Open Letter to Emeryville Police Det. Kevin Goodman: Why did you steal our lab, Paddy?
“Dear” Kevin Goodman,
You will wonder who is writing you this open letter at this peculiar time of year. My name is Diana Engelhardt, but that probably will not ring a bell as you have never previously communicated with me, in writing, telephonically or in person. You should know me, however – I am Paddy’s co-owner, Paddy being the black labrador you stole from my mother, Bernadette Ferriter, and me almost a year ago. Paddy had been with us, since we purchased him as a puppy, in April 2010. These years were not easy for us – several months after we got Paddy, my mother fell down an unlit stairway while walking him and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Instead of running out to El Camino Real, the large street that was adjacent to our apartment complex, Paddy stayed by my mother’s side until she regained consciousness, and could follow her while she dragged her way back up the stairs.
Being forced to move out of this apartment complex half a year later, we could not find an apartment that would accept a large dog – at this point, it would have been very convenient and cost-saving to give Paddy up at a shelter, a lab rescue or find a new owner; this was not an option for us, because Paddy, just like our cats, was family to us – not just property you can discard and then forget about. Thus, the only option left to us was storing all of our belongings and living in motels for 1½ year. These were not comfortable circumstances, and all of our savings were consumed due to this living arrangement. Yet, Paddy adjusted very well - he enjoyed sitting with our cats on the bed, watching TV; he particularly loved his walks on the trail alongside the river by the Red Roof Inn, Burlingame, watching the ducks and meeting other dogs. Paddy had no incentive to run away, and he didn’t. Things turned dark when we relocated to Oakland, because I was transferring to UC Berkeley on a scholarship. We picked out an apartment complex, that while run down and anything but fancy, seemed like a good fit for us because it was dog-friendly, with two large dogs roaming the yard freely, and we were assured Paddy could do the same as long as he got along with the other dogs; not a problem, considering Paddy’s loving and friendly nature towards other animals. This arrangement worked well, until the dog owners moved out; suddenly the owner started advertising the apartments as “no pets allowed” units. In addition, we started experiencing issues with lack of heating, and growth of mold, the extent to which we did not realize until a couple of days into winter break, when we discovered that hundreds of books and other items we had stored in bookcases on the wall had been damaged or destroyed by the mold. Things started to become very hectic in our household, as we were trying to do damage control with our belongings, spending sleepless nights, cleaning and trying to pack them into boxes, and trying to keep our pets away from the mold.
On Christmas Day, at approximately 12 am, after a day of deserved relaxation, I decided to give Paddy, and his sister Evita, our new puppy, a last run outside. Unfortunately, I did not notice that the gate was left slightly ajar. Paddy, followed by Evita, squeezed through the gate, and while I was able to chase and catch her, I could not catch up with him, and after roaming the street for the next hour, I could not find him. As our car was not in working order during this time, all we could do was wait to search for him at the shelters the next day. Indeed, he turned up at Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS), and we went to the shelter two days later. My mother had just become a volunteer at the shelter, so she knew some of the volunteers. Marci, one of the organizers, mentioned that Paddy had been a popular dog at the shelter, and that an Emeryville Police Detective, you, had expressed interest in adopting him, if no owner showed up to retrieve him. We wanted to take Paddy home right away, but the shelter insisted that they could not release him before having him fixed, and that he would have to stay there for another week. Reluctantly, we agreed. The next day, we received a phone call urging us to pick him up, as they would have to euthanize another dog, due to lack of space.
This did not work out, so we picked Paddy up after his operation the next week. We paid the $150 fine, and were given the information on shots and operation performed and on his microchip. Unfortunately, we did not receive the rabies tag necessary for completing the microchip registration, which, unknowing to us, the shelter obviously was keeping for you. On our way out, Marci again reminded my mother that a very nice Emeryville detective was interested in adopting the dog, and if she ever considered giving away the dog, he would be more than happy to take him. She reminded my mother, that Labradors were large and sometimes difficult dogs, who “needed an alpha male”.
At home, we could not help notice the wound, which was still fresh and not yet healed, with crusted blood, from the operation. Paddy appeared to be happy to be home and with his family, despite the remaining chaos. On Saturday morning, however, less than two days later, my mother took both of the dogs out and let them run in the yard of the apartment complex. My mother briefly turned her head away from the yard to speak to a neighbor while another neighbor was ready to enter the complex; he opened the door widely, letting the dogs run out to the street, and when my mother realized what had happened, she confronted this neighbor, receiving the answer that “the dogs wanted to go out” and she ran after the dogs. She managed to get hold of the puppy but Paddy was already gone. She called BACS, and received a call an hour later that Paddy had turned up at the shelter. She was told that the fine for a dog running away a second time was several hundred dollars, and that my mother did not have any excuse left since he had just been neutered (obviously, the animal care control officers at BACS do not know much about endocrinology, and are unaware that it takes up to a month before hormones are reduced after a castration).
