Buddy in front of Thomas Circle church.

Statement of Events

 

1600 Block N Port St


Saturday afternoon, May 7, 2016, I walked out of the back door of my house with a push mower and my dog, Buddy, on a leash beside me. I walked to the vacant lot at the end of the block and began mowing the overgrown weeds there.

It was the first nice day in a long time, and there were a lot of people on the street. Some of the neighborhood kids saw me and walked over. Among them were the three kids who live next door to me—Michaela, a girl about fifteen, Michael, a boy about twelve, and Michai, another boy about eight.

Michael asked whether he could push the mower and I said sure. His little brother Michai said he wanted to mow and, feeling like Tom Sawyer, I said he could when Michael was tired. Could he hold Buddy then? As he often did this, I said sure, and gave him the leash.

Michaela was standing a few feet away with another girl about the same age. Michaela was daring her friend to pet Buddy. Her friend was giggling and tentatively approaching Buddy then, losing her courage, turning and running back to Michaela's side. I walked in front of Buddy and repeated to the friend what I have said many times to Michaela: Don't act afraid. It makes him think there is something wrong. When you approach a strange dog, just walk right up and squat down in front of him and put your hand out low. Like this.

Michaela's relationship with Buddy has always been a strange one. At times, like every other little kid in the neighborhood, she is perfectly fine with Buddy (as when the kids were playing with Buddy in a snow maze I made for them after the big blizzard last winter). At other times, she acts afraid and runs away when Buddy approaches. But her fear has always seemed to me to be some kind of teenage girl play-acting thing—more show than actual fear.

Nevertheless, I have told her many many times not to act afraid of him because, to him, that just looks like something is wrong. In fact, I had told her just the previous evening exactly that when I was leaving the house with Buddy. She was on the steps next door and she drew back as if afraid. Michaela, I said, if you act like something is wrong, he will think something is wrong. She was with her father, who expressed his agreement.

Now, with her brother holding Buddy, she was again acting silly, squealing and running away and waving her arms in the air in exaggerated fear every time Buddy turned toward her. Her friend was acting similarly. At that point, I should have taken Buddy away from Michai and put him in the house until the girls either left or calmed down and stopped egging him on, but I didn't.

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Then Michaela and her friend jumped up on a tall electrical transponder sitting on the sidewalk (a new one has replaced the one shown in Streetview). That was too much for Buddy, and he started barking at the girls.

The girls squealed and shrieked, further riling the dog. I saw what was happening and ran over to grab Buddy's leash just as Buddy broke away from Michai and ran up to the base of the transponder barking and agitated. I shouted, "Stay up there". But, Michaela jumped down instead and turned to run.

Buddy snapped at her and nipped at her legs and Michaela screamed even louder, spinning, and waving her arms around frantically. While I believe Buddy made contact with Michaela at this time, I was wrong in my testimony when I said he bit immediately and wouldn't let go. That only happened once we reached the other side of the street, which would have been when the crowd began "helping". Had he bit immediately, we wouldn't have been able to get to the other side of the street.

Stop moving, I yelled at her, but she kept kicking and screaming and Buddy kept snapping. Then, things really turned south.

The commotion immediately drew a crowd, and some in the crowd began to "help" by beating on Buddy with whatever object was handy. That, of course, was exactly the wrong thing to do. As soon as they started beating on him is when Buddy bit down and wouldn't let go.

I was on the ground trying to get Buddy to let loose. Stop moving! I yelled at Michaela over and over.

Finally, even as the blows rained down on both of us, Buddy released her, but the blows he was receiving had him extremely agitated. Don't move! I yelled at Michaela. Once again, however, Michaela tried to jump up and run away. As she tried to stand, Buddy grabbed her by the top of the head.

The crowd had grown, and we were now being hit with branches, too. Stop moving! I screamed at Michaela. Finally, mercifully, she listened and I was able to get Buddy off and away.

But now, even though Michaela was safely away and I had Buddy safely by his leash, the crowd, instead of standing down, intensified its attack.

The people who hang around that corner are well armed and I was terrified someone would shoot Buddy. It was about thirty yards to my front door. The crowd, which was very sizable at this point, in addition to hitting us with sticks, had begun throwing rocks and bricks, too. When we got to my front door, we were under full assault and I struggled to get the keys in the locks.

Three images stand out from those horrifying moments:

  1. a guy with a baseball bat taking a full swing from over his head down on Buddy,
  2. a man running up with a big chunk of cement in his hand and hurling it with full velocity at Buddy from just a few feet away, and
  3. the boyfriend of the mother of the three kids next door raving for the mob to kill us.

I realized this savage mob was bent on stoning Buddy to death (and it was not too worried how I might fare in the process).

The fury of the mob was as shocking as the celerity with which it had formed. While Buddy had indeed clamped down on Michaela, he had simply been reacting to her foolish behavior—behavior she had been warned against over and over and over. But he only held her. Even when the mob began beating Buddy, greatly intensifying the situation, Buddy was not intending real harm and only caused, as I understand it, superficial wounds. Given the power of his jaws and the amount of time he held her, her bones would have been crushed had he been attacking her with even half the ferocity with which the howling mob now attacked him.

I finally got the door unlocked. But it still wouldn't open. I was trying to hold Buddy for fear he would be shot if I let him go, and trying to get the door open at the same time. Why wouldn't the door open?

We were trapped, and the mob had turned murderous. I felt a sickening creeping fatalism begin to take hold under the rain of stones and bricks and sticks and a baseball bat. Still the crowd grew as more and more people arrived and Buddy was pinned in the corner beside the steps yelping as he endured the blows.

A woman stepped out of the crowd and took my keys and started trying to open the door for me while getting hit herself with bricks.

Why won't this door open? she yelled. It was then I remembered I had left the house earlier by the back door. The front door was dead bolted from the inside.

Quick, said the woman, whose name was Robin, go around through the alley. My left leg had no feeling and when I stood, I collapsed. Robin, and another neighbor who lived right behind my house helped me stand and Buddy and the three of us made our way down the sidewalk. The blows were momentarily paused by the interference of Robin and the other neighbor, but the boyfriend from next door, a woman-beating layabout, buzzed around beside us hurling invective and attempting to goad the mob into resuming the attack.

He would probably have succeeded, too, and Buddy and I would have died horrific deaths in that rat-infested alley if another neighbor hadn't already called 9-1-1 prompting the quick arrival of the much-maligned Baltimore Police Department. Yet, even with the police on the scene, the boyfriend, who I've heard severely beating the mother late at night while she cries out in pain, continued, out of familial concern, to rant on behalf of Michaela. He even went so far as to promise to shoot both me and Buddy when we least expected it. He said that right in front of the cops.

Animal control came and took Buddy. He is in quarantine. The animal control officer was very reassuring by her calm professionalism and the police officers, too, were courteous, professional, and schooled. They accompanied me inside the house, from which a laptop and iPad had disappeared while Buddy and I were being stoned out front. I retrieved a few valuables, and we left.

That night, my house was ransacked. Or so I'm told. I never returned to N Port St, and never will. The great plans I had for repurposing all the vacant houses around there are over.

I am considering pressing charges against the boyfriend for his role in this horrific experience and his terroristic threats. I assume he is behind the mother's request for a hearing to have Buddy declared a vicious dog, a charge she knows is baloney, since she herself has sat and watched Buddy play with her kids. Still, Buddy remains in a cage until the hearing.

UPDATE: After a contentious and thorough hearing, which featured stunningly awful behavior from the mother and her "cousin", and at which it was clear the adults had coached the children to lie (talk about unfit parenting), Buddy was completely exonerated.




 

Craig Nelsen