Dog owner's will: Let him die with me
The Cincinnati Enquirer
December 18, 2014
CINCINNATI — When Bela's owner died, she left a will. The will said to kill the dog. Ruh-roh!
Connie Ley died on Nov. 25 in her home near Aurora, Ind., 30 miles west of Cincinnati.
When Ley died, her dog was found in the house with her, a surprise to nobody because the two were close. You can hear Bela barking clearly on her phone answering machine as if they were leaving a message together. The phone is still active.
In her will, Ley requested that a friend take Bela, or that he go to an idyllic shelter for orphaned animals in southern Utah. But the friend does not want the dog, who may or may not be aggressive, and the Utah shelter was never contacted.
That introduced the final option in Ley's will: Put Bela down, cremate him, and mingle their ashes together so the two of them can rest in peace for eternity.
Today, Bela is at the Partners for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) of Dearborn County awaiting his fate. PAWS wants everybody to know they are taking good care of the dog and they have not and will not put him down. They are simply housing Bela until the humans figure out what to do with the dog.
The shelter issued the following statement: "PAWS has no legal right or control over his outcome. Bela will not be euthanized at our facility, either by PAWS staff or the Dearborn County Animal Control Officers. If a euthanization decision is reached by the estate, then it will be the responsibility of the estate to make those arrangements elsewhere."
Legally, the fact that Bela lives and breathes is not relevant. He is property, like a family farm or an old Ford truck. But socially and culturally, some people feel very differently.
When word of the great Bela debate got out, social media blew up because Bela is a healthy 9-year-old animal and dog people went apoplectic. The hashtag #SaveBella is both misspelled and popular.
And the comments are not kind to Ley. They fall into three rough groupings. The first says: Poor Bela. The second says: I'll take that dog. The third says: I wish Bela had died first and she could have put her owner down.
On twitter the words sick, selfish and disgusting are nonstop. Yikes.
Ley, for the record, was in her late 50s and her cause of death is unknown. It does seem she wanted what was best for her dog even if her decision is unpopular and seems perhaps insensible. Maybe Ley was simply afraid of what might happen to her good boy after she was gone.
Ley's attorney, Douglas Denmure, is an Aurora attorney trying to fulfill Ley's wishes. "It's a proper request," Denmure said. "The dog is property but I know there are two sides. I understand that viewpoint."
Denmure is in a bit of a pickle because he says Bela is an aggressive animal. He says Bela loved Ley, but not many others. Denmure said the friend identified by Ley as a possible Bela recipient wanted no part of him. He said Ley told him the dog needed to be muzzled when he was around strangers. She even kept records of his behavior.
Another problem is that while Ley identified Best Friends Animal Society as a possible home, she neither contacted Best Friends nor put aside money to move him there.
Now Best Friends is trying to figure out what to do.
"At this point, no one has contacted us about Bela, however, right now we working to find out more facts about what's happening," said Eric C. Rayvid of Best Friends. "Our animals are our family and this situation is a great example of the plan people should make for their pets who survive them. Whenever possible, the best option is for an adoptive home to have been identified, with informed consent, prior to the owners passing."
Bela was supposed to be put down on Tuesday. But Denmure demurred and is gathering more information. People are volunteering to take Bela to Utah or to adopt him themselves. But Ley did not leave him many options, and her choices are all
legal. Denmure will reach out to Utah but he will also tell them that media portrayals of Bela as sweet and loving might be, might be, a little optimistic. He feels he owes them that. In the meantime, the estate is paying Dearborn County, and Dearborn County is paying PAWS to shelter Bela. The people at PAWS are emotional. They have grown to love Bela and are caring for her daily, said Becky Foster, the manager. "It is difficult, we love all of our animals," Foster said. "We wish all the people interested in Bela would come by, we have many animals available."
The voice of reason for the whole Bela affair, may come from Harold Dates, the president and CEO of SPCA Cincinnati. He has had no contact with this dog but says he knows this type of human. He says there are no bad dogs here, or bad people. Ley, he said, is not alone in her fear that nobody would be able to care for her dog as she could, or that the dog would not adjust to a new home.
"She must have reached the conclusion that nobody else could care for her dog, and that the dog would not want to be with anybody else," Dates said. "We see that with people. But you know what, it's not true."