the incident- the days that followed

September 27, 2012

If you haven’t read the first post in “the incident” series, then this post may not make much sense.  This is the continuation of a very long story.

First, though, I’ll answer some questions that I got, here on the blog and elsewhere, as a result of the last post.  Some people have asked why Dan didn’t do more to get Cooper to release his bite.  I didn’t elaborate in my previous post, but Dan was not only on top of Cooper- he had his hands in his mouth, he was poking him in the eye, he was getting bit by the beagle- in other words, he was doing everything he could to get Coop to release.  Had we another moment to find a stick, Dan would have been able to jam the stick into Coopers mouth and get some leverage to pry it open.  However, someone with a gun did not afford us that extra moment.

Some people are going to look at this and jump to conclusions about Cooper.  If you read the comments section in the last post, you’ll see that I describe Cooper’s breed mix- he has the bounciness of his boxer breed,  the beautiful coloring, along with the hunting instincts, of his german shorthaired pointer breed… and his size?… well, his size is most likely attributed to some mastiff mixed into there.  What this mix means is that when around smaller animals his hunting instincts kick in.  There’s many times we’ve seen him go “on point” when catching the scent of something in the air, or stare with intensity at something far off in the distance that we are unable to see.  Unlike stuffed toys with squeaky boxes in them (which Cooper loves to dismantle and spread all around the house), when he is focused on an animal his intent is only to finish the job a (human) hunter has already started.  As a hunting dog he does not seek out small victims to viciously maim and kill and tear to pieces, and he has demonstrated this when he has caught woodchucks in the vineyard where we work.  He grabs it, shakes it, and is done with it.  There was never a point where he wanted to “eat” the beagle.

(Any time you look at pet adoption sites, and see a dog listed as “not ok with cats”, this is exactly the kind of stuff they are talking about.  It’s common.)

He is also the kind of dog that doesn’t have a very acute sense of pain.  I know other people with dogs like this- where he can be bouncing around the house and clock his head against a very hard piece of furniture, or a door jam, or something equally as solid, and it does not faze him at all.  This contributed to the difficulty Dan experienced with trying to get Cooper’s jaws to open.

I’ll also take a moment to point out that almost instantly after the incident- specifically, while Dan was laying on Cooper when the sheriff arrived on the scene- Dan was immediately adamant that he wanted to be kept up to date on the beagle’s condition and expenses.  He wanted to pay for everything that needed to be done to take care of the dog.  He repeated this to the vet, to the investigator who took our statements (probably a couple times), to everyone we spoke to the next day… you’d expect that if there was residential mail delivery where we lived, then Dan would be asking the mailman if he had an update on the beagle’s condition and expenses.  It was assumed that the bills would be presented and paid for.  This is an important fact to remember as we dive down the rabbit hole that is the remainder of the story.

Now, let’s pick up where we left off.  Trust me, you really aren’t able to imagine everything else that has resulted from this one incident.  Grab a drink and a snack kiddies, we’re going to be here for a while again.

Cooper was, amazingly, able to come home the afternoon of the following day.  We picked him up from the vet, and, although his demeanor was still rather subdued, he was very excited to head home.  We needed to make a couple stops around town, including a quick visit with the sheriff so Cooper could say hi, and we were on our way home for the night.

With a bag of rainbow colored bandages and a cone for around his neck, the following day or two went by without much incident.  He was cooperative and willing when we needed to change is bandages, which was 3 times a day, and we couldn’t help ourselves in documenting the situation with photos, debating as to which color suited him the best.

And this is where things start to heat up.  We were wondering about the condition of the beagle- initially we were surprised to hear that it was taken to a vet out of town, but later we learned that the owner (granddaughter of the woman who was walking the dog) had worked at the clinic at some point, which explains why the beagle was taken there (presuming that it had been treated there previously).  We were also wondering about what charges were being brought against the shooter…

This is where two separate stories begin to take shape, even though they are essentially intertwined.  I am going to do my best to tell the stories separately, only because they will be less confusing, but there will be parts where I’ll have to reference the other part of the story, which may not make sense until later, but in the end you will see how this whole thing comes together and makes for one gigantic fucked up situation…

In less than a week after the incident, Dan is presented with an appearance ticket and a court date to determine if Cooper is a dangerous dog.  This is essentially a trial for Cooper’s life.  The owner (? possibly not the owner, it could have been the woman walking the dog, ie, the owner’s grandmother) of the beagle has asked the village court to review the situation, and it’s clear the end result is that they would like to see Cooper put down.

The date was set for July 19th, just over a week after the incident.  Dan and I spent the days leading up to it talking to an attorney, learning about what might be presented at the trial, and what we could do in defense for Cooper. We talked to people and got stories and photos of Cooper interacting with kids and families and other dogs- one of which provided the photo to the right- and we also purchased a muzzle.  We weren’t sure of anything, but we knew it was a good initiative to take.  We also spent a fair amount of time just enjoying Coopers company, because- although we didn’t talk about it- we both knew this felt like a witch hunt, and there were people looking for blood.  (There have been notices attached to residents water bills, notifying them of “vicious dog attacks” in their neighborhood, and recommending them to report any incident they are involved with.)

