Oyez, oyez, oyez. The Court of Public Opinion is hereby called to order. Having thoughtfully (in some cases) considered whether a Northeast Texas county official should be allowed to bring his dog to his courthouse office, the jurors are ready to rule.
Yes, the majority says, Titus County Attorney John Mark Cobern should be allowed to continue to bring Belle, his ailing 16-year-old Dachshund, to work. Today I want to share some of the reader input that hit my inbox.
First, a quick review of the facts before us: Cobern has asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to opine on whether Titus County commissioners had the right to bar all dogs, except service dogs, from the courthouse. Cobern, who’s had Belle since law school, believes his little dog has a calming effect that could be a deterrent against courthouse shootings.
Abbott must opine based on the law concerning county commissioners’ powers. The Court of Public Opinion, unencumbered by such legal constraints, concerned itself more with how nice dogs are.
“This member of the Court of Public Opinion thinks Belle, and all dogs, should be able to accompany their owners to work,” wrote Austinite Rona Distenfeld. “It’s well documented that contact with companion animals is a huge stress reliever. Think how much better our government and corporate work places would function if people were less stressed.”
(Wait a minute, governments and corporations now are not functioning at peak efficiency?)
Melonie Grieder of Dripping Springs said the Titus County commissioners are engaged in “pure silliness” and “Cobern has a point. His dog does provide a service. She keeps him calm and rational in the face of such idiocy.”
(Wait a minute, elected officials are supposed to be rational?)
Jack Bishop of Austin said the dog ban might be the product of “some killjoy martinet cat person with a bone to pick.”
“I’m OK with letting Cobern keep bringing Belle (and) not letting others start bringing their dogs and telling Cobern that when Belle departs this world for doggie heaven, he can’t bring another dog,” Bishop suggested.
“Let the man bring his dog with him,” wrote Sandy Molock of Wichita Falls. “Given the dog’s age and health problem, plus the fact that Belle has always gone with him, it would be cruel to stop her coming now. What possible harm could this aged dog do to anyone?”
I also heard from two dogs (please let me know if any of your pets read my columns). Angie and Button Mitchell identified themselves as “fellow black and tan dauxies” who “know the calm that resting in human lapland brings to our lives and to the humans who support us.”
“We listen to their issues, lick their wounds and study their emotions. … Our quirky behaviors make them laugh and ease tensions left over from the hectic days and exhausting traffic,” the dogs wrote from the email account of Sharon Mitchell, who lives half the year in South Austin and half in Northern Minnesota (I’m guessing winters in Austin and summers up in the frozen tundra.)
Though outnumbered, members of the anti-Belle-at-the-courthouse contingent was equally certain they are right. “No way” should dogs be at a courthouse, wrote Deborah Ferretti of Georgetown. “Would be discriminatory to constituents with an allergy to dogs.”
Glenn Kelly of Leander said Boaz, his Jack Russell terrier, accompanies him most everywhere. “However, he has never gone to work with me,” he wrote. “I consider the work environment to be for work.”
Kelly, who was laid off from his retail manager job in January, identified himself as an “unpaid commentator on life.”
“I can’t bring my beautiful wife to work with me either. And I promise if Mr. Cobern is trying to calm the mentally unstable, a beautiful wife/intern/receptionist would work 10 times better than a mutt. Something about how beauty calms the beast,” Kelly told me.
Charles Patino of Williamson County complained that “more and more people are beginning to think their dog has the same rights as humans.” He told me he recently “involved management” at two stores and a bank after patrons “would not remove (their dogs) at my request even after telling them that I had once been attacked by a pack of dogs and was very leery around pets I did not personally know.
“Of course,” Patino wrote, “I’m the bad guy ’cause everyone loves Fido.”
“It is bad enough that every day some Central Texas humane society gives away free dogs that end up as members of the local howling society that practices into the wee hours of the morning,” he wrote.
For what it’s worth, and as a paid commentator on life, I’m siding with the folks who believe it’s probably best if county employees, even elected ones, don’t bring their dogs or any pets to the courthouse.
Thanks again to the Court of Public Opinion for weighing in. Many of you folks are very reasonable.
Because I’ve got a little more space here and because you are such nice people, let me share a totally unrelated recent email that’s the best-ever request to republish something I’ve written. This came from Carina Paraiso in Lausanne, Switzerland. I’m going to doublecheck my files, but it’s possible she has the wrong Ken Herman.
“I came across your contribution ‘New case of the recurrent 15q24 microdeletion presenting with hypotonia, tethered cord and seizures’ at the American Society of Human Genetics 59th annual meeting and thought it would be an excellent fit for an initiative that Frontiers in Genetics is launching.”