men turned up saying impossible things and just took her away, while I screamed and screamed and screamed.

And in my misery, I was still so certain it would only take a matter of days to get her back, because it was so clearly a mistake, they could not put this dog down!

What did I know??

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What About Owners' Rights?

A very kind person from the south shore area has sent a letter to the Chronicle-Herald and was nice enough to forward it to me. Given the Herald's recent tendencies, I am not expecting it to be published, so I posted it with the other letters on

She writes,

"First of all, it is now very interesting that people such as Bob Ottenbrite are now on record as saying that Brindi is a good dog...

"What I don't understand is why all these animal advocates are not also advocating for the owner's rights here.  Under the law, Ms. Rogier is entitled to the same rights as others who have been charged with animal control by-law offences and that is to pay the fines and have Brindi returned to her. Others with much more serious offenses all have their dogs with them today.  Since Brindi's incarceration, Ms. Rogier has been subjected to all manner of financial and emotional torture.  Her visits with Brindi at the SPCA were initially banned, then severally curtailed with numerous written conditions attached that I'm not sure were even constitutional...

"Who authorized Mr. Ottenbrite "and others" to make arrangements for a suitable home for Brindi? As I understand it, Ms. Rogier is still Brindi's owner, an owner who has fought tooth and nail to first, save her dog from a wrongful execution, and second have her returned to her own home where she is well loved and cared for.  Who else has stood by Brindi these past two years, literally putting everything on the line for the love of this animal?  What kind of home could be more suitable than the one Ms. Rogier can provide for Brindi?"

I really appreciate this letter. I have been trying to get the same message across for so long, it's kind of a surprise to see it in somebody else's words.  This battle is difficult enough. I thought proving that Brindi is not dangerous (too dangerous to live...) was the issue. Being held to a different (unwritten) standard than all other dog owners in Halifax is a bit much. Since I am going to be fined, as the by-law requires, I just don't see why the issue of ownership is being forced into court in a case that does not involve major injuries to anybody. 

I get suggestions from people all over - "Show that photo from the SPCA to the judge!" Done; also sent to the media and the council and the mayor. "Send that list of other dog owners' offenses and penalties to the council and to the court!" Done, in the first; the judge declined it in the trial, but I can show it in the sentencing hearing.

In fact, to make it easier for everybody, I should probably post a list of all the things I have done and others have done on my behalf: letters to the Dog Whisperer, Ellen, Oprah, and various other animal-loving celebrities; contacts to the Animal Legal Defense Fund; calls to lawyers by the dozen; letters to every level of government; some even wrote the prime minister (which took me aback, frankly). 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Year-Old Appeal to HRM From Qualified Trainer Ready to Help: "I support her return"

NOTE: This letter was sent to the lawyer for HRM who was then prosecuting the case. He was replaced by outside counsel Geoff Newton a few months later. 
Mr. Efthymiadis was not granted access to assess Brindi on Feb. 27, although permission was granted and all parties were notified the day before of his schedule and the 10 am appointment.
Quality K9
Mr. Joshua J. Judah, Municipal Solicitor
HRM Legal Services
P. O. Box 1749
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3J 3A5

April 16, 2009

Dear Mr. Judah:

            Today I am writing with a plea for restoration for a dog named Brindi. My name is Ted Efthymiadis, I am a professional dog trainer located in Halifax Nova Scotia. I studied professional obedience & behavior with Tarheel K9 (,
 which is located in Sanford North Carolina. Tarheel K9 specializes in teaching dog trainers the skills to train dog obedience, dog behavior, drug detection, search and rescue, dog behavior modification, police protection among others. My dog training days go back four years, I starting specializing in dog obedience. My love for dogs soon evolved to training protection, behavior modification and drug detection. I now specialize in training with dominant and aggressive dogs. The (CAPPDT), Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers has certified me as a professional in good standing.

