Sunday, September 27, 2009


If this were a video, you’d be hearing “Running with the Pack,” by Bad Company.

In August of 2009, I got a call from my friend and neighbor, Jerry, to warn me there was a pack of pit bulls running wild in the area. They had killed his neighbor’s longtime cat, a beautiful longhair, named Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty’s owner, Ruth, saw these dogs destroy her cat.

She was too terrified of the dogs to attempt a rescue. “There was a big nursing-bitch, just full of milk. She had small puppies with her, and several black-and-white adult dogs, too. They shook my little cat like she was a rag doll!”

Yet another neighbor, an older woman, just made it into her house when these dogs went after her in her yard. Though not bitten, she spent three days in the hospital with a heart condition caused by the trauma.

My neighbor Jerry had a Labrador retriever named Sammy. I watched this dog grow from a puppy, to a teenage terror that got into the trash -- and everything else – carrying his trophies about proudly. He dug up unknown objects, leaving them at the kitchen door, and after swimming in Jerry’s pond, happily rubbed green pond slime and mud on everyone. In the past year, Sammy graduated from all things puppy, and became a large, dignified dog that Jerry and his wife, Pinky, adored.

When I was over there for a drink one time, Pinky said, “Sammy makes me feel safe when I’m outside working the garden. He’s always at my side.”

But this week, the pack came through and left Sammy looking like “a piece of ground meat.” It happened while Jerry and Pinky weren’t home. Jerry found Sammy still alive.

Four thousand bucks worth of vet bills later, Sammy died.

Across the country road from Jerry and Ruth’s homes is our ten-acre farm, which is surrounded by 250 lonely acres of parkland. My dog Rosco, a certified mutt, is about the size of a border collie. My two Thoroughbred colts are only foals, one of them not even weaned yet. Knowing this pack of dogs can show up any time, day or night, left me shaken and fearful. I took to carrying my revolver with me whenever I’d go out to feed the horses or do farm chores. Always listening, I’d sometimes hear dogs barking and yipping in the distance.

Jerry called Prince Georges County Animal Control after Miss Kitty died. He and the animal control officer thought the dogs came from a place on Chew Road, the next road over. Animal control had earlier found a bunch of dogs in a wire pen at a home on that road. The dogs fit Ruth’s description of the pack that killed Miss Kitty. Animal Control said they’d already cited this family, and after Sammy was attacked, they cited these irresponsible people again. But the law states that a dog must be found loose without tags to be taken into the animal control facility. These dogs run home, get locked up, and are not easily touched by the law.

Yesterday morning, Jerry shot and killed two dogs when a pack of nine stormed his yard and went after his chickens. Being a retired Prince Georges County homicide detective, Jerry’s a good shot and always armed. He called me about ten o’clock, and he sounded upset. I put Rosco’s leash on, put him in the car with me, and drove right over.

Pinky was there with the neighbor who’d been chased into her house by the pit bulls, and a Prince Georges County Animal Control van was parked in the driveway. A small black-and-white puppy lay dead on the ground with a bullet hole in its side. The other dog had apparently made it into the woods and down a steep bank to the creek before dying from his gunshot wound. The rest of the pack had fled through the woods toward Chew Road.

Pinky said the animal control officer was down in the creek with Jerry and Ruth, who was looking to see if the dead dog was one of those that killed Miss Kitty.

Rosco and I worked our way down there through the woods, following the sound of voices and avoiding briars and vines as best we could. The mosquitoes were terrible. We found the people on the bank staring at an adult black-and-white dog that lay dead in the creek.

Ruth said it was one of the dogs that killed her cat.

The uniformed animal control officer introduced herself as Kim Montgomery. She had blond hair with pink streaks, pierced ears, and tattoos of dogs on her arms. She told me later they were various dogs she’d owned that had passed from old age.
She took off her boots and socks, and rolled up her jeans, revealing more tattoos on her legs.

She clambered down into the creek, tied a rope around the dog’s head and dragged it up the bank, through the woods and back to her van.

I felt bad that I’d brought Rosco, for when Kim dragged the dog past us, Rosco sat down and started whining. But I’d been afraid to let him out of my sight.

