When the Unthinkable Happens

Written by Hollye Dexter

June 6, 2011

Tears are hitting my keyboard as I write this. I don’t even know how to begin, because I don’t want to break all your hearts the way mine has been broken. 
What we thought was impossible has happened. We lost the trial. We have ten days to turn Stitch over to the people who neglected and abandoned him.
I know you are all in shock upon hearing this, as we have been all weekend.
The “plaintiff” never proved in court that Stitch ever belonged to him. He presented falsified documents that my lawyer readily struck down. His documents were for the purchase of a French bulldog with an ID number that was not related to Stitch, and didn’t have the guy’s name nor a date anywhere on the paperwork. All his witnesses, (one who sported a bleach blonde four-inch high Mohawk, another that seemed obviously high on the stand, another who came in weak and emaciated with a hospital bracelet on his wrist) lied on the stand and contradicted each other. The original owner of Stitch who “supposedly” gave Stitch to the plaintiff, didn’t come to court because he was just out of rehab.

The teenage girl whose mother adopted Stitch to us, lied on the stand and said Stitch was never hers. Here is the video of her admitting Stitch is her dog- the video we were not permitted to show in court:

This is the group of people the judge ordered me to turn our Stitch over to.
When Stitch was found abandoned in the middle of the highway in Nevada City, he had a cigarette burn on his neck. The guy admitted on the stand to losing Stitch as many as five times. He admitted that the last time Stitch went missing he didn’t go looking for him until a couple days later, because he “figured he’d turn up”, and because he lets Stitch run loose on the five acre property where he stays in a guest house. He said Stitch often ran off chasing bears and such. Okay, my dog is a French bulldog, not a hunting dog. They aren’t supposed to be outdoors for long periods because they have breathing problems and can overheat, leading to asphyxiation. Never in our care did Stitch even attempt to run off. In fact, he is such a loyal companion, he follows me from room to room.
The “plaintiff” had never given Stitch his puppy shots, never licensed him, never microchipped him even though he lost him numerous times and went on and on about what an “expensive” dog Stitch is (although he never paid a dime for Stitch or his care).
Meanwhile, everyone said our case was a slam dunk. We adopted Stitch and did all the right things legally. We microchipped and licensed him. We gave him all the proper vaccinations. He received regular vet care. We wipe the folds under his eyes every day with special medicated cloth. We give him oatmeal baths for his sensitive skin. We fed him expensive, organic food for his sensitive digestive system.
The judge based his decision on the “Lost Property Statute” which basically applies to material goods. In other words, as the opposing attorney used in his argument against us, if you leave your bicycle at the beach, and three weeks later you see someone else riding your bicycle, they are obligated to give it back to you. And we said the obvious “Stitch is not a bicycle. He is a living thing who needs love and care, and he was abandoned.”
But the judge ruled as though Stitch were a bicycle.

So what the hell do you do when the unthinkable happens?
You do what you can.
You show up.
You love the best you can.
You give what you have.
You fight when you have to.
And you pray.
This fight has been a year and a half of my life. It has consumed my time, my attention, my energy, my creativity, my bank account… I am beyond depleted. But if I don’t fight, what will happen to Stitch?
So today I meet again with my attorney and we will discuss the possibility of an appeal.
I said in court that I have always, and would always abide by the law. But now that I think of it, that’s not really true. I protested Prop 8 when it became law in California, and I stood by my best friends as they broke the law and got married. The law has often been wrong. Slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, laws that kept women from voting, and this law….”Lost Property Statute”.
A dog is not a bicycle. They are living breathing beings who need love and care. They are our family members.
And so the fight continues.

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  1. Anonymous

    There are no words Hollye. Love you lots.

  2. Ms Peach

    I am so sorry. The only good I can see in this situation is that the "case" might bring legal attention to of what is good and fair, not just what something looks like on paper. You are doing the right thing. I'm sorry to say that I would be extremely tempted to take a road trip to Canada if things didn't go my way. You're heart must be breaking. I'm sorry. I'll include you and yours in my prayers. I have my fingers crossed for you.


  3. Mark R. Cronin

    I am sorry about this outcome. Ownership of animals is as clear as mud it seems and ultimately subject to interpretation. The animals welfare should be the deciding factor.

  4. Judy N

    Heartbreaking, Hollye. I'm so sorry. Hope you can appeal.