            Many months ago, I heard of Brindi's case in the newspaper. In all honestly, I was shocked that this dog had not been release within a month of being detained. From what I have heard and read of Brindi, I am absolutely confident this dog is able to be rehabilitated within 3 months or less, ultimately I believe this dog is capable of being a good member in her community. I have personally worked with dogs much more aggressive than Brindi, with great success. My business generally caters to larger aggressive dogs like Boxers, Cane Corsos, German Shepherds and Pit Bull's. On a scale of 1/10, Brindi's case at most would be a 5/10.

            I have had personal contact with Brindi's owner at length and I am confident in her willingness to change the way she handles her dog. She seems very interested in learning how to properly deal with her dog and trusts my professional opinion in dealing with dogs of all shapes and sizes. Because I believe so dearly that this dog should not be held any longer, I support her return to her owner, and am willing to offer, and monitor to the fullest extent of my ability, a full rehabilitation program for this dog and owner free of charge.

Best Regards,

Ted Efthymiadis


Friday, March 12, 2010

Messages Nobody Likes to Get

Warning: Don't read if you want to stay in a good mood. These are just for the sake of documentation, not for pity. I find them very perplexing, among other things. 

------ Forwarded Message

Date: Tue, 02 Mar 2010 15:18:36 -0800 (PST)T
To: Francesca Rogier 
Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on "Let's Adopt! Canada" is on the case!.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post ""Let's Adopt! Canada" is on the case! <> ":

Now that really carries a lot of weight,a USA web site. Well sweet cheeks this is Canada,and we had enought of your crap.Make sure you have your permits for the protest on March 6. I am sure HRM will bend over back wards to ensure that you do.        LIKE HELL.

------ End of Forwarded Message

------ Forwarded Message

Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2010 12:44:41 -0800 (PST) 

To: Francesca Rogier 
Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on "Let's Adopt! Canada" is on the case!.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post "If I had listened to the SPCA in 2008 and obeyed H... <> ":

Your ass is lost the battle go buy a pet rock.

Posted by  Anonymous  to  FREE BRINDI <>  at  March 4, 2010 7:39 PM

------ End of Forwarded Message 

------ Forwarded Message
Date: Thu, 04 Mar 2010 12:44:41 -0800 (PST) To: Francesca Rogier Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on "Let's Adopt! Canada" is on the case!.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post ""Let's Adopt! Canada" is on the case! <> ":

It will be over on the 9th however Fran will not like the results.
There are rescues outside the Province who will pick up Brindi on the 9 th and head for parts unknown.

Posted by  Anonymous  to  FREE BRINDI <>  at  March 4, 2010 4:44 PM

------ End of Forwarded Message

------ Forwarded Message 

Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2010 13:26:44 -0800 (PST) 
To: Francesca Rogier 
Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on Humane Halifax hits the streets for Brindi.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post "Humane Halifax hits the streets for Brindi <> ":

I'm praying that you move to Cuba,as we citizens of NS are sick and tired of you. Don't worry about your dog we will look after her for you!
------ End of Forwarded Message

------ Forwarded Message
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 18:31:54 -0800 (PST)
To: Francesca Rogier 
;Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on Humane Halifax hits the streets for Brindi.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post "Humane Halifax hits the streets for Brindi <> ":

Just stick the needles in already, one for the dog and one for a noisy owner. 

------ End of Forwarded Message

------ Forwarded Message 

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 2010 15:59:02 -0800 (PST) 
To: Francesca Rogier 
Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on Voice of the people ??.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post "Voice of the people ?? <> ":

One fact you left out is you are not a responsible dog owner.
In fact you are not a responsible citizen of NS.
You brought this shit on yourself,by ignoring the regulations as per owning dog which you could not control. You have wasted thousands of dollars of tax payers money,yet you as a non resident are entitled to health care,and freedom of speech,however its time you STFU and got to hell out of NS as we don't need trash like you!!!!!

------ End of Forwarded Message

Well, you get the picture. I can't print some of the others because they contain foul language. 
Friends are pretty sure some of these are from Wayne Croft, who lives in Mill Village and has been openly taking shots at me on Facebook for a year. But I don't know the man and can't say for sure. I can say one thing for sure, though: non-residents are not entitled to free health care.

Here is a comment from January 17 that I chose not to publish at the time (here posted as received, no changes  were made in message text):

------ Forwarded Message 

Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 13:06:10 -0800 (PST) 
To: Francesca Rogier 
Subject: [FREE BRINDI] New comment on Another Christmas.