We followed Kim and watched while she put the dogs inside compartments in the van. She said she knew where the dogs came from on Chew Road. She was going to the house to ask the people if the dead dogs belonged to them.

Chew road is a tough, shanty town area and I knew the people down there wouldn’t look kindly on a county officer butting into their lives.

I studied Kim. She appeared about thirty. And though she looked sturdy and tough, she wasn’t a big or tall woman by any means.

“Do you have any backup?” I asked her.

She rolled her eyes. “There’s only three of us working the whole county.”

“Do you want some help?” I asked.

“No. I can take care of it.”

I wanted to go with her, but knew better than to ask.

She left in her van, and I climbed up the steps to Jerry’s deck where we sat and drank coffee. Rosco was very alert about the coffee, thinking maybe he should have some.

After a while, Jerry started talking about Sammy. Though he’s seen more homicide victims than I ever want to think about, he almost broke down.

“I’m upset,” he said, “because they killed my damn dog, and I just shot a puppy.”

I felt terrible for him. “Jerry,” I said. “I’m glad you killed those dogs. Only one bullet each. It was good work. That puppy never knew what hit him. Besides, he’s been running with that pack, killing things. Those little puppies are like a school of piranhas!”

By this time, Rosco was pressing against my leg, wondering what was wrong with the humans. I gave him a hug and said it was time to go home.

Jerry called me this morning and told me that officer Kim Montgomery did go to the home on Chew Road. By herself. The woman who lived there admitted they owned the dogs. She said her two daughters, both in their twenties, were out of control and she couldn’t make them do anything about the dogs. But the daughters weren’t at home, and Kim loaded all the dogs she found into her van. Five new dogs and the two dead ones were taken into animal control.

I’m unsure of how many dogs are still at large, but I am very grateful to Jerry and Kim. Jerry has calmed down, and Pinky, Ruth and I are less afraid.

But that Kim, I don’t think she’s afraid of anything.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Barry G. Wiseman, assistant trainer to Jonathan Sheppard, leads just as well in the paddock before the Northern Dancer. Julien Leparoux up.

Though Just As Well Won the $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf (Can-IT) Stake Due to Marsh Side’s Disqualification, a Review of the Race Shows Jonathan Sheppard’s Colt to be Much the Best!

Following a lengthy inquiry, Ontario Racing Commission stewards decided that the Neil Drysdale trainee Marsh Side, clinging to a narrow lead under right-handed urging from jockey Javier Castellano approaching the sixteenth pole, impeded both Quijano to his immediate inside, and the favored Champs Elysees, rallying at the rail.

Marsh Side, who went on to win by a half-length, was placed fourth, behind Champs Elysees. But Just as Well, blocked by the wall of skirmishing horses, lost ground when forced to circle the field. His amazing turn of foot once he saw daylight convinced this reviewer that Just as Well, was who almost nipped Marsh Side and finished second, was much the best!

Just as Well, bred by George Strawbridge, is out of the 2000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) winner No Matter What. Just as Well, now sporting a mark of 19-5-5-3, $978,155, is in career-best form at the age of six. After placing in the Gulfstream Park Turf S. (G1), Maker's Mark Mile S. (G1) and Dixie S. (G2) earlier this season for his owner/trainer, the dark bay broke through with his first stakes coup in the Arlington H. (G3) in July. Just as Well followed up with a solid second to divisional leader Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat) in the Arlington Million (G1) last time out.

Sheppard had mixed feelings about the result, which was Just as Well's first grade I win.

“I feel badly," he said. "Neil (Drysdale) is a good friend. He’s got an awfully good horse. He possibly was the best horse but he certainly beared across the course in the late stages.

“Even though we weren’t really the recipient of it, I give Julien a lot of credit because he easily could have been in the melee. I think he saw it coming up and managed to sneak out from behind them and have a clear run down the middle. The horse ran a superb race.”

“We thought coming out of two consecutive 1 1/4 races where he was closing well that this is a good time to try him at the 1 1/2-mile (distance),” said Sheppard. “Julien got him settled very nicely. He relaxed for him and he came with his run. He probably just took a while extricating himself. If he had a clear run right when they first turned from home he maybe would have got there anyway.”

This reviewer believes he definitely would have gotten there. The final time for the 1 1/2-mile event was a swift 2:26.68 on a firm course.