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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MAKING PUDDLES

I am about to relate the odyssey of Puddles, a small dog caught in an emotional whirlwind. He was born in the late spring of 2007, a collection of fur, olfactory sensors, two bulging eyes, a stomach, a rectum and four paws. We know nothing about his canine parents, except that they were both Shih Tzus. But we do know that his first human “owner” was Sylvia Trevino, who lived near the south central Texas community of Alice, which is home to the world's largets concrete water tower, and occupied by about 19,000 “buena gente” (good humans) and probably half that many good dogs. Just after he was “weaned” Puddles was torn from the bosom of his litter by his human “owner” and sold to Sylvia’s 37 year old niece, Shelly Cavazos, her human mate, Rudy Gutierrez, and their four human children, Joseph, Olivia, Brian and the youngest, Jon. By July Puddles had settled into his new home, had discovered some cool fresh dirt to roll around in and had even invented a new game to play with his humans. Unfortunately by the time he had tired of “get the dog out from under the house” Puddles was heavily infected with fleas. This led to another discovery; that Puddles suffers from an allergy to fleas.
*
But the Gutierrez-Cavazos family had scheduled a visit the next day to a local human amusement park and, since coordinating human schedules is never easy, they were reluctant to change their plans. Luckily they knew another human, a neighbor, Ms. Grace Saenz-Lopez, who had a reputation for caring for lost and sick animals, and who was also the Mayor of Alice. They felt comfortable leaving Puddles in her care and she was willing to watch over him. And so, yet again, Puddles was forced to adjust to new surroundings and an unfamiliar human. But this situation promised to be only for a day; not that Puddles understood any of this, because he was ill and he is, after all, a dog, which is something to keep in mind as Puddles’ curious odyssey gets more complicated. The next day, as the Gutierrez-Cavazos family was enjoying their holiday they received a phone call from Ms. Saenz-Lopez, with bad news. Puddles had died and had been buried in Ms. Saenz-Lopez’s back yard. Ms. Cavazos did not tell the children until the drive home, when they all cried. “Everyone”, she says, “was very upset.” So upset that the children made it clear, she says, they did not want a “new” dog.
*
And that is where things stood until Halloween, when Sylvia Trevino, Puddles’ original owner, stopped by “Linda’s Grooming and Rooming”, on County Road 137, south of town, looking for a new mate for her female Shih Tzu. And while there she spotted a handsome young, viral looking male Shih Tzu who also looked vaguely familiar. Linda Brandt, the owner of “Linda’s”, told Sylvia that the dog’s name was Panchito, and his owner was the Mayor of Alice, Grace Saenz-Lopez. And that was when Sylvia realized. That was no Panchito. That was Puddles!
*
Linda Brandt was caught between two customers. She felt that the Mayor had probably done something wrong but “She does a lot of good.” So Linda returned Puddles to the Mayor. Shelly and Rudy, Puddle’s bereaved owners, called the Mayor to ask for an explanation. But the Mayor never returned their calls. What were Shelly and Rudy to do? Their children had loved Puddles. And a pure bred male Shih Tzu can cost a human $800 dollars or more. They filed a police report but the Alice Police Department was of the opinion that it was a civil matter.
*
In December the family and supporters stood outside of city hall carrying signs that compared the mayor to “Cruella De Vil”, but when they twice attempted to bring up the matter at City Council Meetings they were ushered out of the room. Still the story made the front page of the Alice Echo News-Journal, the local paper, and longtime opponents of the Mayor came out of the woodwork. One man tried to force $1,000 on Rudy to pay for a lawyer. Rudy didn’t take it, but the offer got him thinking. And in the New Year he filed a civil suit in the 79th District Court, alleging intentional fraud with malice and infliction of emotional distress. The suit asked for the immediate and safe return of Puddles, legal fees, court costs and unspecified damages, because, “Not only is it blatantly illegal for the defendant, Grace Saenz-Lopez, to keep Puddles, it is inhumane to withhold the puppy from his rightful owners – honest, warm-hearted people who spent their hard earned money to buy Puddles, and who have repeatedly pleaded with defendant…to return the puppy to their loving home and into the eager arms of their young children.”
*
The Mayor did not respond publicly to the lawsuit. But at about 11:30 AM on Sunday, January 13, Alice P.D. officer Cyrildo Garcia Jr. and his supervisor responded to a call from her home in the 700 block of Alto Street. There Ms. Saenz-Lopez told them that Panchito/Puddles” had escaped out a door propped open for her cats. (First PPD - Psychological Plot Point!) She said she had searched the neighborhood but could find no trace of the missing Shih Tzu. She suggested that the Gutierrez family might have stolen the puppy.