Anonymous   has left a new comment on your post "Another Christmas <> ":

Brindi should go home before the SPCA losses the city contract, I'm told an old friend of Lori Scolaro and former shelter worker is getting the new contract. So there is more inside hate from animal control to kill this dog with or without the spca. They have made it easy for her friend to take over while stiffing the spca, who still want to work with HRM with "alternate" provisions!! Wait for it everyone......

------ End of Forwarded Message

Threats and threats

This provocative post title is referring to the threat that Bob Ottenbrite reported to the papers, and the threats I am receiving on a daily basis, variously telling me to leave the country, that I'm a liar, that I'm breaking laws, that I will be surrounded in the courtroom by menacing faces, and generally, that my middle name is trouble. A few threats have been carried out. Thanks to a caller who later bragged about it online, the power company nearly cut my electricity last year, and my house was nearly condemned. Neither could happen, thanks to the fact that things are in order here. But both were pretty upsetting.

So I totally sympathize with Mr. Ottenbrite.
I wish nobody would send threatening messages to anybody. I usually prefer not to mention or post mine; why ruin everybody's day? Unlike others, I have no way to avoid getting more of them, for the simple reason that they can choose to walk off, but I am fighting to get my dog back alive.

Reading the papers here, one might get the impression that there are torchlit meetings of mobs who want Brindi to be let go, who then go off shooting notes to dog trainers using flaming arrows or something like that. What a joke. If only they knew that dedicated Brindi supporters are very busy living their lives, having biopsies on their lungs, or birthday dinners with their 79-year old mothers; looking for a new job, organizing charity functions, or about to have their first child. They are just not the threatening-letter types. Nobody has the energy to get hysterical. I don't know about the ones who send me threats, though; they seem to have endless energy!

This is not about threats, this is about love. 
I love my dog, and she loves me. To me, that's where it begins and ends, really. A lot of people seem to feel Brindi coming home is important to them, and I believe that's just because it is how they feel about their dogs, and they are responding for this reason alone. That is their message: most people who love dogs feel that others who love dogs deserve to have those dogs with them if at all possible. I do agree with their point of view. Close to half of people in Halifax own pets, so that's got to be a lot of people with that point of view.

Legally speaking one might argue that people who love their dogs should have them, perhaps to the extent that the dogs do not present a danger to the public, let's say as a reasonable standard, relative to the top causes of accidental death and injury . Since lighting strikes cause approximately 16 times more fatalities on average than dogs cause (don't quote me; I've linked to this earlier), most people would not be at risk of authorities taking their dogs.

It would be so nice if dogs never bit people or other animals anywhere. But because they sometimes do, and humans are the ones ultimately held responsible for it, it's good there are laws and rules. I cringe at stories of any dogs chasing cyclists or jumping on kids or shaking kittens or worse. I am so glad for Sophie and Karen Short in New Brunswick, but the story behind it really takes me aback, wondering why a dog would behave that way.

I believe I have shown that Brindi is significantly different.
I am glad my photos and videos and stories helped people fall in love with her who never met her. Of those who have met her, I am glad so many spoke up. Now the SPCA is agreeing with them, even if they are spinning it their way, which is less nice (I spouted about this earlier...). The bottom line is that they are now saying what I tried to convince them of over a year and a half ago; they changed their official position from "we can't comment, we have no say," to "Brindi should go to a good home." She has a good home, with somebody who has stopped you from putting her down, and I'd like her back now, please! Yes, the SPCA have had her longer, and doesn't everybody now agree that this has been so needless?

So nobody is more pleased than I am that they like her.
Thank god Brindi really is such a nice dog, or what would they be saying now if she did have so many "issues"? I just am so frustrated all the same, because I don't understand why they couldn't have done right by her long ago and saw to it that she was returned - at any point: after seizure, after the supreme court case, etc. Instead, it was, after the supreme court ruling that they began agitating for her to be rehomed in letters to HRM.

