Dog Day Afternoon

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A True Story

In an earlier post, I described one of my experiences working in a veterinary clinic while I was in high school 50 years ago. On another occasion while employed at that clinic, I had just obtained my drivers license. As a vet treating sick animals, occasionally a animal would have to be “put down”. Behind the clinic was a cement block building which the vet referred to as the “annex”. In the dead of winter, we used that building to store those animals which had passed away and they stayed frozen until it was time to dispose of them.

Since I had just obtained my drivers license, the vet asked me if I would be interested in taking those animals to the rendering facility across town. I jumped at the chance of driving the clinic vehicle. It was a Mercury Comet,

used exclusively for that purpose. It was a stick shift, “bare bones” vehicle with vinyl seat covers, and not especially “cool” to be seen in by my teenage friends. But, it was a car, nonetheless, and it gave me an opportunity to drive. So, I jumped at the chance to go on this errand.

The vet gave me the keys and asked me if I could back it up to the “annex”, and I told him, “of course I can.” So as I backed up to that building, the vet opened the door and dogs came spilling out. It was quite full.

We began placing dogs in the trunk and filled it to capacity. Then, we began to fill the back seat until that area was full and I began to realize why this car was dedicated to one and only one task as you would not want to use your car for this purpose.

We had two dogs which would not fit in the back seat, so I placed them on the front seat next to me. The vet then gave me directions to the facility and told me that I would be near the city limits and would have to turn several times off the main street and down an alley. He told me that the facility was closed on Saturdays but that there was a loading dock at the back of the building where I should unload the animals and on Monday the employees would take care of them at that time.

As I was driving across town, I noticed a station wagon in the lane to my right. There were two young boys in the back seat of that car trying to get their mother to turn her attention toward the Comet as they could see the animals in it. At that time, I wished I have covered them with blankets – but, it was too late for that. So, as fast as I could, I made my way across town. The vet told me that the facility was closed on Saturdays, but there was a loading dock at the back of the building where I should unload the animals. And, I did what I was told.

The following Saturday, when I reported to work, the vet called me to his front office and told me that he had a very interesting call that previous Monday. He said the sheriff had called to see if he knew of the origin of a pile of dead cats and dogs left at the ____ soup warehouse? Of course, he did!

To this day, I try to imagine what the newspaper headlines would have read had those animals been discovered by a competing soup company? In this day and age, it would have been on a video and gone “viral” within minutes of the discovery. 50 years ago, it was resolved without fanfare and I wasn’t asked to be on TV or worse yet, been charged with some sort of malicious act of animal cruelty. I fear in this day and age a prosecutor may be tempted to advance the cause of a particular faction for political advantage, and for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, when I worked as a public defender, I would often find the prosecutor to be very reasonable and doing what he or she could to seek justice. I would often see individuals who engaged in activity that frequently was the outcome of peer dynamics; this was particularly true of young offenders. When alone, the same person would not have done what they did. Fortunately, there are some laws allowing youth a second chance and an opportunity to cleanse themselves of a permanent criminal record. But, today, I fear the rush by the media and pressures on the prosecutors to get re-elected often play out in ways that seem to fly in the face of justice. “Good people do bad things.” I often heard this repeated while I worked in the PD’s office. One solution, in my opinion, would be to rotate the same attorneys between prosecution and defense at random. It if could be done that way, I believe, justice would be a more frequent outcome in our judicial system.

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