NOT “Buddy” . . . a stand in, and probably just as lovely as the dog in the post.
I’ve always described myself as a pet owner advocate, one who figuratively speaks for dogs and cats and translates for their owners. But I never realized that I’d serve as a spokesperson in the more literal sense.
In August 2010, a local defense attorney contacted me about a dog bite case that happened many months earlier. At first, he simply wanted my opinion about dog behavior. Ultimately, the court appointed me as an expert witness. I learned this background about the case.
Perfect Storm of Tragedy
The day of the event, the 4-year-old pit bull named Buddy (yes, one of THOSE!) owned by the home-owner’s friend had been placed on a tether hooked to an overhead runner-line outside the fenced yard. This was only the first or second time the dog had ever been tethered, because the home owner (“Grandma”) felt sorry about confining him in a very small dog run. Home owner’s 5-year-old granddaughter loved Buddy and had often been around him, and the dog had never (to their knowledge) growled or offered any indication of aggression to anyone.
Apparently Grandma was babysitting the grandchild, and a number of adults were in the house on the day in question. Strangers with car problems also crossed back and forth through the fenced yard within sight of Buddy, leaving the gate open as they worked on the car.
When the toddler wanted to go outside and play with her tricycle (outside the fenced yard and near the tethered dog), Grandma asked her to wait so Grandma could first visit the bathroom. Other adults inferred they’d go outside, too, and watch the girl. But when Grandma left the toilet, nobody knew where the toddler was. Normally the gate would have been locked closed, but the car problems meant it was left open. They ultimately found the child unconscious, nearly scalped, on the ground within reach of Buddy who sat quietly watching.
Any case of dog aggression and child injury is horrifying. It doesn’t have to happen—and families naturally feel outraged and devastated when such things take place. The Grandmother was, of course, mortified—and the child’s mother upset—but all agreed it was a horrible accident.
Good news—the little girl survived but will need reconstructive surgery. Bad news—the men beat Buddy to death for his crime. Tragic news—the child cried when she learned Buddy’s fate (and she still loves dogs, thank god!) Even worse news—the State (DA) prosecuted Grandma as negligent, charged with criminal injury to a child, saying she should have recognized Buddy was dangerous simply because he was a pit bull. Grandma faced a potential sentence of 20 years.
The case was postponed twice. Finally, last week on March 2, I offered expert testimony to educate the jury about:
Normal dog behavior
Definition of “dangerous dog”
Predictive situations for aggressive behavior
Media bias toward APBT “type” dogs.
During my two-plus hours on the stand, among other things, I explained the importance of puppy socialization and dog training, why tethering a dog can be dangerous, translated common misunderstood “dog language” warnings, and debunked breed-specific “bite statistics” based on my own experience and information from CDC, ASPCA, HSUS, AVMA and many other sources. I was the last witness.
The next day, the jury was out five hours. They came back with a Not Guilty verdict.
Feline Friday felicitations—and I hope your holiday week has been lovely. Oh, and Happy New Year! Are you getting all spiffed up for a party tonight? Maybe your cats can help, especially if you have a beautician cat…ever wonder why some cats lick, chew, or even kitty comb your hair? This Ask Amy column offers some fun answers why cats groom owner’s hair.
But don’t worry if some of your fur-kids aren’t quite as, shall we say, bright as other kitties. Yes, some cats can be mentally challenged. But even if some cats are a mouse short of a full basket, we don’t love them any less.
My cat Seren is a genius among cats. Okay, I have to say that, or I’d get no peace! She tells me it’s the purr-fect time to take stock of the past year from a cats’-eye-view, and the year to come. Seren-kitty has seen 13 years come and go (well, in THIS life anyway!), and her youthful outlook is an inspiration for me to maintain that same level of energy. I pray that the years will touch me as lightly as they have my little Siamese wannabe. The last blog gave a dog’s perspective, so it’s only fair to also offer New Year’s Resolutions from Seren, with commentary by Amy.
Seren: “I will train my humans to offer more treats, more often—away from the (spit) dawg.”
Amy: She insists on “guarding” me during meals, and will even chase Magic away. So I resolve to keep the furry wonders away with the pet-gate closed during meals and only “treat” in the appropriate pet bowl. (We’ll see how long that one lasts!)
