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All About My Mother's Dog

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On August 3, 1999, Ann Murray took Charlie to Rogers Animal Hospital, where veterinarian C.J. Beaupied gave the dog a clean bill of health but suggested a grooming. "At the time "Charlie' had some fleas... and some matting to his fur," Beaupied wrote. So Murray made an appointment with Sadar, but had to reschedule because of the approach of Hurricane Floyd. On September 24 Ann Murray finally left Charlie at Sadar's shop.

"All I could do is cry when he came back in that condition," Sadar says. "I just called the board members and said, "We need to have an emergency meeting before I do anything with this dog.'" Sadar took a Polaroid, which she has kept, of Charlie's underbelly; the photo shows a dark stain of urine. His fur was matted and infested with fleas. "From grooming animals you know how the dog is supposed to look," she says. "That's not how Charlie looked." Kritter Kare members unanimously decided to hold on to Charlie and advised Sadar to inform Ann Murray.

Enter David Murray, a 53-year-old father of four. After arriving home October 1 from a business trip, he drove to Kritters Pet Supplies and demanded Charlie's return. When Sadar refused, Murray called the Fort Lauderdale police. Two cops showed up, spoke with both Sadar and Murray, then ordered Murray to leave and warned that he would be arrested for trespassing if he returned.

To understand the events that followed, one must know something about David Murray. This is a man who in 1968, after his rare Austin Healey Sprite automobile was stolen and stripped, started a mission. Every time he passed an Austin, he recalls, he scrutinized it for pirated parts. Two years after the theft, he found his car's seats in a Sprite that was parked at Broward Community College campus in Davie. When Murray contacted the car's owner, he returned them. In 1990, after losing $3500 in a stock trade that involved a catalog-distribution company called Showcase Shop-by-Video, David Murray began a new crusade. He filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, then spent years hectoring the stockbroker who had suggested the purchase. In 1996 the broker refunded $2500.

So David Murray wasn't fazed by Sadar's refusal to return Charlie. "They had told my mom that they were going to have a board meeting, and the board would decide whether she was going to get the dog back," David recalls. "But they wouldn't give my mom the names of the board members." David tracked them down anyway and requested Charlie's return, he says. They refused.

On October 6, 1999, a veterinarian at South Federal Animal Hospital examined Charlie and treated him for tapeworm, which he had most likely contracted from the fleas. Around that time the Murrays retained local animal-rights attorney Steven Logan. Negotiations lasted for months but were unsuccessful.

In May 2000 David Murray filed a lawsuit against Kritter Kare demanding, among other things, Charlie's return. So far the lawsuit has gone nowhere. This past October the Sadars' attorney, Paula Kessler, told Judge Linda Pratt the dog had been adopted. "Now, why did they carry out all these negotiations if the dog had been adopted out?" Murray asks.

So Murray went to a sign shop, paid for printing of the banners, mounted them on PVC pipe, then hung them on his truck. "I thought about it," he says. "I stewed about it and determined what I was going to do." On March 9, 2001, at around 7:30 a.m., he drove to Federal Highway and Davie Boulevard, where the Sadars had moved their shops the preceding summer. When Kelly and Cheryl drove up an hour and a half later, pandemonium ensued. "I guess the best way to put it was they were as confused as termites in a yo-yo," Murray muses.

Murray has continued his mission, visiting the location 30 or 40 times and sometimes stopping. He's usually there during rush hour. Cheryl Sadar has called the police often, and twice, in March and May, the Sadars asked for a restraining order to keep Murray away. Judges denied the requests because Murray has not threatened violence.

The Murrays' lawsuit, which has cost them about $1300 in fees, is still open. David Murray offered to pay for binding arbitration at a hearing in June, but the Sadars rejected the idea. Now the Murrays say the return of Charlie is no longer a goal. "I said up front that if he was adopted I wouldn't ask for him back," says Ann Murray, "because I don't want to do to his new family what was done to me."

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Victor Thompson

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