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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cooper's Story



(This story is what happened to the dog of one of my friends. I'm passing it along in memory of Cooper, and hoping something can be done so this doesn't happen to any more pets.) Here is Cooper's Story, as told by his owner, Marti Adrian....

I’m writing this to all pet owners so that they might be aware of what could kind of horror story could happen to them and to their pets. If I can raise awareness of what is still going on out there under the guise of legal actions, then perhaps we can do something as a group to change things for our beloved companions.

On September 12th, 2007, it had been raining all day and Cooper, a registered, tattooed male Airedale, was restless. At least 5 or 6 times that day he came and begged with his big, brown, expressive eyes, for me to let him out and to play with him. At five p.m., it finally quit raining, and the sun came out. It was beautiful outside now, and I let him out by himself since I was just starting supper. I didn’t worry too much about his safety since the farm where we live is isolated, a long way from the road, and at least 12 miles from town. We never hear any vehicle traffic unless it is on the yard, and our nearest neighbor is three miles away. The perfect spot to raise animals, we thought, and Cooper never left the property. Cooper was an unusual Airedale. He was everyone’s friend. He shared food with horses that normally would have killed any dog they saw; he romped with calves while tolerant cows kept a close eye; he would run into the bull pen and tug on the bull’s tails until they got up, asking them to come and play. Even the pheasants (which he supposedly had been bred to hunt) were targets of his game; he would catch them, carry them gently in his mouth, and then let them go, (not their idea of fun, I’m sure). He was such a gentle creature and greeted everyone and everything that came on the yard with equal enthusiasm.

I suppose all of this was the reason I never thought anyone would hurt him. But he didn’t come back to the house that day. My husband came home at 5:45 p.m., and Cooper wasn’t there to greet him like usual, even though I has seen him out the window just 10 minutes before. We went out to try to find him, calling and walking the property until it was too dark to see. That is when I knew something was wrong, because Cooper always came to the house when darkness fell. He was only just over a year old and still nervous out there by himself.

At 4:30 the next morning, my husband got in our truck and drove all around the countryside looking for him. He found tracks – tire tracks leading down to the back part of the pasture. They showed where a vehicle had stopped, then turned around and headed back to the highway, and back to town. Cooper’s tracks, clearly visible in the mud left by the rain, were also plainly there to read. He had made his usual round of the pasture, but then the tracks disappeared.

Over the next sleepless night, and through the next day we drove around and searched everywhere – with no sign or hint as to what might have happened, although we were 99% positive someone had picked him up. I made up posters and hung them everywhere I could think of, including neighboring towns, offering a reward, and told everyone we came in contact with in the hopes that someone would spot him, or know who took him. We really didn’t think he would still be in the area because there had been a rash of dog thefts in the area and we suspected that someone would take him far away. We heard nothing until two weeks later, when we finally received a phone call from a man in town who had seen our dog.

Cooper had been wandering alone in the town of Raymond, Alberta, nervous and afraid. Obviously, he had gotten away from the thieves or been dropped off. We will never know the real reason for that.

John and his wife were going for a walk around 8:30 p.m. that Wednesday, and found him. They tried to entice him to come into their home, but Cooper was unsure, came in as far as the porch, and wanting to go home, turned and ran out again. When John opened the back of his truck, however, Cooper jumped right in, probably thinking he was going to go home. John didn’t know what to do with him, so he did the one thing that most people would do in this situation – he called the town’s bylaw officer and dogcatcher. The dog was picked up and taken to the place where dogs are held, so we were told – an old abandoned building on the outskirts of town. But from there the story becomes something out of a nightmare – for me anyway.

John had told the bylaw officer that he wanted to be notified if the dog was not claimed, as he would gladly keep him rather than see him put down. He was so friendly and was obviously a valuable, purebred dog and had been well taken care of. His coat was healthy, and well groomed; his eyes clear and teeth good. Anyone could recognize that this wasn’t just a mongrel, abandoned and alone, but a well-loved pet of some quality.