Marci urged her that it was time to give up the dog, as she was obviously not able to handle and take care of the dog, and that she was best off to give the dog to an “alpha male”, like the Emeryville Police Detective. My mother, needless to say, was distressed, and agreed that you could call her, so both could discuss the terms of a trial run. I later asked her, how she could even consider the possibility of letting Paddy go, and she answered that she was just so overwhelmed with relief that Paddy had not been run over that she would have considered any option at the time to ensure his safety and well-being. Marci instructed her to bring all related papers on her next volunteering shift on Thursday, and that she could sign a release form then. You called her, and in her opinion you seemed pleasant, sincere and kind. You both agreed that you would pick up Paddy from the shelter, that he would spend the weekend with you, and that you would come by the following Tuesday so you could meet me (Paddy’s co-owner) and my mother, and that further terms of a trial run would be discussed. If my mother and me indeed decided to let you keep Paddy, we would give you the registration papers, and his various belongings, and that we would keep in touch so we could see what Paddy was up to, receive pictures etc.
Since my mother was a volunteer (and which was also reinforced during my own volunteer training as well), she knew that no dog could be legally surrendered unless 1) the owner SIGNED a transfer of ownership or 2) the animal was at the shelter for more than four days without an owner claiming it. Little did she know that BACS, the Emeryville Police Department, the Berkeley Police Department, the Emeryville and Berkeley City Government and Senator Barbara Boxer’s office, would appear to circumvent certain laws when an Emeryville Police detective, such as yourself, uses his position, connections, and perhaps even bribery “to take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal” (Merriam-Webster’s definition of “to steal”).
The last communication my mother received from you was a text message on Sunday, informing her that you and your son had picked up Paddy at the shelter, and asking whether or not Paddy was housetrained (?!). You broke your part of the legal arrangement by not showing up the following Tuesday; in fact, never showing up or calling again at all. You also did not answer my mother’s calls. When my mother appeared at BACS on Thursday for her scheduled volunteer shift, she was sent away with the excuse that she was late for her shift (a lie). Later she received a call from an animal control officer, instructing her not to return to the shelter, as she was “banned”. Wow – whose idea was that? Yours or theirs? My mother already regretted the decision of the trial run, not only because of your no-show, but because she loves Paddy deeply, as do I.
That weekend, she wrote the BACS manager, and Ken James, Emeryville Police Chief and involuntary YouTube celebrity. Ken James answered several times, before abruptly stopping and ignoring her, for good. What he had to say was fascinating, however. According to him, you, Kevin Goodman, assumed that my mother had signed the release form and that the transfer of ownership was thus completed and legal (who was lying – you or him?). Upon being informed that no such form had been signed, Ken James advised us to take legal action against BACS, as they were obviously at fault, and that he could not force you into returning Paddy. I guess following laws and/or ethical standards are not a priority at the Emeryville Police Department. Neither are transparency and accountability apparently. After Ken James stopped answering, my mother and I frequented your Police Department numerous times, in order to speak to you or Ken James in person to find a non-embarrassing and less time-consuming solution to this problem – strangely though, neither of you ever seemed to be at the office during any of these visits. I guess the workload is pretty light in Emeryville. Furthermore, we were denied due process, as both the Emeryville and the Berkeley Police Department refused to file a police report. Complaints to the Emeryville and Berkeley City Government have resulted in “investigations”, confirming the “legal surrender” of Paddy, despite the lack of evidence for its legality. Not too long ago, my mother spoke to a former government official in a different county, and he appeared to side with your story, as you were a “veteran police officer” of thirty years. That must make it awfully easy for you to use your position and connections to keep our dog without even showing your face, writing us, or otherwise issuing a response of your own.
Maybe you illegally wiretapped the phone call with my mother, cut out the parts about the trial run, and used that as basis for your claim. Anybody’s guess. Some might call you a “veteran police officer” – in my eyes that simply makes you a coward (“a person who lacks courage in facing difficulty, opposition...”). We have shared this story with many people, and the response is always the same: “Why did he have to have your dog – couldn’t he have just bought his own dog?”. It’s a fascinating question and I cannot think of any valid reason, why you would not either buy a puppy for your boys (maybe because of the dreaded lack of “housetraining” or the prohibitive cost) or adopt a homeless dog from a shelter. As a former K-9 officer, you obviously have connections to shelters, and, of course, the special connection you have to the BACS animal control officers you used to take Paddy away from us. Couldn’t you have used that to save a dog from euthanization? Or is that too selfless an act for you? Maybe proving that you can have anything you want is a sport for you?
I honestly do not know why you felt the need to use the power of your position to take away and keep Paddy. Maybe I will never know. All I know is that your actions have broken my and my mother’s hearts and done irreparable damage to our family.
