When I write, I try to tell the truth to the best of my ability. I will sometimes get technicalities and specifics mixed up, but the gist of what I’m saying generally goes in the right and truthful direction. That being said, in my story about my next-door neighbor’s dog’s run in with the local police, I errantly noted that the police had pulled their weapons on the Husky because they were afraid she might start gnawing on the protected goose or geese.
It was actually a swan. As I noted, the Husky was swimming after a deer and the police were concerned, because the bird in question has been known to frequent this area of the backwater where the pursuit was happening. Not wanting it to be the Swan’s Swan Song was the reason given for the officers being in attack mode, as well as their thinking the wet dog might pose a threat to them.
Honestly, I do understand how a wet Husky might look a little like a wolf or something, but my neighbor was there to tell them she would not attack. My neighbor did get a violation or citation for his dog not being on a leash and has to appear in court.
He caught me outside recently and hit me with an interesting request. It seems that our police chief in charge of the fellows who gave him the citation said it might be a good idea to take someone with him to court who knew the dog. He asked if I would do it.
Being a dog person and not wanting to miss the chance to be a character witness for a dog, I said “Absolutely.” I immediately started thinking about what I was going to say. I thought that I might tell the judge about the many conversations I have had with the Husky in question from my backyard over the fence to her. I could explain to the judge how I understood the “Husky language” and knew that the Husky in question had been talking about going deer hunting, but nothing about swans.
Since then, I have decided I better not make the judge think I am some sort of nut. I will just stick to the basics and perhaps bring a picture of us together – smiling of course.
Researching “Character Witness for a Dog,” I found that I am not the first person who has ever been asked to do this. I was a little bit disappointed. While searching, I also found a very interesting story about a dog case that happened on December 21, 1921, in San Francisco.
Criminal charges were brought against an Airedale named “Dormie.” Allegedly, Dormie had murdered 14 cats, but was only being tried for the death of “Sunbeam” in this case.
The prosecutor was seeking the death penalty for Dormie and as one would imagine, his owner was upset and went all out in Dormie’s defense. He demanded a jury trial (because he as the owner “shared” guilt by law). He got one.
The owner used another Airedale named “Rowdy” as a character witness. I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand what Rowdy was saying, but he was used to show that Airedales weren’t instinctively cat murderers. The folks in Dormie’s neighborhood considered him to be a friendly dog and even organized a Dormie Defense Fund. They also sent him bones while he was incarcerated.
Dormie beat the rap, with a hung jury - 11 jurors voted to acquit and one held out to put Dormie down.
The judge dismissed the charges, but also declared their ordinance as written was unconstitutional because it granted licensed dogs the right to roam, which was unfair to other unlicensed dogs, who could not. Also, cats weren’t licensed, therefore they couldn’t roam around either. Thus, if a licensed dog came upon a cat, the outcome was solely the cat’s problem. I know that is confusing and doesn’t sound fair, but a lot of other rulings came from this case. One being, that a dog could indeed have a jury trial.
Perhaps I should say something about “Dormie vs the City of San Francisco” in my character witness testimony for my next-door Husky. No, I won’t do that either, they will be keeping me down at the courthouse. I will let you know how it goes.
CMT Column from the week of May 1, 2017, All Rights Reserved and Stuff like that..
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and watching Andy Griffith as "Matlock."
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