Loose Leaves, 1st published Sunday 11 June 2000 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas
By Ben Pollock
Copyright 2000 Donrey Media Group
He was just a puppy. He didn’t mean to be mean.
“I can’t believe he actually broke skin, that he got a chunk of that police dog,” said a tabby cat, who worked for a tabloid.
Yet the frisky terrier, accidentally or not, drew a little blood when he nipped the mature German shepherd. In turn, the K-9 took a practiced bite out of that puppy’s hide he will never forget.
Puppy was 8 months old; isn’t that about 14 in human years?
The question for all the assembled pets and wildlife in the suburban yet rural subdivision was how to punish Puppy.
The court could order him shunned for a period of time or bit again, this time officially and under sanitary conditions.
The court could “go human” and pop his snout with a rolled-up newspaper. First the officers of the court would have to roll up a newspaper, bind it and then figure out how to pick it up and swing it.
The critters, however, were getting ahead of themselves.
Maybe that’s why the judge wanted to muzzle everybody.
First, they had to play fair. Guilt — or innocence — must be proved.
This was a formality. There were witnesses, many of whom were elders of the community.
The incident happened in a yard surrounded by a tall wooden privacy fence. Animals in other yards did not see it. They depended on cats to sit on the fence and screech out the events as they had occurred and now to report on the trial.
At least Puppy didn’t kill anything. That’s been happening a lot in other neighborhoods. Pups, kits and cubs have been getting way too frisky.
It’s the age we live in, thought many. It’s the Internet, reasoned others, but they were shushed by those who noted that when it came to computers they were all paws and claws. A few animals blamed an increase in fumes from gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles.
In an effort to be fair, the judge — who by the way happened to be a canary who escaped from her cage a couple of falls ago — announced a muzzle order on every creature.
A muzzle order is like a gag order, but muzzles work on snouts and beaks better than balling up a sock with which to gag a pet. Besides, dogs and cats tend to see sock knots as toys, not threats.
“I forbid the cats to tell the other animals what’s going on. You cats should not even show photographs. You’ve already named names so that cat’s out of the bag,” said Her Honor.
This is just a puppy, for heaven’s sake,” added Judge Canary.
“Oh, you want the catbird seat to yourself?” said Tabloid Tabby.
“Watch it, kitty, or I’ll find you in contempt.”
“We cats think you’re scared of messing up a case like this,” taunted Tab-Tab. “Back when you wanted this high perch, you promised openness, in both half-court and full-court rules.”
“Are you calling me yellow?” retorted the canary.
“Oh no,” said the cats, in unison.
The canary gaveled the trial open with her beak.
The shepherd testified first, explaining how he was the street’s alpha dog and kept all the creatures in line. This puppy usually was like the other babies, but. …
“He just popped up out of nowhere, bird-dogging me.”
“Sir, I’ve had enough of the fowl comments. They’re offensive to some of us and now are part of the muzzle order,” said Judge Canary. “I’m ready for a bird bath. Case adjourned until after I preen.”
The cats had a field day for lunch. They crept along the top of the wooden fence and told all the cats and dogs — as well as a rabbit and three turtles — what happened.
The muzzle order on photographs meant nothing. The felines had no digital cameras, and they could not work film.
The cats could, however, paint word-pictures. They described Puppy, his mommy and the schnauzer that must have been the sire.
The cats paid special attention to the judge, noting how her robe fit and how it clipped her wings.
Judge Canary returned, and she called Puppy. She yelled a second time and again. He was just a puppy. On the fourth call he ran up.
Puppy explained how all puppies play rough and usually the adults indulge them.
“I was teething, right?” said Puppy, wagging his tail.
The prosecutor, a ferret, objected. “This puppy’s canines grew in weeks ago, Your Honor. This was a malicious act.”
Puppy’s representative, also a ferret, noted how the wound was minor.
“Let’s wrap this up, you weasels,” said Judge Canary.
“We’re not quite weasels. We’re rather domestic, Your Honor, and surprisingly smart,” they said together. They proved their intelligence by immediately resting their cases.
Judge Canary ruled fairly and quickly, for this was no kangaroo court.
Puppy was guilty of course. The cats too were guilty, of all the mews that’s fit to print. The ferrets were guilty of burrowing in strips of newspaper. The police dog was guilty of following his training and instinct.
Judge Canary flitted off to a high branch. The view was better. Plus, she was out of range.