Seren: “I will attack all dangerous sparkle balls and leave the poisonous dead bodies for the (spit) dawg to find. ”
Amy: She particularly enjoys sparkle-ball pong late at night with celebratory gallops up and down the stairs. Funny how a seven-pound Siamese can shake the house. . . And yes, Magic likes to eat the cat-spit-flavored toys. I resolve to round up Seren’s catnip mice and sparkle balls each morning, and keep them out of Magic reach.
Seren: “I will learn to turn on the faucet.”
Amy: Seren loves sipping from running water, and her “cat fountain” died this year. Drinking also seems a social affair and water bowls are at each sink in the house. I resolve to replace the cat fountain and save on water bills.
Seren: “I will train Amy the right way to play with the fishing-pole ALL THE TIME!”
Amy: Seren loves Neko Flies and other toys as you can see in this video. But Magic gets frustrated he can’t play, too, and barks—which takes the joy out of her game. I resolve to keep the bedroom door closed during chase-the-bug tag games with Seren.
Seren: “I will sleep more, hiss less. Except around the dog.”
Amy: Seren’s blue bed rests on the dining room table under a stained glass lamp shade. It’s out of reach of her nemesis, and a favorite spot especially on chilly winter days. I resolve to invest in light bulbs to keep the kitty “heat lamp” on at all times.
Seren: “I will demand more lap time.”
Amy: Seren has never been a lap snuggler, but as a senior citizen, she’s decided a lap-nap on a cold day is her right. I agree. I resolve to put down the laptop and make room for the cat at least once a day.
Seren: “I will torment the dawg (hiss) at every opportunity! And pretend I don’t like him.”
Amy: Seren’s favorite game is to get Magic in trouble. But lately I’ve noticed when she “calls” him and he arrives, she allows a few mutual sniffs with cordial mews before her head spins around and she morphs into evil-kitty. I resolve to “pretend” that I don’t notice Seren actually sorta-kinda-in-a-way likes the (hiss) dog.
Seren: “I will run to nose-bump Amy every time she points at me.”
Amy: Seren’s furry face graces many cats.About.com articles, and she’s grown used to being a photo model—but is ALWAYS ready for her close-up. I resolve to get better candid-kitty shots.
Seren: “I will train Amy there’s more to nine lives than paw-tapping and staring at a boxy computer-thing. Like catnip. And whisker-kisses.”
Amy:I resolve to listen to Seren.
Happy (Kitty) New Year, folks. May 2011 fulfill all your “pet” dreams. See you next year!
It’s Woof Wednesday—and a good time to take stock of the past year from a dogs’-eye-view, and the year to come. The Magical-dawg romped through 2010 with only a few missteps along the way. It’s hard to keep up with his energy—but it’s good for me to try. So here are New Year’s Resolutions from Magic, with commentary by Amy.
Magic: “I will train my humans to toss balls with better aim.”
Amy: He insists on fetch both inside the house and out. So I resolve to keep breakables out of tossed-ball-range.
Magic: “I will kill all squeakers and chew sticky-out wrong parts on toys.”
Amy: He amputates teddy-bear ears, steals cat toys, and ends up with sparkly poop. I resolve to find a Magic-proof squeaky stuffed toy, and keep Seren’s catnip mice and sparkle balls out of reach.
Magic: “I will learn to swim.”
Amy: Magic discovered that the tank—that’s Texan for “man-made pond”—refreshes inside and out—and provides pungent ambience. Drinking tank water made Magic sick from both ends. I resolve to find a healthier way to cool off my hot dog.
Magic: “I will train Amy to play with the magic-water ALL THE TIME!”
Amy: Magic obsessed over the garden hose used to fill his new doggy wading pool. He’s nearly figured out how to turn on the spigot. I resolve to get dog-proof spigot or risk outrageous water bills.
Magic: “I will steal balls back from thieving coyotes.”
Amy: Magic lost at least eight balls somewhere on the 13-acre property. Several failed the “will it float” test. I resolve to find fetch-able toys he’s less likely to lose.
Magic: “I will find more balls-with-legs and see if they bounce.”
Amy: Magic befriended at least seven box turtles, and “fetched” them home. No turtles were injured—and none were amused. I resolve to protect the wildlife from turtle-bounce dangers.
Magic: “I will go for a ride forever!”
Amy: Magic discovered car rides. He aspires to be a furry hood ornament. I resolve to invest in a safety barrier to keep Magic in the back seat and from behind the wheel.
Magic: “I will catch, fetch, and carry more-more-more Frisbees every day.”
