Monday, September 24, 2018

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September 24, 2010: the day they took Brindi for the second time

Eight years ago today was the last time I saw my dog Brindi alive. Only 10 weeks earlier I had finally managed to get her away from the clutches of the city’s rogue animal control officers and the SPCA, where she was locked up for two years and held without contact to other dogs, me, our vet, or our trainer. On the 14th of September, a strange incident happened that – just as the first time they took her – resulting in no significant harm to anybody, human or canine. But just as in 2008, that fact wasn’t going to stop the animal control people – most prominently, one Lori Scolaro – from taking yet another shot at killing my dog. 

I can’t even talk about what happened in the period between the 14th and the 24th; as it is, telling any of this sets off triggers that are painful and unbearable enough to send me into depths of despair. Suffice it to say that, realizing from minute the incident on the 14th happened that Scolaro and Co. would be after us, I tried and failed to keep Brindi safe from harm, and can barely live with myself today because of that alone, not to mention what transpired the years before and since. 

On September 24, 2010, sometime around 6 pm, a rookie animal control officer, eager to please her murderous supervisor, busted into my home with the aid of an overzealous RCMP officer. She found Brindi in the only hiding place I could think of at the moment – I later kicked myself for not thinking of the upstairs knee-wall – leashed her and put her into one of the closed, airless metal compartments of the animal control truck. Not long afterwards, Scolaro made sure to send me, along with bogus paperwork, her intake photo of Brindi, muzzled and looking absolutely terrified and traumatized. One look at that photo and I burst into sobs and screams. I've posted it here and on Facebook, but I still can barely handle the sight of it. 

Photos were all I had of Brindi from 2010 to 2012. The last photos I saw were in local media, sometime in January 2016. Since then I haven't seen Brindi in person or in a photo. Nobody else has either, at least as far as I know.

It was no surprise that Scolaro and her rookie officer would not allow me or the vet or the trainer to see Brindi. Ever. For the next two years, I was only able to see Brindi through photos taken by our vet every three or four months, visits I paid for, necessitated by the fact that due to the inevitable neglect and poor care that comes from caging a dog for two years, Brindi had been suffering symptoms of pancreatitis and gum disease for over a year. In tacit admission of guilt, HRM did not refuse to allow Brindi to see the vet, though it would not allow the vet to see her at the kennel, so my poor baby was taken by car back and forth. No doubt on that first post-seizure visit, she was fooled into thinking she would be coming home. At least she saw a friendly face now and then; the photos show her happiness at these brief releases from captivity.

The vet visits ended in 2012, sadly, when a judge made unprecedented statements and rulings that supposedly gave ownership of my dog to HRM. The prosecutor, in a typical about-face, promptly declared Brindi “isn’t sick” and therefore needed no further medical care. This happened just one month after the vet, at my urging (and my cost, as with all the visits) prescribed a stem-cell stimulating medication that finally stabilized Brindi’s pancreatic enzymes for the first time in two years, thereby reducing the chance of cancer developing. But that success and the hope of better health were both crushed now that HRM flatly refused her vet care and supervision, along with the stem cell meds. Sure, one could have tried to stop this through the courts, but I already had the work of the appeal to do, which I began immediately, and every legal step, big or small, was laborious, costly, and extremely difficult to manage – without the convenience of electronic filing, every document and brief had to be bound, filed in person, in triplicate or more, at a fee, and then delivered to the city. Costly and time-consuming, especially if one lives 45 minutes away from the courthouse.

The 2012 ruling was incredibly outrageous, not least because, being unprecedented and not at all contemplated by the by-law, it went beyond legislating from the bench. In giving ownership of my (lawfully owned, well mannered, obedient) dog to the city, for the animal control officials to do with her as they pleased, ignored the finding of the Supreme Court from 2008, six months after HRM first seized Brindi, that in that seizure, animal control officials had violated my Charter rights, as did the by-law that they relied on.
I can’t go into this any more right now. I’m sorry, but it’s too complex to summarize in brief, too painful to reconstruct in my mind again without getting more upset, and, perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve spent years trying to distance myself from it and the entire experience. Not consciously, and not controllably. I know I must have PTSD, not just because the symptoms are there, but because I cannot feel, I don't feel, as I once did. Something blocks it.

