By Neville Ryan
This happened when Merlin & I lived in Florida. To those who have seen this before, I apologize. However, our Earth Gallery Dlog site is a new venue & we are now sharing with the world. Neville
Eddie and I we were unjustly accused of having our dogs off the leash in a public park and we were each given a ticket by an over enthusiastic police officer. I guess “unjustly accused” might not be strictly accurate. “Caught red handed” might be a tad closer to the truth. We were overcome with righteous indignation and we decided we would rise up and strike a blow for all dog owners in Tarpon Springs. “We weren’t going to take it anymore”!
Eddie went to see the Mayor and the City Manager both of whom ran for cover. Not an auspicious start. The system was fighting back! I went to City Hall and they offered to look up the information on the city website. They searched and searched surprised that their own web site didn’t contain any relevant information. I was beginning to suspect a conspiracy. Finally they all agreed that I would find the information I was seeking at the local Police Department. Entering a police station, voluntary or otherwise, is not my first choice for enjoying a sunny afternoon but for the greater cause I was willing to cross the dark portal to further my quest. “No one here knows anything about the leash laws; you will have to call after 2pm”. Now I know a conspiracy is in force. Doggedly (no pun intended), I call back after 2pm and they offer to mail the information. Eventually a photocopied page turns up and now we have some ammunition to fight our case. It was really more like a very small bullet but at least it was a start.
Meanwhile, Eddie launched into his campaign and started talking to police officers, other dog owners and anyone who would lend asympathetic ear. The tide of public opinion was filling him with confidence and his determination to confront the judge was growing by the minute. To strengthen his case, Eddie started an action file filled with Irie’s (pronounced Iree) achievements, awards, tv appearances and commendations. I was quite impressed. Alas, Merlin’s file only contained a note from the vet saying “here’s mummy’s little dumpling”.
We were starting to get psyched for the hearing. An official looking notice turned up from the court. Aha! They have obviously written to apologize and assure us that leashes can be completely done away with and our campaign had worked. I opened the letter with trembling hands and because I wasn’t wearing a hat I was ready to throw the piece of paper into the air in joyous exultation. Poop! They delayed the hearing a week. The conspiracy was growing and they needed time to martial their forces. We at least had them on the run and they failed to realize that this would give us more time to fine tune our strategy.
We met at Starbuck’s for final pretrial meeting. The four of us were there. Eddie and I were planning while Merlin and Irie were barking, kissing people and doing general doggy stuff. I was starting to feel that they were not taking the matter as seriously as Eddie and I but then again they are only 2 and 3 years old so I guess I shouldn’t expect too much. Eddie decided that he will take Irie into the courtroom to show the judge how well behaved she is. He suggested I take Merlin. I thought about it then decided I would probably be thrown in jail for disrupting the court. I thought it best that he relax at home.
The court time was set for 8.30am but we were keen to present our case and arrived at 7.40am to be greeted by television cameras and reporters. At last our campaign has gathered traction and the world is here to see us fight our case. Unfortunately it appears they were there for jury selection in a murder case. In we go with Irie, through security screening and on to the courtroom. Security now jumps into action to ask why Irie is in the court. Eddie explained she is a therapy dog and showed her credentials. He didn’t tell them she was evidence. Crafty move Eddie!
The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. (That might be a good line for a movie some time). This is it. This is when we will strike a blow for dog lovers not only in Tarpon Springs but around the world. The Prosecutor states that she has a short statement to read. “At this hearing you will have 3 choices. Plead not guilty and come before the judge on June 9th. Plead guilty, pay the fine and it goes on your record. Plead no contest and therefore admit no liability, pay the fine and no record. This is the most popular choice.”
We were stunned. I started to laugh and Eddie went into shock. Our turn came and our big court appearance consisted of us saying “no contest”. That’s it! Turns out they thought Eddie needed his therapy dog with him because of the stress of being in court. On the drive home, even though the system had ground us into the dust I couldn’t stop laughing.