  5. Monica Holloway

    Hollye, Having been in the courtroom through this and seeing first hand how hard you fought the "good" fight to keep Stitch where he belongs, safe and loved with you and your family, I am dumbstruck by this decision. Anyone in that courtroom could see that you and Troy love that sweet dog more than anything and that you (literally) bankrupted yourselves to save him.
    I know it might not seem that way now, but Ms. Peach is right; you have been picked to set a precedent that dogs are not objects. They have emotions and connections to us just as we have to them. They are entitled to proper care and a safe home – and no judge in his right mind could have listened to the testimony that I heard, and feel that Stitch would be safer, happier, and loved by anyone other than you and your family. It's a shocking decision based on a law that is just plain wrong. As you wrote in your blog, "Stitch is not a bicycle."
    I'm proud of you and your family and the way you've fought so hard. The fact that you're appealing this decision is a testament to the kind of integrity you have. I'm so sorry this is ongoing, but I know you will help save so many other animals. Here's to you, Hollye. You will not be alone in this appeal. I love you!

  6. kario

    Sending love and light.

  7. Natalie Iturbe

    You are very brave Hollye. Only someone with your drive and passion can make a positive change in this world. <3

  8. Denise

    I, too, am shocked Hollye…I hope that you do whatever you can do to bring publicity to this case…contact the papers, the local news…that seems to be the only way things change…I'll be glad to do whatever I can do to help…just name it…as my dog Bella is curled up next to me, I can't even imagine what you are going through…let's all hope that a new "Stitch's Law" will prevent anyone else from having to endure this heartbreak…I am so, so sorry, but always hopeful that you will prevail…

  9. Hollye Dexter

    Thank you so much to all of you. You keep my spirit buoyed so that I can face it. So often I've felt like I can't take one more second, but then there you all are, with your love and support, lifting me back on my feet again.
    With all my heart I thank you for that.

  10. Cheryl Moseley

    Oh, dearest Hollye, I am so sorry about this news. My heart goes out to you and Troy and your children who love Stitch so very much and have given him such a good home. Public awareness of issues is so important, as you so well know. I don't know what it will mean in the long run for an appeal in this issue, but we are behind you, love you, and support you. Much love,

  11. Kathleen

    Hollye, I am sick over this with Mojo at my feet~Appeal~what can we all do to help. Since I was 16 I have good reason for never trusting the legal system and when it goes right I truly wonder if it is just darn luck. APPeal we can and will all help. There are no words I am heartbroken and cannot imagine how you all are feeling. My love and whatever support you need. We are here for you. Love and some peace within to give you the strength to Fight This~

  12. Deb and Barbara

    i had to leave the computer so I could cry. I just got back from walking my beloved dog to read this. Hollye, there are no words. That judge could not possibly ever have owned a pet or loved someone. He is… OKay, no words.

    Just love love love. Barbara

  13. Georgie

    Such heartbreaking news to come home to. I am so sorry Hollye. This is beyond unbelievable. I agree that you should bring this to whatever media you can. Shame the courts into doing the right thing, for nothing is more shameful than what they have done to you, your family and Stitch. I know I am far away, but if there is anything at all I can do, please don't hesitate to ask. Sending all my love to you all……Georgie

  14. Lori

    I'm in a state of SHOCK and ANGER. Today the world weighs heavily on me, and I cannot find words for either of us to make this okay. Therefore, I say with all my heart. APPEAL. FIGHT. GO TO THE PAPERS. GO TO OPRAH. RAIL AGAINST INJUSTICE. put all the grief into action and stand up for what's right. This is just unbelievable on all counts. maybe there IS a larger issue at heart here, maybe you are being called to bring light to a larger cause. it is said that for everything there is a season–it is clearly the season to fight back. my heart goes out to you and I add my indignation and upset to everyone else's with the hope that the greater good will find a way to prevail. with love & hugs-Lori

  15. Stephen

    Keep fighting the good fight Hollye-Stitch deserves it. Have you tried to take this story to the media? If you get a sympathetic story and lots of public pressure, the judge might reconsider, or it could help with an appeal. How can we put pressure on this Judge?

  16. Tambre Leighn/coaching by tambre

    Resiliency. Integrity. Compassion. The qualities your story models. Thanks to Hope Edelman for sharing it. Love Stephen's idea of getting some media coverage to shame that judge into doing the right thing. Written laws don't always translate into justice…and, in this case, I hope justice prevails for the sake of your family and for Stitch. It's time to start rewarding those who do the right thing instead of protecting those who inflict pain and suffering on an innocent animal.

  17. Anonymous

    http://www.aldf.org/ They are a great organization and perhaps they could be of assistance.

  18. Sky

    I linked to this blog entry under Hope Edelman's FB page. Consider me utterly heartbroken. You are a strong, brave woman and a wonderful mother and a impossibly kind animal owner. I too hope that the media coverage will turn the judge's heart and show him/her the right path, not the "as deemed by the law" path.