Nevertheless, I have been wanting to do something, a lot of things, all year. It's imperative. Something to mark the ten year anniversary and a lot of things–if not to sue the city for the malicious and irreparable harm done to me and mine for eight awful years, then at least, to demand HRM tell the truth of what they did with, or to Brindi, in 2016, and, somehow, to resume the battle for a civilized animal control law, in the hopes that no one else or their dog has to experience even a minute of what we suffered, ever again. And in my mind, I envision grand things, covering every angle, and these turn into expectations that I hate to admit are increasingly unrealistic and consequently unlikely, especially given the memories of the local hostility, borne of misinformation, that burdened my (and others’) every effort to get Brindi out alive.

I simply haven’t been strong enough emotionally to mount an effort of any kind on the key days, the big one being July 24, the day they seized Brindi the first time, ten years ago. One month out, on June 24, I was hit with news of the death of a friend and neighbor from cancer. Jean Myers was a woman who never tired of helping people, including me. Without her cheerful, faithful support, through haircuts and prayers to water and food (in countless pump failures and several power outages), I honestly don’t believe I’d be alive now. I am still feeling the loss of Bob Riley a year and a half earlier – an older man from Cole Harbour who first turned up at a gathering in October 2008, incensed that I was not allowed visits to my dog, who became the staunchest Brindi supporter in town, putting in countless hours writing letters, showing up for court, helping me with the house and car; even taking me to and from the hospital in 2015. Like Jean, Bob always came through. So Jean’s death is not a loss I can exactly bounce back from.

Still, I told myself I’d get it together by September 14, the day of that stupid scuffle that HRM used as an excuse to do it all over again. But as both dates approached I found myself doing no better than before. No clearer in mind, no more disciplined, not even to attend weekly yoga class. I don’t have the benefit of professional therapy, despite many, many attempts at securing it. I already had ADD and fibro all my life; neither of them were exactly helpful in this ordeal. I tried tapping, I tried mindfulness (which the health system is apparently now pushing in lieu of actual therapy), but somehow I’ve been uncontrollably bent on its opposite – mindless escapism. Absence, not presence. Hours and hours of binge-watching online day after day, and gradually less and less activity, mostly confined to scraping through paying bills with assistance, food bank visits twice a month, and feeding the pets twice a day – now four in total, with Bob’s cat JoeJoe along with my two cats, Amelia and Katerina, plus Casey, a 12 year old golden mix a kindhearted neighbor gave me three years ago.

Day after day, I keep up the idea, increasingly a fiction, that I’ll kick into action again any day now. I’ll put aside the feelings of shame that come from being wronged, being victimized, and helpless to stop it. I’ll get it all done and then go on to complete the unfinished business of my life, pre-2008: the house, my research, and maybe even some semblance of actual practice.

And yet I can’t persuade myself to invest in even a few minutes of daily meditation – the wounded part of me thinks, I did that in 2014, what did it get me? Cancer and a motion to dismiss the second appeal based on lies, despite the fact that I’d completed 9/10ths of it – only the brief was lacking, and that was for a good reason: I’d come to accept the reality of the court system: judges here just don’t like me representing myself (and at the same time, refused to appoint an attorney, nor would Legal Aid provide one), so the odds of a three-judge panel overturning the rulings of both the first appeal judge and the trial judge, however sound my arguments, were astronomical. I was too aware of this and way too worn out to even try to come up with convincing wording that might have any chance. And I’ve never been cute or charming enough in person to get anyone, let alone three middle-aged Nova Scotian men, to give fairness a try for a change.

Still, with a little more time, I would have put something together; down inside, however, I didn’t think I could withstand the experience of having them follow the lead of the previous judges who had pulled what I now gather are classic tricks they use to get around the truth. Decision after decision alternately misrepresenting, ignoring, and inventing facts, rulings, testimony – it was less a matter of avoiding more humiliation than a wish to simply preserve my sanity.

