Day Of Judgment
The wheels of justice turned slowly. There were more papers to file, more waiting periods to endure, court dates to schedule. It began to look like it might be April or even May before the case would be resolved. Scott had warned us that things would take time, but still, we wondered: How much longer would we sit in limbo, with Lisa and Sandi continuing to assert ownership of the puppies? Would the case drag on indefinitely, preventing us from placing the pups with their new families?
Perish the thought that in six months, we'd find ourselves saddled with nine half-grown Newfies to feed and house; there were other reasons we wanted to make sure we could place the puppies well before then. Most importantly, there's an ideal age to introduce a puppy to a new home; wait too long and the transition is rougher on all involved.
We talked things over with Scott. There's a question of the puppies' welfare, we explained.
"In that case," he instructed, "go ahead and send the pups off when you think best. The defendants' case is so weak, they have no reasonable prospects for success. Just make sure you tell any prospective adopters about the legal issues so they can back away if they're not comfortable."
In the end, Scott Clarke called their bluff.
The first hearing took place on March 10, more than three months since Lisa first made her shocking claim. The purpose of the session was to set a date for the trial, should one become necessary. The hearing took place in the form of a conference call: the judge in his chambers, Scott and I in his office, and the others phoning in from Ohio.
And the lawyer that Lisa had told me she'd hired back in December,
on the day she started the ruckus? He'd somehow melted away.
Funny thing about that.
The question remained, however: would they persist in their claims,
or would they take this occasion to bow out gracefully? At first,
it seemed they wanted to drag things out, rehashing the arguments
we'd heard before. Lisa began a long complaint: not only were the
puppies rightfully hers, but all the publicity was hurting her business.
She wanted an apology from us- really!- before she agreed to anything, and Sandi wanted
her stud fee. The judge had little patience for her lament and cut
her short; instead, he noted that it was apparent that a trial would
be required, and set a date for early May.
My heart sank. When would this end?
That was when Scott swung into action, and suggested that Lisa and Sandi stay on the line after the judge signed off.
In the informal session that followed, Scott presented a lesson in the relevant law, then made the pair an offer. "Your claim has no chance at all," he told them bluntly. "Drop it now, and we will not go after you for damages."
This was reality, staring them in the face: a reminder that they might still be called to account for their actions. This little scheme might end up to costing them some money.
Lisa and Sandi grabbed for the life ring Scott offered. In a matter of days, we had their signed statements, renouncing any claim of ownership. There would be no need for a trial after all.
And on March 29, four months and four days after the puppies were born, the court recorded its judgment. As Scott had reassured us, as we'd known in our hearts all along, Abbie and her puppies were ours from the day she joined our family.
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