Being admitted to UC Berkeley, after years of facing and overcoming many challenges, and years of VERY hard work, was exciting for me, and I could not wait for that new chapter of my life to begin. The first semester was not easy, especially because of our increasingly deteriorating living conditions, but I was managing well, and there was no reason why this should not have continued.
Then you took Paddy away. My grades have plummeted considerably, and while they are still decent, they are not nearly at the level they used to be. I cannot stop thinking that had I accepted admission to Santa Clara or Dominican several years ago, I would still have Paddy today. If I had decided to accept admission at veterinary school in Germany, instead of transferring to UC Berkeley, I would also still have Paddy. Even though UC Berkeley is a wonderful university, my UC Berkeley attendance is a daily reminder of my greatest loss this year – and the primary reason that what should have been the best time of my life, has become my worst, is your greed. Even though my mother and I are very close, the Paddy loss has driven a wedge between us. She blames me for our move to the East Bay (to attend Berkeley), and I scold her for trusting you and Berkeley Animal Care Services and agreeing to a trial run. It is often said that parents blame each other for the death or disappearance of a child; in our case, this proves correct, and also makes sense, since Paddy was a child to us. Rationally, we should not be blaming each other at all – while there were slip ups on our side, me not noticing the slightly ajar gate on Christmas Day, and my mother turning her head away for a few seconds from the yard to talk to a neighbor, there was no willful negligence on our part.
We were willing to pay anything and do anything to get Paddy back, and still are. But, unfortunately, we became victims of a predator who exploited our unfortunate situation and hardship and has used and is using his friends to get and keep what he wants for himself. One of your friends and colleagues, a lady in charge at the Emeryville Police Department (she refused to give her name, but at least she was the only person willing to speak to us directly, unlike you and Chief James), patiently listened to our concerns, but did point out to us that you and the Police Department could and have considered suing us for slander. Really? Please do. Merriam Webster and other dictionaries are on our side. Of course, that would involve you actually taking action of your own, which surely would be a burden to you. Your colleague also suggested, that we “just get another dog”. It was probably well meant, but the only person who should be getting another dog, one that does not already have a home, is you.
I am quite impressed at what heartless and bold measures you and your police chief are willing to take to keep Paddy, while keeping us quiet at the same time. I am referring to the incident when, after a heated argument with me, my mother, angry and depressed, went to the Emeryville Police station late at night to see if Paddy was around. She spoke to two kind police officers for quite awhile, who seemed to have compassion for her loss...until they were instructed to have her committed to a psych ward, where she spent the night and stayed until the next afternoon, when she was finally released and I could take her home. My mother has never been in a psych ward before, and I have never had to pick her up from one, so I want to thank you, your chief and the Emeryville Police Department for subjecting us to such an interesting new experience. Maybe you will arrange for my committal as well– the loss of Paddy has left me similarly depressed and prone to irrationality, so in your view, that surely makes me an ideal candidate for the psych ward, too.
So far you successfully have kept Paddy illegally hidden from us and convinced everyone in your vicinity to help you from returning him to his rightful owners. I am not sure you are aware of this, but even if it were legal for my mother to verbally agree to surrender Paddy to BACS and even if it had not had the stipulation of being part of an agreement that you broke, it would not matter, because I am a co-owner of Paddy, and I have never made any arrangement with you or BACS; in fact, I am the one who purchased Paddy (I have this in writing). We also have his AKC papers, and his service dog registration. The chip is also registered in our name – but I assume that you had Paddy double chipped to circumvent that issue. Neither one of us signed the release form for Paddy. Thus, you have no legal basis for owning Paddy. This is already an egregious offense on your part. What baffles me, and everyone else who hears this story, is, even if you had a legal right to Paddy, why you would insist on keeping him? You broke the agreement and my mother made it clear within the first few days after you picked up Paddy that she wanted him back. At that point, we had had him for three years, while you had him for three days.
What kind of person would put us through a year of heartbreak and hell, forcing us to spend an endless amount of time writing letters, and going through mental agony just to keep this dog? I am sure you would use your two boys as an excuse at this point, but how about being a role model for your children by doing the right thing? How about being an honorable example for your profession, which traditionally involves fighting injustice, instead of promoting it? If in the event of a kidnapping which you, as a detective, would no doubt handle, would you tell those grieving parents to "get another child"? You have put us through enough pain and suffering already.
The right thing, legally and ethically, is to return Paddy to us, so he can enjoy our new large apartment and private patio with us. Unfortunately, your past actions, and lack of willingness to be upfront and honest, and to communicate, leads me to predict that you will continue putting your profession and role as a parent to shame. Please prove me wrong. We will not give up on getting Paddy back, and this is not the last you will hear from my mother or me. Just give us Paddy back. He rightfully belongs to us – we know it, and you know it too.
Obviously, this is a very Merry Christmas for you, a memory of when you first set your sights on Paddy and decided you had to have him, no matter who you hurt.
For us, with no Paddy, it is the worst Christmas ever...