John Smith picked up the last box to move out of the apartment. His wife, Jane, was waiting in the pickup truck. They were ready to move into their brand new, although previously owned, home. At least, it was new to them.
He carried the box out to the truck and put it in the bed, with more care than necessary. It contained the last of their clothes and wasn’t fragile – his shirts weren’t going break if he dropped the box. It was just that after the dozen trips between the apartment and the house, he had gotten into the habit of treating each box as if it held his wife’s favorite set of China.
He opened the door and said, “I’ve got to drop off the key with the manager. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll wait for you, honey,” Jane said with a smile.
She had been waiting for this day for ages. She found living in an apartment stifling. There was barely enough room to turn around. The kitchen was a joke. Her closet back home where she had grown up was bigger than the kitchen. The bedroom barely had enough room for their bed. Four people in the living room would be a crowd.
The apartment was noisy, and there wasn’t much privacy. She could hear the neighbors yelling and their kids screaming. There was always someone tromping around outside their door. John would go out to work on his truck, and people would interrupt his work. They’d tell him he shouldn’t work on it out there like that. They had service stations that would change the oil and air filters. It was like people didn’t expect a man to fix his own vehicle.
The worst thing about living in the apartment was that they weren’t allowed to have pets. That had been really hard for her to handle. Jane loved animals of all kinds. If she could have afforded it, she would have studied to be a veterinarian. She would love to have a dozen dogs, a couple cats, a few chickens, and even a goat. John was the same way. He liked having animals around.
From their perspective, the house was perfectly located. It had a large backyard with woods behind it. There nice tall wood fences along the side to keep the neighbors out and any pets in. There was a chain link fence along the back of the property that allowed them to look at the woods. She was looking forward to living there.
John climbed into the truck and said, “Let’s go home.”
“Amen,” Jane said with a grin.
John started the truck and pulled out of the apartment parking lot. As he turned onto the main street, he said, “I never thought I’d see this day. We now own our own home.”
“That’s the American Dream,” Jane said.
With all of the economic problems, houses were still expensive even though the prices had dropped significantly. Banks were tight with loaning money. It had been nearly impossible to save up enough cash for the down payment. They were a young couple, and worked hard in pursuit of the American Dream of a home with a white picket fence. Admittedly, there wasn’t a white picket fence, but that was the point of the dream.
Jane said, “I went by the animal shelter and looked at the dogs and cats.”
“Find one you liked?” John asked.
Jane said, “It was the weirdest thing. They were telling me that if I got a cat that it had to be licensed and was not allowed outdoors except on a leash.”
John burst out laughing. “I’d love to see a cat on leash.”
“They were serious,” Jane said.
“A cat would hang himself before putting up with a leash,” John said.
Jane said, “I think it is kind of cruel to keep a cat penned up inside a house. A cat is an outdoor animal. It’s a hunter. It’s supposed to hunt mice and birds.”
John said, “I guess we’ll hold off on getting a cat until we find out if that is really true.”
“I did find a nice dog,” Jane said.
“It’s just a basic brown mutt – not too large and not too small. He probably has a dozen different kinds of dog in him.”
“Ah. Those are good dogs to have,” John said.
True mongrel dogs often inherited the best traits of all of their ancestors. John felt that they were a good general purpose pet. They tended to be friendly, loyal, and easily trained without the genetic defects of pure breeds. It was getting harder to find a true mongrel dog, since the puppy factories produced pure bred animals – often with genetic defects. It seemed they produced large dogs with hip problems that eventually crippled the animal and small dogs with vicious temperaments.
They arrived at their new home and parked the truck in the driveway. They stood for a moment in front of the house appreciating their new property. It was a three bedroom ranch with a living room, dining room, and one and a half baths. They were looking forward to filling it with kids and animals.
By the time six months had passed in their new home, they had a dog, Woofer; a cat, Sam; four unnamed hens; and a rooster called Charlie. The poultry, a gift from Jane’s brother who still lived on the farm back home, were kept in a hen house that John had built in the backyard. They had the beginnings of a nice vegetable garden, too.
They enjoyed spending evenings on the back porch watching the chickens chase insects around the backyard, spotting the wild turkeys who occasionally wandered around the woods behind the house, and playing fetch with Woofer. When it started to get dark, they’d round up the chickens and herd them into the chicken coup for the night. In the morning, Jane would collect eggs, and they’d have fresh eggs for breakfast.