The word of the day now, though, is weakness. Today, I am not happy to report, I am not even as physically strong as I was in July, unfortunately. Either my fibromyalgia is getting worse or some other illness is happening, because the chronic fatigue (a component of the fibro) is so bad, every two weeks I seem to sleep two or three days straight. Every three or four weeks since July, I’ve had a very painful sore throat – starting with bona fide strep. It came back this weekend, along with earache, a headache, and muscle weakness. No cold symptoms, no sniffles.

And so here it is: I don't know whether Brindi is alive or dead. only know this: in 2010, not long after they took her on that horrible day of September 24, I met with the city prosecutor, Katherine Salsman (who was very reluctant to meet and insisted it was not a negotiaion), and, after assuring her no judge would ever order Brindi put to death - which proved true - I proposed every possible alternative to death, including adoption to someone else in town. The prosecutor, a recent graduate apparently given the green light to torture me, blithely refused every one of them. She later threatened me with some sort of court action if I disclosed the memo to the judge (or the public?), in a bid to make it confidential after the fact.

So, it seems extremely unlikely that six years later, the city - or rather, its contracted pound operator, Hope Swinimer, and her subcontracted kennel operator, Christine Graham, because no actual HRM official was present - were being at all truthful in January 2016 when they told local reporters that Brindi would be adopted and they were looking for a new home for her.

This is extremely unlikely for several reasons, and not only because they announced they'd found a home only two days later, but because the previous August, desperate for a way to cut the court torture short, I asked a cousin, a lawyer in Florida, for help. He decided to offer a deal to the prosecutor: let him adopt Brindi and I would drop my appeal. A week later, she inexplicably told him no, because they already had an adoptive family picked out. I was incredulous - and furious, because this would have been a huge about face, and if it were true, why hadn't they approached me? But she refused to discuss it further, and even denied any offer had been made when I mentioned it to the chief justice in a scheduling session. Why?? By then, Brindi had been locked up for eight years!

I also know that the 2016 adoption announcement was unlikey because the city refused to provide any proof of adoption, on the strength of some claim to confidentiality - a moot point given Brindi's fame - and because there was no sign of Brindi ever since. All that summer, I mounted a twitter campaign. #whereisBrindi, hoping at least for some word that she was alive and well. No word came.

It was that last twist, that January 2016 announcement (claim) of adoption, that really did me in. I had been terrified they would put her down without a word, and even phoned one of the vets the city uses for that purpose to beg him not to do it. That media show, with poor Brindi, unmuzzled, looking ten years older but as warm and sweet as ever, in the control of a kennel owner (also breeder, trainer, boarder) whose husband spent two years or more cyberbullying me, the idea that they now said they would adopt her, plus other lies the media swallowed whole - without bothering to call me, by the way, for a reaction or even a fact check - was another turn of the screw that damaged the last bits of drive, of strength, I had left. No one, not even my two dear friends, could do or say anything to fix that.

I don’t feel confident about anything, least of all, the prospect of using social media to get things done. I seldom interact with people anymore, in person or online. The terrible thing about it is that, suffering already from compounded PTSD symptoms, I shrink at the thought of actually finding out for certain Brindi that is dead – which is more than likely – and equally at the possibility of actually seeing her, in her old age and poor health, for one more heart-destroying meeting. Unbearable to even contemplate. Actually, 99.9% of the time, the thought isn't even there. But my brain keeps insistently projecting the goals I must achieve, by hook or by crook. And some part of me is fooled into believing they'll get done. A complete timeline, backed up with references to documents - to set down the truth, possibly refute all the "fake news". A full account of what happened the night of September 14 and the following days and weeks. I did upload the 2012 transcript, corrected, to Scribd; I don't know if I uploaded the 2014 appeal transcript, but I should do. I should upload every single email exchange with HRM as well...

So far, this is all I can muster.

Brindi, if you are still out there, please know, you are the BEST dog ever!!! Life will never be the same without you. I love you and will love you forever and ewver.

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