Brindi is my family. 
We walked, ate, and slept together for 13 months, with my Rudy and Amelia. She would not be alive today if I didn't love her so much. HRM is requesting to put Brindi down. It is my request to get her back. That's what the judge will hear from each side. Since so many are now saying she should not be put down, I'd think the job of saving her life should be easy. But that's no consolation.

What would it mean if HRM puts forward any alternative but "euthanization" (euphemization) in court?There is no viable compromise as far as their position is concerned. Even the mayor has vowed to get Brindi off the streets. If HRM suddenly shifts gears, it will have completely contradicted what it has been seeking all along - by their own admission on many occasions, including on the stand. Killing Brindi is the only reason why officials ever laid charges. 

And what would it mean for HRM to contradict itself? It would mean it has wasted everybody's time, a lot of money, and a huge chunk of Brindi's life, for no reason at all. 

In any case, if someone writes a letter to the Mayor expressing their feelings and opinions on the matter, it is because they have their own feelings and opinions to express. At the same time, I am grateful to those speaking on my behalf, provided they do so peacefully.

On the home front: it seems that the eastern shore has little time for concern about Brindi, if ever she was a concern. My neighbors tell me we've been overtaken by a band of wild coyotes for some months already. Walkers are accosted, cats are missing for months now, and a dog had to be put down after a coyote tore its face off. Calls have been made to HRM and the Ministry of Natural Resources.

It makes me worry about Amelia. I need my dog Brindi for protection... !!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Outcome of March 9 court date

The judge agrees that she must hear from an expert on whether Brindi is dangerous and granted me extra time to arrange for a report. The first was positive but is a year old, so she agreed to the need for a new one. 

The new hearing date is set for April 16. The judge may not make a decision that day, though; she likes to take time. I tried to avoid this extra delay by arranging for an assessment on Feb. 27, right after HRM gave permission. But the trainers were not allowed to see Brindi then, due to some mixup between HRM and the Animal Services department. The trainers were unavailable after that day for the rest of the month. I have now arranged for another trainer to see Brindi later this month.

The city will not be offering any assessment and says it is not calling any expert to the stand to argue that Brindi is dangerous. I do not know who it will be calling to the stand, if anyone.

A few points to make:

1. Neither the Halifax by-law nor the provincial law require a dog to be put down solely because it is labeled "dangerous". The by-law allows "dangerous" dogs to be kept under certain conditions. 
While Halifax does seem to put down a lot of dogs, all of them have caused serious harm to people or animals. Brindi is significantly different, and pre-emptive action is not called for.

3. I am being asked about the "plan" to re-home Brindi that has been publicized by the SPCA and Bob Ottenbrite

I heartily welcome the main message behind this plan, because it confirms is what I have been saying all along: that Brindi should not be killed. It supports the evidence I will present to convince the judge to keep her alive. 

4. Under the law, and given the circumstances, to put my dog down can only be justified as an "additional penalty" for the charges, an unnecessary and needless waste of life. 

4. Halifax dog owners are commonly charged and fined without any question of losing their dogs because of it. I will be fined for charges due to one incident that did not involve an attack on a human or serious (or any proven) injuries to a dog. I am no different from scores of other dog owners whose dogs remain in their care.

As it seems all are now saying that Brindi is not a dangerous dog, why can't she just please go home?  

Sad developments:
A reporter told me this morning that trainer Bob Ottenbrite says he received some sort of email threatening to steal Brindi or cause him or his business harm if he were to take her to his kennels, where he had offered to keep her for the rest of her life. Because of this he says he is taking back his offer. 

This is the first I've heard of this. Anyone who would do such a thing is badly misguided. 

I myself have been harassed and cyberstalked throughout this ordeal but I have chosen not to share it all with the press. But this month alone, I've gotten about twenty such messages. From time to time, I bring some of them to attention of the RCMP. 

It's really regrettable that people are getting so carried away and emotional. I like to think that people who really love and understand dogs know that dogs love and forgive unconditionally, and out of respect for this, they are uninterested in engaging in violent or threatening behavior towards others. 

Dogs are my role models. They are hard to emulate.

