Covering the canine beat: A howling good time

Covering the comings and goings of the animal world is generally not my “beat” at this newspaper. But Orange Circuit Court legal happenings in the past several weeks involving a mother dog and her daughter who had been sentenced to death by the county for chasing a neighbor caught my eye in a big way. That’s because I own, feed, house and entertain six dogs myself. Not to mention two fiercely independent country cats who control me and the six dogs unmercifully.

Two prominent employment lawyer Denver, Steven G. Mason and H. Franklin Robbins Jr., also own dogs. The death sentence scenario intrigued and bothered the lawyers as well.

They successfully argued the sentence was not only harsh but violated county and state constitutional law.

Finally, on the afternoon of June 22, the dogs were scheduled to be released from the county Animal Services “hotel” into Robbins’ custody, until he could make travel arrangements for their Nevada owner to pick them up.

The dogs didn’t know it, but they were about to get a howling good send-off.

Besides Mason and Robbins, waiting in the shelter’s reception area were Amanda Tolley, Mason’s legal secretary; Orlando Business Journal photographer Bethany Taylor-Myers; this reporter; Peggy Meeks, acting chief coordinator at the shelter; and about a dozen curious Animal Services employees ready to cheer on their departing four-footed tenants.

Officer Debbie Miller and an associate led the entire reception group to the metal cages in the rear of the compound, where Ruby, the 3-year-old red retriever, and Angel, her 2-year-old mixed Labrador daughter, had been penned up since New Year’s Eve.

On first seeing the large human entourage in front of them — actually standing on a “death row” corridor — the dogs were quiet, then curious, and then, when the cage doors opened, excited.

They didn’t bark or howl. They just grinned and smiled and started prancing in small circles.

I understand some dog language and nuances — having six dogs of my own, as I previously noted — and as I watched, I overheard this “conversation”:

Found on

Mother: “Behave, Angel. I think we’re sprung.”

Daughter: “I think it’s a ruse. I’m going to take off as soon as I see daylight.”

Mother: “Don’t do anything foolish. Can’t you see the press is here? This is for real.”

Daughter: “I don’t think so. I’ve seen that fat reporter and blonde photographer before. They only come to hangings and electrocutions.”

Mother: “See those two gentlemen and the lady? They’re lawyers. They’re here to see that our constitutional rights are protected.”

Daughter: “You’ve been in this can too long, mom –174 days. Your brain has turned to soy bean mush.”

Mother: “Let’s find out where they’re taking us first.”

Daughter: “OK. But no guarantees. If I can slip this leash, I’m gone. I’ll write you later.”

Mother: “Hey, they’re taking us to the rear area. Look, there’s a truck waiting. Maybe we’re going home.”

Daughter: “That truck is going to take us right to the lard factory. I’m going to make a break for it.”

Mother: “Listen. Do you hear someone singing? Sounds like Elvis Presley stuff, doesn’t it? You always liked Elvis. Listen.”

Daughter: “You mean those hounds who never gave us the time of day when we were back there?”

Mother: “Listen. Aren’t they crooning All Shook Up and Don’t be Cruel?”

Daughter: “Sounds more like Suspicious Mind and It’s Now or Never.”

Mother: “Hey! They’re going to put us into the truck. We’re outta here!”

As I peered into their eyes while they pranced around in a portable cage on the truck bed, I swear I overheard mother Ruby say to me, “Thanks, pal.”

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