It all began one late afternoon two months ago, February 12, 2017. While we have a doggie door and fenced area in back, they’re dogs. Periodically they must absolutely see if the rest of the yard checks out…not to mention the added necessity of marking a perimeter.
Those pungent aromas don’t last forever, you know. They require regular and continued maintenance.
So I let them down in front sometimes, the three little rat terriers. Because there are two large dogs (about 70 lbs each) across the cul-de-sac, mine often run across, barking—because the others have no right to exist, according to dog brain. Early on, when we began living here full-time last May, mine would encroach on their property, sometimes. But I had ended that some time ago (whereas, theirs still venture into our yard from time-to-time—which is fine with me). In this instance, I was unaware that one or both of their dogs were out. One of them, Moo, the female, ran out in a flash, picked out one of mine, Nuke, and chased her 30 feet across the cul-de-sac, then clamped down hard when she caught her.
Nuke was shaken up. Choncho, the Alpha, wasn’t much bothered, but junior male Scout was incensed beyond barks. He came up to the loft area, jumped up on the backrest of the sofa where he can see out across to where those dogs live and gave them a non-stop scolding for two hours or more. Outraged.
I saw the whole thing from the deck and while setting off to run down the stairs, yelled “Hey!” at the top of my lungs; Moo ceased the attack. There’s no certain way of knowing if she’d have pursued further, otherwise.
Nuke’s puncture bite did not appear to be super-serious or anything, so no need for emergency care. However, the next morning she was super sore, wouldn’t walk down the stairs (she normally bounds down 2-3 steps at a time), was reluctant to walk and when she did, did so obliquely, favoring one leg.
So I took her to the vet. Muscular-skeletal trauma. She got a few-day course of an anti-inflammatory, and it helped. $78. After a day, she began licking at it incessantly, so I called the vet who said to bring her on in. She shaved the wound area and gave a 7-day course of antibiotic. She advised against dressing or suturing the rather deep hole Nuke had created via 27/7 licking. First, it would require anesthetizing. Beyond that, she’d need to wear the collar and we’d have to clean the wound and watch it carefully for signs of infection. She was already keeping it “clean” by licking, so infection was unlikely to gain a foothold. Smart country vet. $112 total for the two visits and both meds.
Props to Arnold Pet Clinic.
That day, I reported the incident to the Calaveras County Animal Services. While there is no leash law in the county, there is a standard of reasonable control. Since the incident took place in the street, and neither of us was immediately present, we’re both at fault on that score. However, since there was a puncture, the neighbors were obliged to show proof of a rabies vaccine and could not, so Moo was taken away for an eight-day quarantine at their expense, according to Animal Services.
It’s important to note at this juncture that not once did the neighbors—a 24-yr-young woman and a 23-yr-young man—contact me to express any regret, inquire about Nuke’s well-being, offer to pay the vet bill, or offer any suggestions or signal any willingness to explore ways to minimize the risk of this, or worse, happening again.
And this is unsurprising. When we moved in permanently last May, Beatrice once saw her outside with the two dogs and went over along with our dogs to introduce herself and chat. After noticing for a while, I went over as well. The conversation was cordial enough and the dogs—under adult supervision—got along fine, typical dog banter. Curiously, however, her boyfriend sat up on their roof getting a sunbath or something and made no effort to be a little neighborly.
I spoke cordially with her a second time out front, sometime later. Then noticed odd things, like when one afternoon I was driving home and the both of them and the two dogs were out walking. I rolled down the passenger-side window and offered a greeting, “Hi folks. Hi Moo. Hi Stub.”
Nothing and in fact, he noticeably turned away.
And then there were the several incidents I witnessed first hand from the deck where, as he was coming from or going to work and the dogs were out, they’d run up barking as small dogs typically do. Rather than handle it in a common mature and adult manner by either laughing at the dogs or bending down to befriend them, he would run and stomp and kick at them.
So, all of this combined, and since they are renters (she and her father are on the lease, the boyfriend is not), I decided to inform the landlord of my wishes that he evict them and get new tenants with no dogs, or small dogs, since to the extent they are uncooperative, I have no means of minimizing risk short of leaving my dogs locked up all the time.
I mailed the landlord, outlining my concerns and wishes, attaching a copy of the report to Animal Services, the initial vet bill, and a picture of Nuke’s wound. After mailing it, I left a copy of all the foregoing outside on their truck.