For the trial itself Dan asked 2 people who both had children and pets that had interacted with Cooper to be present- we didn’t think having a flood of people trail us in would be necessary.  As we walked into the tiny Town of Torrey courtroom we learned that this was a prudent decision, only because the room was filled with people, most of whom I did not recognize, and many were people that Dan was only able to say he’d seen around town.  The trial itself was quick- only people present for the incident were allowed to speak.  I understand that transcripts of trials are available to the public, (albeit expensive), so although I can not recount word for word what was said (which none of you actually want to read anyway), I can tell you that the woman who was walking the beagle spoke first.  She spoke calmly, and passionately, but there were extreme exaggerations in her story.  (Refer back to the first post for what I experienced and see the discrepancies- I won’t waste time re-writing it all here.)  Not only did she say that she heard Dan and I talking in the backyard while walking the dogs, but she says that both dogs were circling her and that one dogs leash tied up her ankles.  (I didn’t mention this before- but both dogs have leashes that retract into the handle case, so when a person is not holding the case it’s dangling from the dog’s neck, not dragging along the ground.)  Needless to say it seemed clear that she was trying to make a case that THE DOGS were after HER, and her dog.

I digress.  The trial moved along- I recounted only the parts of the story that I felt needed clarification from the initial version told to the court, and Dan gave his entire account of the incident.  With each description, the judge stopped us at the part where we (all three of us) brought up the guy with the gun shooting Cooper in the head.  She made it clear that that was a separate incident, and was not part of Cooper’s dangerous dog trial.  She made a verbal agreement with Dan that when Cooper is outside that he be contained and muzzled (this part is 100% documented- it was not a “court order” or something that he has been “required” to do, as some have intimated- it is an agreement between the judge and Dan.)  She also strongly recommended to the woman walking the beagle that she present Dan with the vet bills and ask that they be paid.  The judge then in turn told Dan that he should “be a sport” and take care of the bills when they were presented to him.

There was also a moment at the end of the proceedings where the judge asked if there was anything else that needed to be discussed, and a gentleman uninvolved in the incident spoke up and requested permission to ask a question, to which the judge succinctly replied “No.”  However, he disregarded this response and continued talking anyway, asking if the court should take more consideration upon the “fact” that Dan was unable to get his dog to release, thereby proving that Cooper was truly dangerous… and the judge simply told him this was not something that had any bearing on the case.

(Isn’t it nice a concerned resident felt he needed to point out extra things to the judge, in case she hadn’t heard everything, and suggest that she may have had an error in judgement?)

We left the court feeling that the judge had ruled fairly and evenly, and also that we needed to watch over our shoulder because clearly the town had it out for us and Cooper.

My need for detail is at odds with my desire to really put the meat and potatoes out there about the severe wrong-ness that has stemmed from all of this.  There’s so many more little bits pieces from the trial that I really feel are excessively relevant… but… if you want trial details, some of it can be found in the solid article at the Chronicle website.  I can also offer those specifics, if asked for, in the comments section below.

Backtracking momentarily…  Because of the hateful things the shooter said about Dan the night of the incident, neither he nor I were feeling comfortable about living less than a football field away from this guy.  His initial hearing for shooting the gun was scheduled immediately preceding Cooper’s trial.  Dan requested that an order of protection be served against the shooter, preventing him from coming in contact with Dan at his home, place of employment, etc.  (It does not list me on the order, but as I live and work at the same place as Dan, it essentially protects me as well.)  Included in this order was a requirement to surrender all firearms.  Dan and I were not present for the hearing, but I will quote directly from an article published by the Chronicle Express for how this went down: “When the judge asked for the number of weapons he possessed, he estimated it was fewer than 15.”  The article also quotes the shooter, “Upon hearing [the order to surrender all firearms], the shooter said, ‘They’re going to need a truck or something.’”

Is it just me, or does anyone else’s brain instinctually have the Beavis and Butthead chuckle “Heh heh.. heh…heheh” in their head upon hearing that?!  ”They’re going to need a truck or something.  Hehehh heh… heh heh heh.”  I can’t help it.  I hear that little addendum every single time I read or hear that quote from the shooter.

Moving on, remember that the judge has told the beagle people that they should present Dan with the vet bills, and that if Dan is not “a sport” about it, and it comes across her desk in small claims court, she will require Dan to pay these bills.

Dan starts getting funny phone calls from an insurance adjustor, but is hesitant to return the calls because it’s not clear what it’s in regards to.  Eventually he learns from his insurance company locally that his homeowners policy has been “put on notice” by the beagle family- they are skipping right over the opportunity to be legit humans, and going right for the cash cow- the insurance company.  (We actually learned that she- the woman walking the beagle- used “resources” (friends) in the insurance industry to find out who Dan’s insurer was, and contacted them less than 24 hours after the incident.  They came to Coopers trial- that they asked for- and sat and listened to the judge suggest they ask Dan to pay for the vet bills, knowing that they were already sittin’ pretty.  Lovely.)

