Gone to the Dogs

It had to happen: A dog has brought a lawsuit.

Boomer, a golden retriever boydog from Vandalia, Ohio, is the plaintiff. He wants twenty-five thousand dollars from the Invisible Fence Company of Dayton.

I'd expect this kind of thing from a trembly little chihuahua, or a grouchy old bassett hound, out to get even with the original breeders who shrunk his legs. But who would've thought a trusty golden retriever would go running to a lawyer?

I know, some of you lawyers are reading this and thinking, Jowers is nuts. A dog can't bring a lawsuit.

Well, here you go: Scott Oxley, the fence company lawyer, said this to the Associated Press: "This [lawsuit] was filed by Boomer. That's how I read it."

Oxley ought to know. He's in the middle of this mess. He did go on to say that, in his opinion, dogs can't sue under Ohio law. But Boomer's lawyer, Paul Leonard, says we'll just have to see about that. Leonard, who acknowledged that there's no precedent for a dog plaintiff, told the AP, "That's one of the principles of law we're going to ask the court to change. This is a lawsuit where we are trying to plow some new ground."

What's got Boomer so pissed off? Well, it seems that the people at his house, Andrew and Alyce Pacher (who call themselves Boomer's "pet guardians"), put one of those electronic fence gizmos around Boomer's yard. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it works like this: You put wires around the perimeter of the yard, and you put a shock collar on the dog. When the dog gets too close to the wires, the shock collar gives the dog a jolt. Any dog with a lick of sense will learn to avoid the perimeter, and the pain. Some dogs, though, will do like that poor old hound in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, and keep on running until some irresistible force snatches 'em back to the doghouse.

Apparently, Boomer's one of those incorrigible types. He kept blowing right through the fence's zap zone, and roaming the neighborhood. Boomer's "guardians" complained to the fence company, who sent a guy out to the house. He told the people to stick two shock collars on Boomer, and bump the collar voltage up a notch or two.

I know, this sounds harsh. But my neighbor Paul, who is a humane dog-loving guy through and through, had to do virtually the same thing with his fence-ripping, door-smashing labrador, Apollo. Paul sent Apollo to dog reform school, and Apollo came home with some kind of remote-control quadraphonic shock collar. When Apollo took off after a squirrel, a jogger, or a kid on a bike, Paul was to trigger the remote and deliver a level-one shock, which would stop any dog that had good sense. If that didn't work, Paul was supposed to escalate through levels two and three, which were, respectively, tooth-tingling pain, and blinding flashes in the dog's retina.

The last resort was level four, the rough equivalent of electroconvulsive therapy. I'm here to tell you: Apollo fought through level four like Superman fighting through a Kryptonite attack. That dog stopped running when he got good and ready, and not a step before.

But back to Boomer: Even fitted with his double-dumbass-dog device, he apparently couldn't keep away from the fence line for even one day. On the very day of the shock-collar upgrade, the Pachers' children heard Boomer whining on their front porch. They let him in, and he collapsed on the floor. Several days later, the Pachers found open wounds on Boomer's neck.

Soon after, the Pachers hooked Boomer up with lawyer Leonard, who says Boomer suffered not only second-degree burns, but psychological damage as well.

Here's what I want to know: How can anybody tell if a dog has been psychologically damaged? Dogs go out of their way to roll in dead stuff. Dogs eat their own poop. They're all psychologically damaged.

Let's say Boomer wins the lawsuit. What's he going to do with the money? I can only hope that someday I meet a dog with 25 thousand dollars. Sly devil that I am, I'd swap that dog a trash bag full of dirty diapers for the cash. And he'll walk away thinking he got the better end of the deal.

More likely, though, some shifty-eyed animal will sue me out of what little money I have. I'm on pretty good terms with the two Jowers cats, and the new rabbit, but I've been hard on the pigeons that try to set up housekeeping in my gables. Truth be told, I've done some serious bodily harm to the pigeons. If a couple of 'em show up in court limping and wearing neck braces, I could be in trouble.

In case you're wondering: Despite the alleged psychological damage, Boomer looks fine in recently-published pictures.

Finally, a simple suggestion for the Pacher family: Get a real fence.

I'm amazed that I have to explain this.

Lissa Sims is on vacation this week.