Not long thereafter as I’m sitting out on my deck, she comes stomping up the stairs and the fist entitled screeching out of her is “are you seriously going to try to get us kicked out?” The conversation went downhill from there, with me treating her in kind and worse, being just as awful as I could be.
Once she left, I headed down to the market for a couple of things and when I returned, I went over and knocked on her door; she came out on the patio. Since I was at her place, I refrained from calling her any awful names, but I relayed to her that I’d forgotten to mention earlier that I’d seen her boyfriend stomp and kick at my dogs.
The next morning, I get an absolutely irate and unprofessional call from a deputy sheriff. He’d spoken with my neighbors and by damn I had better not “take matters into my own hands” and “I need to go through proper channels and due process.” I told him he had no fucking idea what he was talking about and that he ought to get off his ass, drive up here, and conduct a proper police investigation. “I don’t need to come up there. What you need to do…”
“I don’t need to to do fuck all. Click!”
An hour or so later, I call the sheriff, informed them that I had had an abrupt conversation with one of their deputies, and could they send a different deputy to my house to discuss it? A couple of hours later, I got a call from another deputy. We engaged in a cordial conversation where I explained the whole matter and got an Oh, ah.
And then nothing happens. In a week or so, I got a call from her landlord and we had a cordial conversation. Said he’d never seen the dogs, nor met the boyfriend. He also informed me that her father had co-signed the lease. He ended by saying he’ll contact them to see what could be done and contact me in a week’s time, which he did.
The second conversation was cordial as well, but nothing was accomplished. I reiterated my offer from the first conversation: that I would be willing to get with her or both of them to socialize all the dogs from time-to-time, under supervised conditions. I’ll supply the duck jerky treats, too. Nothing came of that either.
By now, it’s 2-3 weeks since the event. Fast forward 3-4 weeks and on a Thursday, March 30—a full six weeks since any contact whatsoever with the neighbor on February 13, I get a knock at the door and it’s a deputy sheriff. He has papers.
He’s there to personally serve me notice of a hearing in the Calaveras County Superior Court in San Andreas, on April 13, in the matter of my neighbor’s petition for a civil harassment restraining order. Her ex parte petition for a TRO (temporary restraining order) was denied on the basis that the evidence presented was not sufficient to merit it and that since it involved a dog complaint it should go through Animal Services for proper disposition.
Now I’m really pissed. See, when I’d spoken with the landlord a few weeks prior, he gave zero indication this was in the pipeline, so either his tenant wasn’t being forthright with him, or he was being disingenuous to me.
He promptly got a call, and I was surely at my most awful with him. Hung up on him before he got a chance to respond. He called back after a few minutes. I’d cooled down substantially. He said he’d call her father and see what was up. He called back Saturday night—a bit inebriated, I believe—to tell me he’d spoken to his attorney, has no liability, it’s between us and promptly hung up.
The petition filed by my neighbor is a piece of silly work, in my opinion. It’s essentially a plea that the government restrains me from calling her or her boyfriend bad names, not write anything about them on the internet, not contact her landlord, not call or email, and remain greater than 20 yards from either of them, their house, their truck, and their two dogs. Amusingly, if you were to step out the 20 yards out onto the street, I’d violate the order every time I left or came home.
It would also require me to surrender my guns and ammo for safekeeping, either to a licensed gun dealer or law enforcement for the duration of the order.
To support all of this was a narrative explaining the events of the evening of February 13. But in nowhere or case was she able to show any threat to her, et al, neither any pattern of harassment, stalking, obsessive behavior towards her, et al. She also attached 20-something pages of Facebook and blog posts variously labeled things like “sexist, anti-social, anti-police,” and so on.
My response to the petition largely consists of the foregoing, only with less style and more word economy.
The hearing took place yesterday morning, April 13. It was presided over by Judge Timothy S. Healy, Calaveras County Superior Court. Though one can never predict an outcome in court, I was pretty confident going in how things would roll, having been involved in many legal matters over 20 years, in connection with a company I owned. I’m also a bit better off than your average bloke with his Juris Doctorate from the Xfinity TV School of Law. And, I’m fortunate to have consulted with my cousin, who’s been a practicing attorney in complex business litigation in Los Angeles since the late 1980s.
