Four legs and a funeral

This tale of a boy, his dog, and Mesquite Animal Control doesn't have a happy ending

All he's gotten from Mesquite so far is a six-line letter stating that the city has "been unable to factually identify any areas of policy or procedure violation by our Animal Control Officer."

Exactly who and what were investigated during the two weeks is unclear, and no one seems willing to light the way. Calls to TU Electric and Lone Star Gas indicate that neither company had a meter reader in the area who might have reported Sammy as dangerous. Michael Crews, superintendent for Mesquite's water department, had no comment, saying that any information on a dog complaint would have to come from the shelter. Back to square one.

When asked to provide copies of the citations imposed on Brown and the waiver she'd signed, Killen said the citations were never actually issued because Brown opted to sign the "release" form instead. Killen did provide the Dallas Observer with a copy of Brown's signed form, which does "authorize the City of Mesquite to either adopt out or euthanize this animal, if deemed appropriate." Brown had signed her name in the two blanks where someone had marked an "X," apparently neglecting to read all of the words in between.

The form also notes that the collarless Sammy was picked up not roaming the streets with fangs bared, but on the "F/P"--as in front porch--of Monika Brown's home. Brown confirms that Sammy would often fall asleep on the front porch and wait for the family to get home.

Killen has offered the family a free dog or cat, but Brown says she doesn't want another dog. She wants to know why Sammy was killed. She and her father also want "to get Mr. Dutton out of public contact," Brown says. "I don't want this man working around people's animals."

So was Sammy the dog a snarling chomper of flesh or a timid and loving pet? "There was nothing vicious about Sammy," says one of Brown's neighbors, who asked not to be identified. "He was loving, very protective with the children. There's dogs, and then there's dogs," she says. "Sammy was just special."

Other neighbors claim to have had their own problems with Mesquite Animal Control. Donna Spain, who lives catty-corner from Smith, recalls a time last winter when her four-month-old Labrador mix accidentally got out of the house. "Lucky" sneaked into the front yard and started playing around, Spain says. She found her son, Chad, chasing Lucky around the yard, trying to coax him back into the house.

Spain claims Mesquite Animal Control circled the block a few times, then stopped to lure Lucky into the paddy wagon. Chad yelled out to the dogcatcher that Lucky was his. The catcher reportedly muttered "tough shit" and took Lucky into custody.

Spain ended up pleading no contest to a couple of citations and paid a fine. But she did get her dog back, whose name just may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Still, some people find it hard to believe that the pound killed Sammy for no good reason. "I can't imagine they would put a dog to sleep without a reason," says Dr. Joseph Quinn, the Mesquite veterinarian who neutered Sammy and once performed a $500 leg surgery on the dog.

As for Brown's claim that Dutton said he'd hold Sammy for three days, "there's no law that says they have to hold it," says Laurie Collins, animal care center director for the SPCA in Dallas. But Collins trusts Mesquite pound officials and deals with them frequently. "I do not feel there's any way that Mesquite would put down an animal that had a loving home to return to," she says.

These days, it doesn't really matter who says what, because nothing can bring the dog back. Sammy no longer lopes up to Garrett after school and licks him lovingly. Recently, the boy wrote his dog a letter: "Sammy I remember when I met you at the dog pound. You were the most beautifullest dog I ever seen. And I really want you back. Love, Garrett."

Occasionally, Brown says, her son will go out in the backyard with Caitlin--their other dog--then come back in the house, looking a little mopey.

The seven-year-old hasn't given up hope that Sammy will come home some day. "He'll come up to me and say, 'We'll make signs and put them up so the family that adopted him will know he has a loving family, and they'll bring him back,'" she says.

Monika Brown hasn't decided whether to tell her son the truth about what really happened to Sammy. What purpose would it serve? she asks. "We don't want Garrett to hate the city," Smith adds.

Looks like Garrett will have to find a new best friend.

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