Within one month, Dan learns that his company has paid out $X to the claimants, and has, as a result of the incident, decided to drop Dan from their coverage.

There was never any opportunity, despite all his requests, despite the recommendation by the judge, for Dan to pay the bills.

Exacerbating the situation- it was a bit of a surprise one day when I heard from a brother of a friend, who wanted to make sure I knew about a very strange interaction he recently had.  He was receiving an acupuncture treatment, and in conversation with his specialist he learned that she also did acupuncture on pets.  Intrigued, he asked for details- how it was done, what kind of ailments were treated by acupuncture, etc.  This is where the acupuncturist began to detail for him how she was going to do some work on a beagle… that has a skin issue stemming from a recent dog attack… and it’s a friend of hers… so she’s going to do all this work for free… but write a fake bill so that her friend can get money back for it.

Connect the dots.  The beagle family chose to not present the bills to Dan directly.  They have instead presented this fake bill to the insurance company.  I believe that is called: insurance fraud.

We’ve contacted Dan’s local insurance broker with these details, who has forwarded on the information to the insurance company itself.  My friend’s brother is more than willing to tell the full story to a judge… or even just an investigator… but no one has contacted him.  Our concern is that with so many small claims out there, it’s likely that the company will consider this a cost of doing business- easier (and less expensive) to pay out a small claim than to investigate, regardless of the legalities.  But in truth, this is costing us money.  Dan is being dropped from his current policy because of this claim.  We are trying to sell the house and move  (far, far away!), but there will likely be a gap in coverage.  Getting picked up by a new provider may prove to be difficult.  It’s gone from fully willing to pay for bills (and strongly recommended by the judge that the bills be presented for payment), to never having the option to pay the bills, to being concerned about insurance coverage.  That’s an odd flow of events.

There’s so much more!  What of the shooter in all of this?  We know that every time the beagle family tells the story it gets more and more exaggerated… and that the shooter “saved the dogs life”.  I’ll be the asshole and say it- Dan saved the beagle’s life, not the guy with the gun.  Remember?  The beagles’s head was right there too.  The luck that the beagle wasn’t hit by a stray bullet is the same luck by which Dan wasn’t hit by a stray bullet.  And yet… there are people writing letters in his “defense” to the court saying that his actions, while possibly an “overreaction” (yes, quoted from a letter to the judge) were justified and that we “…need more Americans like him.”

Because Cooper did not die, there is no felony charge against the shooter.  As it was a singular incident, there can not be multiple charges of reckless endangerment.  There were DEC charges that amounted to fines- from what I understand they were hunting laws (firing from a roadway, firing in 500′ of a residence).  I’m pretty sure that’s it.

The final (?) trial for the shooter is scheduled for next week.  Although there are many I know that are unsettled by this entire incident, in our community it seems there has not been substantial concern over human life in regards to responsible gun ownership- rather, there is an unmitigated fear about walking small dogs around the neighborhood.  Concern for your pets is legitimate, I will not discount that- but a fear of large dogs should not allow people to justify hate and poor judgment.

We have no civil case filed against the shooter.  Dan continues to suffer from hearing issues that stem from having a gun fired less than 2′ from his face, but the only expectation is that restitution be made for the cost of doctors bills, along with vet bills for Cooper.  We don’t feel the need to add to the lawsuit happy culture that has overcome society these days.

Our hope is for a simple and straightforward outcome – the gun ownership rights of the shooter should be revoked.  There is value in allowing citizens to arm themselves, responsibly.  Once someone has demonstrated a lack of sound judgement and responsibility with their firearms, it is foolish to allow them continued ownership.  A community that permits a man, whose actions are only differentiated between a felony and a misdemeanor by the luck of a dog with a thick skull, to get back his 15 guns (hehheh… heh… heh), is a community that can do nothing but expect more of the same in the future.

Note, like the last post-  the comment section is moderated by me.  Comments (directed at me, at others involved in the incident, or at fellow commenters), that are vicious, malicious, inappropriate, or generally deemed by me to be unfriendly will not be approved.  Also, anonymous comments will not be permitted.  Play nice, but please- share your thoughts, and share this story.


  • Renee

    I was speechless and appalled then and I am now.  People are awful and my only reconciliation with tat is a belief in karma.  And a hope that it’s waaaay worse for them when it come around.  And Kyle, I dig your writing!  Well done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255140608 David Nelson

    Holy cow!  I had no idea this was even happening.  And as someone who is for responsible gun ownership, I could not agree on your last points more.  I often find that I cannot understand people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255140608 David Nelson

    Holy cow!  I had no idea this was even happening.  And as someone who is for responsible gun ownership, I could not agree on your last points more.  I often find that I cannot understand people.

  • Redwinemaker

    As Dan’s father I am pleased that you both have taken the position of not joining the law-suit happy party.  However I do think that if the shooter gets away with a slap on the wrist and gets his guns back you may want to reconsider.  On another subject, your writing, you should be trying to do more of it.  You”re good!  Chuck

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