  19. Johanna Hays

    As in shock as I am, as enraged as I am, as heartbroken as I am, I am ready to join the fight. Just say when and where, and I will be there.
    There is no making sense of this, no matter how it is looked at. How can Stitch be turned over to the people that neglected him, abused him, abandoned him…and worse, when I think of him having to leave his home and his family, I cannot stand it. I am with you however we can fight it. Just say when and where.
    I am so sorry.

  20. Georgie


  21. Jess

    This is so heartbreaking and upsetting. I am so sorry you are having to go through this. I send you much strength as you continue to fight it.

    The one thing that bugged me here was you considered having a a certain kind of mohawk a reflection of someone's moral fiber. I don't think anyone's hairstyle is a reason to judge them. It may be, consider the company that person kept, that you are right to question them, but still that didn't sit quite right with me.

    I hope you won't take that as a lack of support for anything else said here.

  22. Barbara O

    Hollye, I'm so sorry. It's an outrage that Stitch is being treated as property. Your courage is an inspiration. Sending love and hugs.

  23. Anonymous

    OH NO!! NO! This is awful, I am so sad, I can't take it! How can I help, ANYTHING!!!! Really this just can't happen!!!! I have adopted all my dogs and I can't begin to imagine this could happen. Especailly to such warm loving caring people like you and your family…Do these creeps want money, can they be paid or just get them another french bulldog or something?
    Let me know if I can do ANYTHING!! – Carol

  24. Dolores

    Hollye, can you get local media involved? I would also start appealing to animal rights/rescue groups in your area and see if you can get them to at least help get your story out. I am so s rry to hear about this unbelievable verdict and will be praying for the right thing to happen. Be strong and take care.

  25. knitcrazybooknut

    Please fight this as hard as you can. I am appalled and hope you can find the strength to continue to appeal. We have rescued 6 cats ourselves and would be devastated if this were to happen. Take care of yourselves.

  26. Meredith

    Amy Ferris posted this on FB and I clicked. I am heartsick reading this. I have already written Stitch's name on a piece of tissue and put it beneath my pillow – this is one way that I pray. Miracles do happen, keeping putting one foot in front of the other.

  27. Amy Wise

    It's all too much. We just have to surround each other with love and support. I can't figure out the why…not yet. I love you Hollye. I am so sorry.

    Love Amy W.

  28. Anonymous

    Keep fighting. I hope Stitch gets to spend the rest of his life with you. He doesn't deserve being in a neglected situation.

  29. Anonymous

    Unbelievable. So how much would you charge for boarding "his" dog and how much in vet care did you spend on Stitch. I would counter sue for that amount and hold Stitch for collateral the same way you would hold a "bicycle" for collateral on a debt. 24 hour boarding is expensive. And the dog is an escape artist isn't he? Good thing he hasn't run away from you… yet. Please start a chip in so we can donate to your legal bills. This is about more than just one dog.

  30. Hollye Dexter

    True- this IS about more than just one dog, and that's what I'm thinking about, moving forward. This is really about animal rights. The judge did order the guy to pay all Stitch's vet bills and licensing fees etc ( which I am sure I will never see a dime) but I don't care about the money. I want Stitch to live happy and safe with us.

  31. Anonymous

    My friend sent this to me…after reading this I was disgusted by the judge's decision. Ok lets just ask a question – Say you demand all the money that was spent on Stitch to make him whole again…from the sounds of it it doesn't appear that "the abusive ownwer" has money OR would agree to pay you for all the vet, food, etc… AND if he can't pay or won't pay then you keep Stitch… I would never give him up…I would fight tooth & nail for this pup!!! Much good luck to you and the family… AND FU to the legal system & that Judge must be one very unhappy person wanting to make others so sad….

  32. laurenne

    I'm so sorry, Hollye! I was shocked when Madge told me last night. Truly shocked. I have been disappointed in our legal system so many times, and this is the last straw! The court rules this way for kids as well. Foster kids are treated as bicycles too.
    I feel like we need to make a documentary and get the word out about how horribly our legal system is run.
    I really admire how you haven't lost hope.

  33. Anonymous

    So sorry Dexter Family! I just read this to Nicki who takes care of dogs…outraged!

  34. tamara

    I am speechless. And appalled and disgusted. I am thinking of you all, please let me know how I can help.

