For such a docile dog, Cody has sure unleashed (as it were) a passionate response.
Cody, you might recall, is a Fort Street fixture who has spent his entire life outside Charmaine’s Past and Present store, charming passersby.
At least, that’s where he was until mid-May, when he was banished inside owner Charmaine Britton’s shop after an animal control officer found Cody lying on the sidewalk.
And that brought a political backlash that shows no sign of going away.
This week, council was presented with a Bring Back Cody petition from Victoria’s Ryan Painter, who wants council to grant an exemption that would let the dog lie outside the store without being leashed to a person, as the law requires.
As of Friday evening, the online petition had collected more than 2,100 names. That included 95 from the U.S., 84 from Germany and 29 from the United Kingdom (where they have nothing else to worry about this week).
“This is an easy thing that the council can do to right a wrong,” Painter said Friday. “This is a no-brainer.”
Ah, but while giving the pooch a pass might be politically expedient, it appears councillors don’t believe it would be the right thing to do — a courageous position, given the heat they have taken.
See, Cody is not just a dog, but a golden retriever, and an aging one at that. That makes him the canine equivalent of the Dalai Lama — old, gentle, serene, calming, adored.
At 13 years of age, he is greyer than second-term Obama, less threatening than the Canucks’ power play. He moves just a bit little faster than the Johnson Street Bridge project. Britton needs help to lift him out of her car in the morning.
The notion of applying the leash law to such a creature drew indignation, both here and abroad. In May, Britton, unaware that someone had posted Cody’s story on social media, came home from an up-Island trip to find the Internet on fire.
“It’s crazy,” she said Friday. “The emails are coming in from around the world.” Italy, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, South Africa …
“Initially, there were a couple of hundred people a day coming in just to see the dog,” she said.
That tailed off after a couple of weeks, but there are still daily drop-ins. Last week, a couple visiting from California made a special side trip to the store, having read Cody’s story at home.
Lawyers have volunteered to take his case. Strangers have said they will pay any tickets (though Britton was only warned, not fined, for Cody’s leashlessness). Two limousine companies offered to chauffeur him. Someone from the Lower Mainland mailed a homemade bow tie and neckerchief for the dog.
Most helpfully, strangers have volunteered to sit outside with a leashed Cody. That’s a bigger deal as the weather warms.
“On hot days, we’ve been leaving Cody at home,” Britton says. When it gets stuffy inside the store, he pants and barks at the closed door, wanting out.
Britton says all the callers say the same thing: “One hundred per cent of them are in favour of having the dog remain in the doorway for the rest of his life.”
Some suggest exempting Cody from the law by designating him a goodwill ambassador, a representative of Fort Street.
But Mayor Lisa Helps says that’s not the way it works. “We have bylaws, and we don’t govern by exception,” she says. If you want to change the rules, change the rules — but don’t ignore them on an ad hoc basis. “As cute as he may be and as well loved as he may be, where does it stop?”
And no, it’s no fun being the politician taking that kind of stance, not when some of the critics get worked up in a most un-golden-retriever-like way. When the story broke in May, Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe did the talking for the city, pointing out that the leash law wasn’t just aimed at vicious dogs, but was meant to protect visually impaired pedestrians from tripping. That earned her the most vicious email she has dealt with in almost 13 years on council.
Please, Victoria, be a little less Cujo and a little more Cody.