However, I did feel it was important to ask the Herald for a retraction of the unfortunate message they conveyed in an article published yesterday.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another story: heart attack after dog seized

Every time something appears in the local paper, I seem to get another phone call from a stranger with a story to share. Yesterday, a woman left a message that made me hold my breath. She said she knows exactly how I feel and what I am going through: in fact, after her dog was taken away, she had a heart attack. The pain behind her voice was tangible.

"We are supposed to be kind to animals," she says on the message, "But we are not being kind when we take it away from the person they love. I would like to talk to you. I would like to support you to the highest."

This morning, I called her back and left a message. I'm hoping she'll phone tonight, though I almost dread hearing yet another painful and senseless story. I will share whatever she allows.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Humane Halifax hits the streets for Brindi

"I am SO GLAD you are fighting to get your dog back!" said a blonde woman in a white ski jacket yesterday. "Please keep it up! I just think the city is really abusing their power to do this to you."

I was standing at the corner of South Park and Spring Garden Road, along with about ten members of Humane Halifax for Better Animal Control. About half of HH's members turned up, arriving before me and doing a valiant job. Veteran four-legged Brindi supporter Jessie the Chessie was there as always with her mom, Jenn Richardson, along with Peggy McIntyre, Bob Riley, Valerie Slaunwhite, Vidya Wang (who brought me tulips!!), longtime Truro SPCA volunteer Pat Mercer, and her friend (whose name I can't remember - my apologies; stress is bad for the short-term memory), both from Cole Harbour, and others, like a young mom named Brenda and her son, who saw the Facebook notice and decided to take along their pretty shepherd mix.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, with a cool wind to remind us that spring wasn't quite here yet. As Jenn says, "We're not really the protesting type,  just people who love their dogs." So rather than march around, we stayed put for a few hours, while young and old, black and white, rich and poor, residents and tourists passing by paused to hear about Brindi. Scores of them asked for more information and how they could help.

A visitor from South Africa resting at the gates asked what it was about and apologized that she didn't think she could do much to help, being from out of town. Her surprised face beamed with pride, though, when I told her that one of the most fervent people out there fighting for Brindi right now is a woman from her country.

Trish Malkoff from Johannesburg has written and phoned Mayor Kelly several times, and last week she actually managed to speak to Mary Ellen Donovan, the head of the legal department. (Trish had the idea of recording the chat - no idea if this is legal or not, but it's interesting to hear.) I really admire her for not being easily put off. When Donovan claimed it's the police who are behind all of this, Malkoff asked, "Don't you mean the police of your city?" From then on, Donovan answered all questions with "No comment."

As the wind began to die down a little, things warmed up at the corner gates, and people were not in such a hurry to get wherever they were going. Over and over, I heard, "It's your dog!?!" alternating with "You're the lady on TV! When are you getting your dog back?" A pair of young girls who hadn't heard the story before opened their eyes wide at how long Brindi's been in the pound, and why. Seeing the birthday party photo from the SPCA, they promised to phone their HRM councilors on Monday.

A young couple who had left their rottweiler at home to go shopping expressed their concern to see Brindi go home and the law changed before one of their neighbors might get an idea. And so many people, from an elegantly attired lady laden with boutique purchases who nevertheless gladly accepted a flyer, to a tall woman with a friendly bull mastiff who kissed me on the lips (the dog, that is), said they've been following the story since the beginning and hoped things would turn out well.

Overall, it was a pretty encouraging experience. I got a lot of welcome hugs from humans and canines. HH even gained a few new members. Later, Jenn took flyers over to the Willow's pet store for Kyra Foster to give out at the counter. The Herald were kind enough to send over a reporter. We had no problems, although before I arrived, Bob noticed an HRM animal control van sitting across the street for a minute or two, but it didn't stick around long. Sometime later, we held our breath as a pair of patrolmen strolled over to the crosswalk, but they were apparently untroubled by the FREE BRINDI sign hanging on the park gates.

It was really great to get a chance to talk to Haligonians face to face. If I didn't live so far away from town, I'd be on that corner every weekend.