Amy: Magic caught 2,043,713 Frisbees in 2010. Several did not survive. At least 2,043,706 are MIA. Remaining doggy disks get stacked and carried all at once—three or more at a time. I resolve to buy stock in fling-able dog toys, and re-invigorate the country’s economy.
Magic: “I will train Amy that naps together are a good thing. So are tummy rubs.”
Amy:I resolve to listen to Magic.
Happy (Doggy) New Year, folks—what are your dog’s New Year’s resolutions? If you have a cat, please visit Feline Friday for the cat-version of New Year’s resolutions!
Welcome to all my new visitors. I suspect my Pawnation article on senior cats may have led you here. Today’s blog comes a bit late, reporting some exciting news from last month’s Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) conference and contest. I’ve posted some photos from the event–you’ll notice that I enjoy wearing sparkles from time to time. *s* Yep, there are other professional journalist out there who have a special interest in cats (and in dogs, but that’s a future blog).
The CWA was founded in 1992, and our 17th annual events took place this year in White Plains, New York. I spoke at the conference about my “kindle-ization” experience that was first reported in this blog back in April, and resulted in bringing several books back to life including Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, Complete Kitten Care and others.
I was honored to receive several awards, including several Certificate of Excellence, three Muse Medallions (that’s like Cat Writers “Emmy”), and also two special corporate awards. Yee-haw! I’m still a-purring!
These included the Tidy Cats Behavior Award of a silver engraved bowl and cash honorarium, for my cats.About.com series of articles Cat Talk: Cat Language Explained Cat talk and cat language puzzles us. Cats have been regarded for centuries as mysterious, solitary, unpredictable creatures because we can t understand what they’re saying. But savvy cat owners can decipher cat language with this article.
The second special award was my third win of the Friskies Writer of the Year Award of a Baccarat Cat figurine and cash honorarium for all my work entered. These included Muse Medallion wins for a Catnip (Tufts University) newsletter article “Dispelling Feline Myths” and two more cats.About.com online articles that address problems typical of aging cats. Separation Anxiety in Cats often affects older felines as well as some youngsters. And very old cats can suffer from Kitty Senility, sometimes referred to as feline Alzheimer’s. Both articles offer suggestions for dealing with these issues.
Thanks again for visiting, and please come back–I’m an equal opportunity pet writer. Doggy issues are often covered here, as well as writer-ly angst, how-to, and more.
I had a wonderful time–again–in NYC at Thrillerfest. With four-track speaker panels, it was tough to choose between stellar topics and terrific speakers. And I have to say, the receptions and after-hours spent in the bar catching up with old friends and making new acquaintances was a highlight. This was my fourth Thrillerfest and (hard to believe) it was the best ever! The picture above is of me with my friend Paula Lanier and author Jason Pinter. Visit me over at my Facebook page for more images of Allison Brennan, John Gilstrap, Shane Gericke, Steve and Liz Berry, Sandra Brown and more.
I also managed to video snippets of some of the sessions. But frankly, I was too busy enjoying the event and taking copious notes to do too much picture snapping. One of the best times for me was participation on a “social media” panel, and then a book signing. Go figure–nonfiction pet books were a hit! Of course, lots of thriller/mystery/suspense writers include dogs or cats in the story, so a book on behavior or treating gunshots, arrow, animal bites and such comes in handy. Videos include:
2010 Debut Authors with Brad Melzer speaker, Thrillerfest Saturday July 10, 2010, Silver Bullet winner Brad Meltzer speaks to the audience, and Debut Authors: Avery Aames, Graham Brown, Ryan Brown, Carla Buckley, Teresa Burrell, Pamela Callow, JJ Cooper, Reece Hirsch, Jeannie Holmes, Brett King, Sophie Littlefield, Boyd Morrison, Alan Orloff, Brad Parks, Sharon Potts, James Rubert, Stephen Jan Schwartz, Norb Vonnegut
Make Your Career a Thriller with Panel Master Jeff Ayers interviews authors Joseph Finder, Laura Caldwell, Stephen Coonts, Chris Kuzneski and John Gilstrap
Is Nonfiction More Thrilling? Peter James interviews True Thriller Award Recipient Mark Bowden, and Panel Master Doug Preston hosts nonfiction panel with authors Sean Michael Bailey, Emily Benedek, Mark Bowden, W. Craig Reed and Kathleen Sharp
Lisa Scottoline interviewed by John Land, and Daniel Palmer and Michael Palmer singing “The Writer’s Prison Blues” at the Awards Banquet.