Their ideal life came to a crashing end in the first week of June. Charlie, in the nature of roosters everywhere, started crowing when the sun rose. In the past, sun rise occurred after the next door neighbor had awakened and was busy getting ready for work. Unfortunately, with the sun rising earlier in the morning it was Charlie’s greeting of the new day that woke up the neighbor.
The next thing Jane knew, a very large man was knocking on her door. Since John was already at work, she answered the door dressed for work. Woofer was excited and she had to hold him back by his collar to keep him from jumping on the visitor. Seeing that the dog wasn’t about to calm down, she stepped outside and closed the door behind her. She could hear Woofer barking through the closed door.
It was only when she got outside that she could get a good look at the man. He was a big guy wearing a tan outfit. She kept a hand on the doorknob thinking that she could open the door if the man tried anything rough. With her and Woofer working together, she felt they could deal with him at least long enough for a neighbor to notice and call the police.
The man at the door said, “My name is Jack Jones and I’m with the town’s Department of Animal Control.”
“You mean, you’re the dog catcher and work at the city pound,” Jane said amused by the pretentious title.
“I’m an Animal Control Specialist and I work for the Department of Animal Control,” Jack replied hating the title of dog catcher.
Jane said, “Well, you’ll be happy to know that we haven’t seen any dogs running around wild.”
“I’m not here about wild dogs,” Jack said.
“I’m not surprised. The only time you see a dog around here is when the owner is taking it for a walk. To tell the truth, I’m surprised the city has an Animal Control Department.”
“It’s the Department of Animal Control,” Jack said.
“We’ve had a complaint that you have chickens,” Jack said.
Jane looked surprised. She said, “I was just out there thirty minutes ago. All of our chickens are in the chicken coup. If you’ve got a problem with a chicken, it’s not one of ours.”
“You have chickens.”
“Why are you asking?”
“You’re not allowed to have farm animals on property that is less than three acres,” Jack said.
“We don’t have any farm animals,” Jane said confused by his statement.
“You have chickens. Chickens are farm animals.”
“They’re birds,” Jane said. “Farm animals are cows, goats, sheeps, and pigs.”
“Chickens are farm animals.”
“How about turkeys?” Jane asked.
“Do you have turkeys?” Jack asked.
“Just some wild ones that are in the woods behind the house,” Jane answered.
“Turkeys are not farm animals.”
“So we could have turkeys?” Jane asked.
“Domesticated turkeys are farm animals.”
“That’s stupid,” Jane said. “A turkey is a turkey.”
Jack said, “I have to see the chickens.”
“Why?” Jane asked.
“I need to see them.”
“Well, you can’t,” Jane said.
“I’m going to walk around to the back of your house...”
Jane was not a lawyer and her understanding of the law was pretty basic. She knew that government officials couldn’t just walk around on private property performing a search without an appropriate search warrant. She wasn’t even sure if a dog catcher could even get a search warrant. There was no way that she was going to let someone who hadn’t even shown her official identification walk around on her property.
Interrupting him, Jane said, “Not without a warrant.”
“I don’t need a warrant.”
“Yes, you do. You aren’t going anywhere on my property without a warrant.”
Ignoring her protests, Jack turned away and headed towards the gate on the side of the house.
Jane ran into the house. Thinking about how big the guy was and how small she was in comparison, she grabbed the shotgun. Jane and Woofer were both in the backyard by the time Jack opened the gate. Jane pumped the shotgun putting a round in the chamber. Woofer, with fangs bared, was growling at Jack.
Jack froze upon hearing the sound of a round being chambered.
Staring at the shotgun, he said, “F•©k!”
With the shotgun leveled at Jack, she said, “I told you that you are not coming back here without a warrant!”
“Lady, you just made a horrible mistake,” Jack said.
“Mister, if you don’t scram, right now, they’ll be picking up pieces of your body off the street behind you. I’ve seen what double aught buckshot will do to a critter up close and personal like this. Go! Now!”
Jack backed away from her and then ran to his truck. Although he didn’t give chase, Woofer barked the entire time the man was running. A few seconds later, the truck was headed down the street.
Jane closed the gate and looked down at Woofer. She reached down to pet him and noticed that her hands were starting to shake. She hadn’t ever had a confrontation like that.
Talking more to reassure herself than to communicate anything to Woofer, she said, “Let’s go in the house. I better call John at work.”
Jane called John who said that he was heading home to take care of the matter. He told her to get a lawyer on the phone as quickly as possible because he had a bad feeling about this.