I don't like to write negative stuff on this blog, so there's been a bit of radio silence this week while we've been dealing with something very nasty. However, we were told on Wednesday evening that we are in the clear, and its such a big relief that I feel like I have to share the news.
It all started last Friday when J got a phone call from our local ranger. J was actually on hold on another call at the time, so the conversation was pretty brief and we didn't get a lot of details, but the gist was that our dogs had been identified as being in a dog attack. (At the time we assumed a dog-on-dog attack, but it turned out to be a cat that was the victim.) J rang me on my way home from work, and we were really mystified about this. None of our dogs had managed to escape from the property and run amok, none of our dogs had been involved in any incidents during any walks, so we were confident that it wasn't our dogs. The ranger had told J that he was going to check in with other huskies registered in the area and acknowledged that some people don't register their dogs. We knew there were other huskies and mallies in the area, so we assumed he'd find someone else who'd had an escape.
However, he rang back on Tuesday. Not only were we the only registered huskies in the area, but he had a witness who believed the dogs had entered our property. I was, to put it mildly, pretty annoyed. We have gone to some lengths to ensure that our yard is completely escape-proof, including installing a hot wire, extra fencing, a metal pen with a dog-proof mesh in the floor, and always confining the dogs in the pen or the house when we're out. We have given our mobile numbers to neighbours in case one of our dogs gets into their yards, we've spoken to them about the noise when we're training, and we've tried to avoid letting our dogs howl or bark at unsociable times. (Something that is not always done by our neighbours, I might add.) J told me the neighbour who'd reported the dogs probably didn't realise the effort or the insult, and I shouldn't take it personally, but I did.
I was terribly terribly worried that our dogs would be seized for something they hadn't done. Once seized, dogs are often euthanised quickly, regardless of court cases or other attempts to get them home. We appeared to be being blamed because we had registered our dogs, and the ranger hasn't found anyone else with huskies registered within 500m radius of the attack location. (I did point out to him that expecting a husky to stay within 500m of home when the local park system runs the length of a major commuter freeway was sheer ignorant folly, but he declined to expand the search area, citing time constraints.)
Or, possibly we'd been blamed because of the trailer in the front yard, emblazoned with "Siberian husky sled dog racing team". Or perhaps the neighbours have watched me walk the dogs over the summer. Or perhaps someone in the local neighbourhood had stumbled across this blog and worked out that it belonged to our household. I felt awful that I might have contributed to this risk to our dogs through my writing.
When the ranger told us of the date and time of the attack, I was even more upset. If the attack had happened on a work day, the dogs would have been in their pens, both of which have CCT cameras recording all the time. We would have been able to demonstrate their whereabouts without any issues. However, the attack had occurred on a Saturday morning, several weeks ago. We could immediately both confirm the whereabouts of our dogs at the time - at that time of almost any Saturday, they are on their dog beds, which are in our bedroom. No way were the dogs out. But it was our word versus the witness' word - unsurprisingly, we don't have CCTV in the bedroom!
It also transpired that the ranger had been on our property when we'd been at work. He freely admitted having come in and inspected the dogs in their respective pens. On one hand this was rather shocking, having someone trespass and invade our privacy. On the other hand, he was impressed with our set up and acknowledged that our level of care supported our claims that our dogs had not been out. I was pretty unimpressed, but he was very frank about it and when we looked it up, our by-laws state that the ranger is allowed to enter a property in cases of an animal in distress or causing a nuisance.
From all of this, I have come to realise that being a ranger is a truly thankless task. I mean, I believe in registering animals (although I wish councils did more for animal-orientated facilities with the registration fees) and having a standard for animal living conditions that is enforced. I was upset and offended at being accused of letting my dogs let loose to harm a cat, but I was glad that there was someone in authority who was trying to ensure that animals weren't running lose and causing problems. I got the distinct impression that the ranger was a little bit pleased to deal with people who were trying to be calm and polite about his investigation - his fence-climbing technique suggested he was used to dealing with people who weren't keen on inviting him in to see their facilities.
But what we were really unhappy about was that, while on our property, he had taken photos of our dogs and then showed them to the two witnesses. One had immediately said they couldn't be sure. The other had identified one of our dogs as one of the pair that they had seen. This person wasn't a dog owner, and the ranger told us he believed they had no special knowledge about huskies. But now, they had a picture in their minds that they believed was the same as one of the dogs that had been standing over the dead cat, that Saturday morning.
When I'm at obedience, I'm sometimes asked where my husband S is. Initially, I was baffled, then I met S, and his wife (also initial S). She and I don't actually look that much alike, but we both have dark pony tails and tend to wear big sunglasses. We both handle huskies, but I'm working Czar, a rather tall "wolf grey" and she is working with Smudge, who is a smaller and more excitable red. If people I see most weekends can confuse me with someone taller, skinnier, prettier and younger, with a totally different coloured husky, I don't have that much faith in the ability of a witness off the street. The witness had seen these dogs standing over a cat, being chased off by a someone. Could the witness reliably pick the right dog out of a line up weeks later, if it was actually there? Probably not. Could the witness recognise a dog she'd been shown recently in a decent head shot photo? Much more likely.
Reluctantly, we agreed to the ranger's request to allow him to bring the witness over to meet the dogs face to face. We both spoke to him at length about this, but ultimately felt that refusing to cooperate would be worse than persisting to state that the dogs hasn't been out. One friend suggested we schedule the meeting for a Saturday, and ask our friends to bring their huskies to a local park to participate in a husky line-up. The image of our local, well fenced, off lead park packed with huskies of all colours was very tempting, and the idea of having the support of our friends was very reassuring. But we decided not to make a fuss.
In the end, total anticlimax. The ranger arrived alone, and apologised. The witness appeared to have forgotten all about coming over for an ID, and was not at home when the ranger attempted to pick her up. He said that he was prepared to drop the case, we had satisfied him that our dogs were not out, were never without their collars, and he felt he had done his due diligence in investigating. Such a huge relief that after we closed the door behind him, I lay on the carpet and let the dogs lick my face and hands for a long long time.