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					                                                                                 M Y       W O R D
                                                                         BY LAURA DEUTSCH




                                                           Canine Court
                                                               All’s fair in dog and parking disputes



S
           parky the Airedale was my             open the large, surreal eggs, imagin-         I’ve consulted with a veterinarian. A             “Have the dog stand up, so I can
           first client to stand trial. It       ing I’d find a downy duckling or may-         dog is likely to get agitated if forced to    see his size,” Johnny demanded.
           was 1973 and I had just               be a pair of Hanes pantyhose.                 appear at trial. It will be highly prejudi-       “Sorry,” I replied. “He can’t just
           passed the bar. According to              “I want a trial!” Mr. Gutierrez told      cial.” I didn’t mention that Dr. Scott,       now.”
           the lawsuit, the “aforemen-           his lawyer, Johnny Martinez, who also         the vet, had informed me that Airedales           “What’s going on?” Johnny’s voice
tioned animal hereinafter referred to            happened to be his son-in-law.                could be exuberant.                           was so shrill, I was afraid it might set off
as ‘dog’ ” had collided with, knocked                “See you in court,” Johnny in-                “Sounds reasonable,” said the             other dogs in the neighborhood. “This
down and otherwise upset Alberto                 formed me.                                    judge. I breathed. Then he added.             dog is on something!”
Gutierrez*, next-door neighbor to                    I accompanied Mrs. Moreno to the          “You will bring the dog to the park               The next morning in court, John-
Sparky and his owner, Mrs. Carmen                scene of the alleged assault. From Mr.                                                      ny jumped up. “Your honor, she
Moreno. It was a far more innocent               Gutierrez’s recounting, I half-expect-                                                      drugged the dog!”
time for dogs then, but not for neigh-           ed a chalk outline of his body on the                                                           “True, counselor?”
bors vying for parking.                          sidewalk. Instead I saw a black card-                                                           “Of course, your honor. The vet
    Mr. Gutierrez, a grayed-out, retired         board sign, “Beware of Dog” in day-                                                         said it would be best for the dog to be
Muni driver, 76, had rapped on Mrs.              glow orange letters, hangingon the                                                          medicated to deal with traumatic cir-
Moreno’s door one late afternoon to re-          chain-link fence that surrounded Mrs.                                                       cumstances. Besides, you ordered
quest, as he frequently did, that she            Moreno’s hard dirt front yard.                                                              Sparky to appear solely so the jury
move her car from his spot on the street.            “Stand outside the fence. Sparky                                                        could see his size, not demeanor.”
    “It’s not his spot! It’s the street!”        gets very happy when he sees people.”                                                           “Yes. Let’s proceed.”
Mrs. Moreno, a rotund yet sprightly              She ushered me to the curb, closing the                                                         The trial unfolded as smoothly as
78-year-old snapped, as she relayed the          gate between us. “He’s big.”                                                                any based on a 42-year parking space
facts to me. “He thinks if he puts out               My lifetime pet experience consist-                                                     battle where a dog is subpoenaed to
those orange cones he bought at Good-            ed of a turtle the size of a silver dollar                                                  testify.
man’s that makes it his space. Madre de          and a parakeet who never left his cage.                                                         Johnny entered Mr. Gutierrez’s
Dios. He just comes over to annoy me.            I obliged.                                                                                  pants into evidence. “See how they
Been doing it for 42 years.”                         When she unlocked her front                                                             ripped when the dog knocked him
    “She took the chain off the door so          door, Sparky tore out, a wiry blur of         across from City Hall where the jury          down!”
the dog could knock me down!” yelled             tan and black, truly unleashed. Bark-         will view him, solely to observe his              Later, the jurors marched down
Mr. Gutierrez in our heated pretrial             ing with gusto, he threw himself              size, not demeanor, to determine              City Hall’s steps to view the star wit-
settlement conference. “Como un tigre,           against the fence.                            whether he could have knocked Mr.             ness. Leash held by my colleague,
me atacó!” Mr. Gutierrez lunged across               “I thought you said he was friendly,” I   Gutierrez down.”                              Sparky, model pet, stood motionless,
my desk, his few remaining teeth bared,          shrieked.                                         I envisioned Sparky across from           calm and seemingly alert.
to demonstrate.                                      “That’s how he shows it."                 City Hall, straining at his leash, yelp-          After a verdict for Mrs. Moreno, a
    “Sparky’s just friendly.” Mrs.                   Our defense would rely on the             ing at terrified jurors.                      miffed Johnny interviewed the fore-
Moreno’s knitting needles clacked like           posted warning, Mr. Gutierrez’s                   “What can we do?” I asked Dr.             man.
Gene Krupa on speed as she purled a              knowledge of Sparky’s “friendly” be-          Scott.                                            “We didn’t believe Gutierrez,” he
row of magenta yarn for Sparky’s win-            havior, and Mrs. Moreno’s testimony               “We could tranquilize him to help         said. “No blood on his pants. And that
ter vest. “Besides, you were on my               that Sparky was a harmless pup.               him cope with the trauma of trial. I’ll       dog was, well ... That dog was posi-
property.”                                           We had a decent shot until Sparky         give Sparky a shot today, to make sure        tively tranquil.” ♦
    I hoped Mr. Gutierrez would drop             received a subpoena, ordering him to          we get the dosage right for his appear-
his suit, since Mrs. Moreno lived on             appear in court.                              ance tomorrow.”                               * Some names have been changed.
the edge of poverty. Our storefront                  “What? You’re going make me                   Johnny came to view Sparky that           Laura Deutsch’s writing has appeared in
law office in the Mission was repre-             cross-examine a dog?” I yelled through        evening. Unfortunately, Dr. Scott had         the New York Times, The San Francisco
senting her at no charge. Each time              the phone at Johnny Martinez.                 overshot the mark. When I arrived,            Chronicle, More Magazine, San Francis-
she came by, my grateful client                      “I want the jury to see this beast        Sparky lay in Mrs. Moreno’s yard, four        co magazine and other publications. No
brought a gift of eggs, laid by the              with their own eyes,” he replied.             legs splayed out, eyes glazed, his grin-      dogs or humans were harmed in the writ-
ducks in her backyard. I never cracked               I opposed the motion. “Your honor,        ning head lolling to one side.                ing of this article.

20 S AN F RANCISCO C HRONICLE M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 26, 2006                                                                                       I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y G E O R G E R U S S E L L

				
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