*
After Rudy invited the police to search his home the officers were also invited to search the mayor’s home. No Shih Tzu was found in either location so the officers returned to their more standard duties, arresting violent criminals and drug users. But the events in Alice had piqued the investigative instincts of a recent transplant from the Boston media market, Gabe Gaggiano, who had been following the stolen puppy story from KZTV "Action News", Channel 10, in Corpus Christi, Texas. And on Monday Gabe got a tip from Sylvia Trevino (remember her) that Puddles was now residing at the home of Gracie Garcia, who was the Mayor’s twin sister. (Second PPD)
*
Gabe and Travis Cobb, a Cameraman at the cable station, took the hour long drive out to Alice, and then the 15 minute drive south to tiny Ben Bolton, where Gracie Garcia owned a home. There they found several dogs in the front yard and on an enclosed back porch a small cute little feather duster on four feet, which they briefly video tapped. Viewing that tape, Sylvia confirmed that the missing Puddles had been found! When Gabe showed this evidence to Alice Police Chief Danny Bueno and asked if he was now going to arrest the Mayor, the Chief responded, “I’d like to keep my job.” But Puddles was no longer a mere missing dog. Now he was missing evidence, and the destruction or concealment of evidence is a felony, as Scooter Libby could have explained if he had ever actually been punished.
*
Shortly thereafter the intrepid journalists Gabe and Travis had spotted Gracie Garcia’s car in the Mayor’s driveway, and Gabe video taped his final contribution to our puppies’ tail. Breathlessly he told viewers; “We’re at the Mayor’s house now. The Mayor is not answering the door. The shades are down. We just hope this isn’t another Waco.” That tragedy was unlikely to be repeated since Jim Wells County, of which Alice is the County seat, was the only Texas County with the good sense to favor John Kerry in 2004. People that sensible are unlikely to commit suicide. Although… (http://www.kztv10.com/wiki/KZTV/Puddles)
*
Upon the advice of her lawyer, the Mayor delivered Puddles to his office (wrapped in a leapord print blanket), and that allowed the press to interview her one more time as she went into the building. She declared that she had taken Puddles to the Vet, that he had been mistreated, and that she had taken him to save his life. She also insisted that she had not lied to the police about the disappearing Puddles. A mystery woman driving a red car (Third PPD) found Puddles wandering in the neighborhood and, since the Mayor was not home, had taken him to the sister’s home… 15 miles away. But, insisted the Mayor, “All I give a damn about is the damn dog. He’s not going back into that hell hole.” (Fourth PPD)
*
The twins are now out on $2,500 bail apiece and face from one to seven years in jail. The city attorney has filed a complaint against the Mayor’s attorney, claiming he was threatened. The City Council has voted “no confidence” in the mayor and asked her to please resign. Organizers have started collecting the 150 signatures required to force a recall election. And the attorney for the Gutierrez-Cavazos family insists that the family just wants Puddles back home.
*
On February 4th, a human judge will decide which humans get to take Puddles home, the politician willing to sacrifice her career and reputation to “protect” him, or the family who just wanted him as a pet for their four children. And what does Puddles want? Not that it matters but his ideal home would probably be a warm dry cave occupied by a dozen other dogs, surrounded by a field of limping rodents, flightless birds and stupid cats to eat, covered in some delicious filth to roll around in and cool water to drink, and with an occasional bitch to hump. That is an ideal dog’s life. And as stark and cruel as it might at first appear, under closer examination, is it really that different from the one all these humans are seeking?
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3 comments:

  1. What an interesting story! Indeed, the real world can be stranger than fiction. Kudos to the reporter, Gabe Caggiano, who went the extra mile and had the persistance to stay with the story until the end. We need more reporters like him.

    Sandy: Bakersfield, CA

    ReplyDelete
  2. The crime was not severe but neither is stealing candy from a baby, then claiming the baby swallowed the candy, getting the police to fake some photographs to prove the baby swallowed the candy and then refuse to buy the baby a pacifier in compensation on some warped principal that she actually was trying to help the baby, all along, by eating its candy... She hardly sacrificed her career; no one was going to support her as mayor after this ridiculously childish episode, her career was effectively over. Her motive was pathetic and her subsequent behaviour was outrageous. Bad, bad human!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Funny post, cleverly written, but one point of fact: the Branch Davidians were murdered.

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