But as I drove all the way back to East Chezzetcook in the afternoon sunlight, I couldn't help feeling very angry at time and effort all this is costing, and all the harm it's done Brindi, when instead we could be going down to the beach for a nice, long walk together, enjoying the prime of our lives. That's all I want for us.

above photos: Robert Riley

This is where Brindi and I belong on a sunny afternoon - her home and mine.
Ed.: On a secure lead with her muzzle, keeping a good distance from all dogs, if any turn up, and otherwise, behind a fence and with private lessons twice a week. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

A new and welcome source of support

From Facebook...

at 10:09pm yesterday
ABAS Society is a no kill society in Nova Scotia. We do not euthanize an animal unless this animal is in pain and suffering for the duration of its life. We support Brindi being returned to her owner with restrictions put in place for (life time leash while walking outdoors). We do not want to see Brindi euthanized. ABAS Society is presently advocating changes to Nova Scotia's Animal Welfare Laws. Our present Animal Protection Laws" are out dated." We feel that it is the fault of the province of Nova Scotia that the dog Brindi has been suffering in the SPCA shelter with lack of care. Many other animals are presently suffering in shelters across Nova Scotia. It is time to make these (family members) important. Nova Scotia needs to make the ammendments required to the existing Animal Protection Act Bill here in Nova Scotia , to further protect ALL animals from suffering. Sadly, it is not the fault of our animals. It is the fault of the people!
Our animals need these changes!


I guess it's not just people "from away" after all...
Some observers - especially those inclined towards a characterization of me as a marginal whacko - like to suggest that the bulk of support for Brindi and me lies disproportionately beyond the border. Well, it is true that there are many people around the world who do support us, and I am very lucky that so many have actively sustained their support for quite some time. I can't begin to count them, I just step aside and marvel. Now they've been joined by some very determined folks in Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, and as far away as Hong Kong, and they are doing some amazing things. 

Because they are seen and heard a bit more by virtue of the internet, I can see how an observer might be inclined to believe that local support is relatively low. But that is not true at all. They may not have as much of a presence online, but there's no disputing the scores of people in Halifax and around Nova Scotia who want to see Brindi go home. Many have called me to let me know this, and report on all the letters and calls they've made to the government and the media. A lot of them never before engaged in writing letters to politicians and newspapers, let alone calling a stranger to let her know they're behind her. It's been an amazing experience in the midst of this mess. 

By the way, if you ever want to get to know your neighbors and fellow provincial citizens well, have your dog seized. No sarcasm intended, I believe have learned more about and gotten to know more Nova Scotians in this past year and a half, than I'd be able to meet in twenty. Sadly, I did not leave my house for most of that time, and not by choice. Nevertheless, there have been many meaningful conversations with so many good souls. Many just picked up the phone after seeing something on TV. I hear the same words, "I wish I could help you get your dog back." Many of them did quite a bit more after that and continue on. I had no idea that so many truly generous and committed people were around, let alone that they would take something like this on with such ferocity. 

Three letters in one day is a first; I can only wonder how many others sent letters just like these since Olive Pastor's letter below was published last Sunday. 

Chronicle-Herald, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010 

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

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

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

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

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

Olive Pastor, Caribou

Chronicle-Herald, Thursday, March 4, 2010

After reading her Feb. 28 letter "Brindi case a travesty," I have no option but to agree with Olive Pastor.

The mayor and city council have done nothing to help Francesca Rogier in her time of need.

Brindi is not a dangerous dog. The SPCA put a picture of Brindi’s birthday party on its website. Employees and their families were sitting around Brindi, who was not wearing a muzzle. They all looked very happy, including the toddler who was sitting a few feet away. 

That picture tells a different story than what the city wants us to believe.

Because she challenged somebody’s authority, Ms. Rogier and Brindi must now suffer?

And to think that the city used our tax dollars to hire a private firm of lawyers to prosecute Ms. Rogier is ridicules (sic). 

It’s time to turn back the clock, give Ms. Rogier the appropriate fines, and let her take her dog home, which should have been done as soon as Brindi was seized — which is what is done in 99 per cent of these types of cases.

If this can happen to Ms. Rogier and Brindi, it can happen to anyone who owns a pet. Do you want to be next?