  35. Hilary H

    I am quite disappointed in the system lately and I agree it bring anger,frustration and makes for wanting to not do the right thing.
    I had a tenant in a college rental and they were NOT allowed to have animals. They adopted a 3 month old pit bull puppy. They fenced an area in the back and put the pup back there all day with a bed and a bowl of water that never had water in it the 3 times I went to talk to them about the pup. No one was ever home and this was 4 guys that were clearly not taking care of the dog and it got out and was running around in the street as well. I did inform them they neded to get rid of the dog and no pets were allowed. Worried as to what would happen to the pup on the third day I went to check on matters I knocked to talk to them. No one answered but I hear the pup scratching at the door so I checked the door and low and behold it was unlocked and that sweet pup was so excited to see me. No one was around so very illegally I stole that pup and put in my car and sped off. I found a great home for her and to this day she is happily still living there. I do not feel bad and did call the tenants to ask if they took care of the dog, and they said yes the dog is no longer at the unit. I pray that no matter what this sweet stitch will stay wih you guys and the court sees the light somehow…

  36. Anonymous

    Please! Who is the judge???? Let's get the name out and examine his judicial record!!!! Quickly! Public pressure and outcry needs to be brought to bear here……

  37. Anonymous

    Think I'd "lose" Stitch. To somebody safe, untraceable. Then I'd lie like hell. Some of these idiot judges need to be hung.

  38. Boxer OC Animal Rescue

    I just wouldn't give the dog back. What can they do? If its just property then the worst that could happen is you get charged with theft. Most law enforcement agencies wouldn't even bother.

  39. Anonymous

    Hi Hollye,
    I don't know you, but I knew Troy at Groves. You MUST get local media involved! I'm telling you, get this story OUT THERE! Don't let up. It's amazing what public pressure can do, especially when you're morally and ethically right!

    Please, write and call anyone and everyone – TV, Radio, Newspapers… with photos of the dog and your family, etc. This is an outrage. Don't let up.

  40. Hollye Dexter

    Thank you so much, to every one of you friends, new and old, and strangers with big hearts. Please stay tuned as we navigate our way through this nightmare. We may need your support to get the word out, and just to make it through the tough days ahead.
    Thank you!!!!!

  41. hannah Kozak

    I cannot imagine what kind of person could make such a barbaric decision. I know you'll go back in and fight. I can't imagine how you feel after what you've been through.I am so sorry to hear all that you are going through. My heart hurts for you and your family. I am praying for you.I'm with you Hollye.

  42. Anonymous

    What state is this in? Can't this person be charged with neglect to Stitch? Appeal appeal appeal! Next judge has be to more compassionate then this one. Why in the world would this person what Stitch back when he obviously doesn't care about what happens to him?! I am so angry for you!

  43. Anonymous

    The law of man does not supercede the law of God, which is the one you should follow. I wonder, if this WAS about a bicycle, and the bicycle was "stolen" while in your pocession, what would the (man-made) ramifications be? In addition, being that animals are property, you can only be held liable fur the value of the said property. And have you filed a counter-suit for reclamation of invested funds to restore the health (and life) of this little dog? I'm just thinkin' . . . God Bless.

  44. Anonymous

    Why did you even let it get this far? "The dog ran away. I'm very sorry." (hang up the phone) When will people learn that the law has nothing to do with truth, justice, or what's right?! Animals lovers of all people should know this because the law does not protect them and it lets their abusers run free. Wake up people.

  45. seth

    I just emailed this story to the producer of the Stephanie Miller Show. Stephanie is a big animals rights person. Maybe it cold get some traction there.

    To the previous person's post. In hindsight yes, that was the better answer, but in the moment, honest good people don't think in this realm.

    A lesson for all good people out there.

    I hope others will join me in donating towards this cause.

    I just learned about this this morning, and it has taken me all day to fully comprehend this.
    My heart keeps breaking and i keep wishing i could help make this better somehow.


  46. Anonymous

    If anyone is on Twitter I've been tweeting this with #savestitch.

  47. golden retriever rescue

    What is the case numberm, the next trial date and the name of the judge. This is all useless without specific information for anyone to act on. Does anyone have information. We can help but do not have time to research and sit on hold with the courthouse when this info should be readily available. Journalists, the five "W's" who, what, where, when and how in the first paragraph please. Send details to info@scgrrescue.org.

  48. Mandi

    I saw in your other blog that you've had him licensed and registered as a part of your family since 2007 – it's been 4 years – what's the statute of limitations on "stolen property"? If they're going to go in that direction, I would argue that the statute of limitations for many types of theft is five years – and in some cases even less – three years. Perhaps that's a route?

    Best wishes, I have no idea how this happened – but I believe very strongly in karma and I'm wishing the best for you and the great energy your family puts into the universe. 🙂


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