The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Luck of Phineas

Possibly the most heartwarming story of vigilante justice you will ever read:
After accusations arose of two previous unreported biting episodes, the Salem mayor, Gary Brown, deemed Phineas a vicious dog under town ordinance, and ordered him euthanized. The dog’s execution was delayed by a court appeal — and there was a brief, unexplained disappearance last fall — but then reinstated in March by Judge Scott Bernstein. City officials quickly moved Phineas to a secret location — it turned out to be the basement garage bay at the fire station — so he would not be snatched before his execution.


Concern and doubt festered for days, until a rainy night, the day after the latest court hearing to decide Phineas’s fate. As the Sanderses cleaned up from dinner with their four children, the man appeared at their door, asking for them by name.“I just want to tell you,” he said, “that Phineas is doing just fine.”

“Well, that’s good,” Mr. Sanders said, exhaling.

The man explained that he had seen a Phineas billboard and read about the case on Facebook. Sympathetic, he snatched Phineas and took him to a safe place where he was playing with another dog, the man told them, his fake mustache slipping down his face.He asked them to set up a safe house, they said, where he could bring Phineas for them to play with. But he did not trust cellphones. So he asked them to activate a landline, and when they had the safe house ready, they were to post the sentence, “I saw a dog today that reminded me of Phineas,” on the Facebook page. That would be his signal to call and arrange a meeting.

Ms. Sanders posted the message last Monday, and the man called on Wednesday night from a disposable cellphone. He arranged to return Phineas to them on Saturday morning. With the judge’s decision still pending, they were not taking any chances: They planned to ship Phineas to an undisclosed location.

Yet in a final twist, Judge Bernstein essentially said Friday that the drama should never have happened. He ruled that Phineas did not even bite the girl and overturned the death sentence.

Still worried that people might want to harm Phineas, the Sanderses kept the Saturday reunion secret. The man, wearing his fake beard, arrived at the drop point in a rural patch surrounded by dirt roads before the Sanderses arrived, and when an intermediary told him they were still on their way, he left Phineas and said, “Well, I’ve got to go.”

Minutes later, Salem’s most popular dog was bounding into his owners’ arms.
A lovely story.

Phineas Finn, of course, was famous for his luck, too. As Barrington Erle famously said of him "I never heard of a fellow with such a run of luck.”

What do you mean the dog wasn't named after that Phineas?

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