A Dog’s Day in Court

A Dog’s Day in Court

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

A Dog’s Day in Court

When I was growing up, we lived about a quarter mile froma train crossing. Our dog, Lenny, had a very annoying habit: he howled whenever a train whistled for the crossing. It probably stemmed fromhis very sensitive hearing. It did notmatter if hewas outside or in the house. He howled and howled until the train went by. On some days, when the wind was right, he would even howl for the crossings farther down the track. We learned to put upwith the noisy ruckus, mainly because we loved our pet so much.

Early one morning while we were eating breakfast, we heard the squeal of a train’s braking efforts followed by a terrible crash. My brother dashed out of the house, ran to the end of our lane and discovered amangledmass jammed on the cowcatcher of the massive locomotive. Parts of a car were strewn everywhere. Unfortunately, the driver of the car had died instantly.

Back in the house, we guessed there had been a crash and called the local rescue squad. But we all immediately said to each other, “Lenny didn’t howl. The whistle must not have blown!”

At the scene,my brother recognized what was left of the car as that of his buddy’s father and knew immediately the sad, sad news that would now have to be conveyed to the family. When the chief of the rescue squad arrived, my brother told him, “The engineer could not have blown the whistle for the crossing, because our dog did not howl. And he always does!”

The story of Lenny’s howling circulated rapidly around our small town as everyone shared in the grief of the wife and family. Speculation ran high as to whether the whistle had truly been blown as the engineer claimed. Some folks even came to witness the “howling dog” phenomenon and left convinced the whistle must not have sounded!

Left without the breadwinner, the family of nine was in dire straits. One of the county’s best-known and most successful lawyers decided to pursue a claim against the, by now, infamous Soo Line on behalf of the widow and children. (On contingency, of course!) The lawyer hired an investigator and recording technician. For days, at all hours, the two men frequented our yard and our home listening for oncoming trains and faithfully recording Lenny’s howl. Lenny never failed to echo with his characteristic, piercing howl the sharp wail of an approaching freight as it neared the crossing at which the tragedy had occurred. They even recorded his howling as a whistle was blown at the neighboring crossings in both directions when the wind was right. The lawyer was convinced.

The taped evidence, presented in court, along with the testimony of my family members, convinced the judge and jury. The settlement awarded to the family secured their home and future. County court records give evidence of the success of a “dog’s day in court!”

Sr. Mary K. Himens, S.S.C.M.

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