Judge Healy opened the session by explaining that of the various kinds of restraining orders, civil harassment carries the highest burden of proof. He went on to note that the application for temporary restraint in advance of the hearing was a lower standard and that he had already denied that. He essentially sent her the message right off the bat that she’ll need to provide something new and very compelling.
…He also did note that he was unaware that Animal Control had acted on the matter even before she had filed the petition, and that he learned of that from my response (not a great way to begin, dear neighbor).
She was then given the opportunity to provide additional information, which amounted to a blog post I had written shortly after being served, that I had emailed her, and that I had called her on the phone last week.
- Yep, I wrote an awful blog post. An emotional rant. Some of you read it. I took it down the next early morning on various grounds. Normally, I reserve my personally-directed vitriol for comment sections. When I do use awful language to judge or rant, there needs to be either some tongue-in-cheek or humorous element or righteous indignation that’s far more widely applicable than just my personal beef with someone.
- I emailed her, basically, ‘hey neighbor, let’s have a calm conversation and see if we can find a solution. My primary concern is for all the dogs, so supervised socializing is a high priority.’ Received no response.
- I called her last week, lasted 10 seconds. “Neighbor, can you tell me why Moo is in my front yard and my dogs are going crazy?” “Oh, sorry, I’ll call her back over.”
I presented a couple of new pieces myself. First, since she made such a big deal about my Facebook posts, none of which threatened or wished harm to them or their dogs, she has one talking about a bear on her front porch digging through their trash, lamenting that it wasn’t on my front porch eating my dogs.
She also made a big deal, from Facebook and blog posts, that I have guns, this makes her uncomfortable, etc. So, I was able to present a photo from her dad’s Facebook page of her shooting a handgun at a gun range.
The judged excused himself for 10 minutes to go backstage and read all the new material, saying he’d be ready to rule shortly after returning.
Upon his return, he asked the petitioner if she had anything else at all. She said yes, but really just reiterated stuff, as if trying one last time to pull off a Hail Mary.
But before he ruled, he did take time to, I think primarily, show her why, even though my deleted blog post was as awful as it was, using terms associated with sexism and misogyny, it was part factual, part emotional, but is protected speech, since it contained no express or implied threat to her.
He also interjected to me that I’m a good writer that had obviously spent a lot of time developing my style and in his opinion, that type of emotional vitriol is beneath that skill level. Kinda cool; a nice dispensation from the bench. I didn’t argue, even though I might have drawn a couple of distinctions. For example, using terms associated with sexism and misogyny against an individual does not mean you believe they apply to all individuals of that gender. But of course, longtime readers know that I get this all the time.
…Very ironically, I’ve paid for demographics of my blog traffic a number of times over the years and always, the top category is: “females over 25 with college or higher.” Ha!
So, the decision, as you’ve guessed by now: Petition Denied.
She asked if she could ask a question, and the judge said OK, but he can’t offer legal advice. She asked how she could stop me from posting about her on the Internet. She got a lesson in the 1st Amendment, drawing on the precise essential element of it: it’s there to protect speech people don’t like.
And that’s the whole story and nothing but the story.
…On the way home, Beatrice opined that it’s a good thing the standard of proof is so high; otherwise, there would be millions of restraining orders, including almost all the kids in her junior high. LOL.
Had they only been more neighborly when we initially reached out? It’s cool to have young folk around. I’d rather have taught them lessons in a much friendlier way.
Here’s a friendly one, and they can have a laugh, too.
In closing, I would encourage that any comments match my style, above.
I’ve already done all the venting and name-calling that’s “necessary” and there are a couple of rather distinct things about how I operate.
First, I go off with awful bluster because it often scares people off and if they’re too scared to waste my time with even more bullshit, it’s fine with me. Second, it intimidates and if you’re too intimidated to take me on, that’s a time-saver for me and I don’t give a shit that you feel slighted. Third, and most importantly—the thing so many miss—is that you know I’m not lying to you, blowing smoke rings up your ass.
Think about that. If I’m willing to essentially embarrass myself with awful, socially unacceptable vitriol, what are the chances I’m holding back anything material?
All that outlined, the one thing I am not and am essentially incapable of is going out of my way in vindication. I can’t hold a grudge. I can’t. It has always been out of reach for me and it’s perhaps my favorite quality about myself that I consider redeeming. Life is too short to stew over.
I’m a damn sucker for redemption, too.