Valerie Slaunwhite, Beaver Bank

Unpardonable sin

As an animal lover and citizen of HRM, I must agree with Olive Pastor’s comments in the Sunday Herald.

I am now eagerly awaiting the opportunity to cast my anti-incumbent vote in the next municipal election.

Ms. Rogier committed the unpardonable sin of fighting back against a bad law.

Little did she know that the vindictive pettiness of our elected council would do far more damage to the public interest than the actions of her dog.

This thuggery should be resisted by anyone professing concern for the rights of the governed.

Rick Crawford, Hubley

Callous treatment

This letter is not the first time I have come to the defence of Francesca Rogier and her dog Brindi.

I still maintain that someone higher up is the instigator of this travesty. To keep an animal 19 months from its owner is callous and cruel! Would it be too crass to ask who is footing the bill for this dog’s incarceration?

As for the justice system: One judge says "give her back to her owner" and another judge says "no."

Now it is your chance to speak up.

Anne White, Truro

(To answer the question on the bill - ME!)

The True Value of Dogs and How People Feel About Them

I've been told by local legal beagles that dogs are not regarded by the courts as high-value property. Unless a dog is a guide dog, from a rare breed, or a greyhound that races, they're typically not considered worth much more than, say, fifty bucks. Hence the reluctance of lawyers to get involved when a lawsuit becomes necessary. 

But dogs are clearly more valuable than that, when you consider that people spend billions on their dogs annually - food, toys, vet bills, clothes... -  and we all know that Hollywood earns billions on doggy movies every Christmas and all year long, year after year. Who can accurately measure the savings in anti-depressants, alarm systems, and all the other things people would have to pay for, if they didn't own a dog as a companion animal?? These are all ignored by the current animal control laws in North America, which are in many ways at odds with animal cruelty laws.

People who like dogs usually like them without reservation, in contrast to their more cautious way of liking humans. Walking around with Brindi made it easier to get to know people in our community. I can say without any jealousy or resentment that they doubtless liked her more than me. This really struck me when it came time to ask for help to save her life and get her out of the pound. I was thankful she was so likeable, because it meant I had no trouble soliciting letters of support from 16 people in a fairly short time. Among them are several who who testified in court a year and a half later virtually without changing a word, and what is more, I always knew I could count on that. These people did not merely say they like Brindi, however; they gave testimony to what they saw and heard on many occasions.

As far as the untroubling contrast in popularity, the fact is that most people melt around dogs anyhow. To me, Brindi is no exception, though to me she's the best ever, but almost any dog will instantly affect human behavior on sight, and for most of us, for the good. Somewhere I found a study saying just one dog brought into a huge men's prison will instantly improve the behavior of everyone there towards one another, probably through relieving stress. Our ability to train dogs is nothing next to this profound ability to tame a prison full of testosterone! Think of the savings to be had in tranquilizers, weapons, alarms, gates, by simply replacing them with a dog or two from a shelter.

The attention devoted to Brindi was just fine with me. She deserves it all. I was long accustomed to being snubbed in favor of a dog; that's probably a given for all dog lovers. Howard, my boyfriend's elderly dog (who adopted me a few years back), was a very large black collie/setter mix with a fringy setter coat, ponytail and ears, a long collie-like snout, and a gait like a trotter. Howard elicited attention and affection from one and all, regardless of age or status, from which he remained aloof, though diplomatic. "Is that a horse?" kids would ask. Once, a bunch of tall, tattooed, quasi-menacing skinheads bore down us on a street corner in Lexington, KY. I couldn't dodge them when they came right at me. Then one pointed and said, "What kind of dog is that?" followed by, "He's beautiful." And so he was. Howard was the kind of dog that could grace any gathering just by lying down in the middle of it, much as he adorned the street that day.

Brindi was on her way to that status, and I dare say she graces the shelter, judging from the smiles on the staff when they speak of her. I know they want to see her  happy and well-cared for almost as much as I do. Incidentally, in my last post about the SPCA, I ought to have differentiated between these folks, who do the daily grind, and the upper-level decision makers. One wishes the former had a greater say in certain matters.