One week later, John received a call. It was the dogcatcher saying that the dog he had picked up had not been claimed, and if John could pay him a fee of over $300 (the actual price varies according to whom you talk to), he could come and get the dog. Sadly, John couldn’t pay that high a fine, and told the officer this. So on the 19th of September, one week after his disappearance from his home, Cooper was put to death. Rather than bringing him to someone who would gladly have taken the dog into his home, the officer chose instead to put him down. Had the town used a vet to put dogs to sleep, Cooper would be here at home with me now, because I had alerted many of the vets in the area to the fact that the dog had been stolen, and to watch for his tattoo number. The fees this dog catcher was asking were exorbitant, and killing the dog did not gain anything financially – so why? Why was he killed in cold blood? The town of Raymond will not answer these questions for us, and they won’t admit to how Cooper died – if he died. In fact, they did not respond at all to our letters that expressed our concern about how this case was handled. The town administrator would do nothing, even though his bylaw officer abused his authority in the fees he tried to charge, and neglected to properly inspect the dog for a tattoo. The Animal Rights and Protection Act states that if an animal even looks like a purebred, the officer must wait 10 days before putting the animal down, but they waited only seven.

We are fairly new to this area, and to Alberta. Not knowing where to look, or who to contact, I had called the Lethbridge Humane Society in my search for Cooper. They advised me to call the county bylaw officer – which led me to assume that he acted for the entire area, including the town. One should never assume anything, and so it is partially my own fault that Cooper was not identified while the town of Raymond had him in custody.

Raymond does not make its dog pound facility easily accessible or recognizable – or easily found. Had we been aware of the existence of the dog pound, this whole thing would have avoided. As it is, my husband and I drove by the place in our search a few times while my dog was still alive, with no way of knowing that this was an animal-holding facility, and that Cooper was inside. It certainly does not look like a dog pound. There are no signs, nothing to identify it. The building is boarded up, and sits on the site of the sewage disposal facility on a back road far from the main traffic area. A brand new sewage pump station sits on the site, and beside it the ramshackle old building that serves as their animal holding facility. There are no runs for animals, and no ventilation in the building. We are completely horrified to think that our happy, well-cared-for pet was kept prisoner in such inhumane conditions for seven days. The very fact that Raymond even has a dogcatcher and a dog pound is not made clear to anyone who is not a long term resident of the town, never mind to newcomers who live far from town. No one, of all the people I talked to about this, mentioned this fact.

No notices went out to try to find his rightful owners and advise the public of the fact that a dog was being held. The tattoo (plainly visible on the inside of his left flank to anyone who was really looking) was not checked with the Canadian Kennel Club to trace the people who loved him. In other places we have lived, the dog would be kept for 10 – 30 days (10 days here according to the Alberta SPCA) and be kept in a public facility, or, where the funds were not available to keep a facility, kept in private volunteer facilities, and notices put into the local paper – or some other method used to alert people to the presence of an unclaimed pet. No proper inspection took place to find a tattoo on an obviously well bred dog. Why? Instead all we are left with is a lot of questions: Did Cooper suffer before he died? Did he die instantly? There were no witnesses, so I don’t know. Was he sold to the highest bidder? Is this humane? The brutality of the way this was handled is beyond my comprehension.

Cooper was a family member who helped me through a fight with cancer this summer. He was such a comfort through the long days that I was bedridden because of the fatigue and illness after a chemo session, cheering me up with the antics that Airedales are well known for. My children called him an ‘animal whisperer’, and I just thought he was an angel in disguise. If there was anything at all that would bring him back to me, I would do it. I would have paid as much as I could to have him back.
The fact that a town has the right to kill at their own discretion, with only such a short waiting time; that they have not bothered to put into place some better plan of action for missing, lost and stolen pets, does not say a whole lot about the people who run these towns. It does say a lot about people who have lost their connection with nature and animals, and are concerned only with their own small world. Had an individual kept a dog prisoner in a building like that for any length of time at all, they would be reported and charged. Why is the town not willing to discipline one of its employees when he so obviously overstepped the bounds of his authority, and neglected to do his job. It cost Cooper his life and I for one, could not let this pass without doing something, and for the sake of ‘Skydales Flyin Cooper Special’, I WILL do all that I can.

Marti Adrian
Box 196
Raymond, AB, T0K 2S0
Ph:403-752-4977