Stupid Pet Tricks

A retired judge wanted to rid his lakefront home of raccoons. But bowls of meat swimming in antifreeze take care of a lot more than those pesky animals.

"The coons were just absolutely ruining my insulation," Wiggins explains. He and his wife would come for a weekend stay and find they couldn't sleep at night, the raccoons were making so much noise climbing around the rafters.

He didn't know what to do until a friend suggested the antifreeze and meat. Asked why he didn't set traps for the raccoons, Wiggins says he doesn't know.

"I could have used a trap. I just didn't think about it. If I'd have known a dog or cat would be roaming about…The dog wasn't supposed to be over there. There aren't any dogs running loose over there," Wiggins says.

Corey Ledwell took Hilda with him on Gerda's final trip.
Margaret Downing
Corey Ledwell took Hilda with him on Gerda's final trip.

"I told Mr. Corey I was sorry about his dog."

But that didn't settle things, especially when the two of them ended up debating the issue on the Tom Martino show on KTRH and Wiggins said Cedar Point neighbor Paul Kibodeaux had seen antifreeze dripping from Ledwell's own truck. Ledwell vehemently denies such a thing ever happened.

On Sunday, July 15, Ledwell reappeared at the Splendora church, this time with Lavery in tow. The two of them spread flyers on car windshields in the church parking lot. Then Lavery made his way into the church, which prompted several members to pour forth and order them off the property. Ledwell delivered more flyers in Cedar Point, and a church officer phoned him later to tell him to never come back.

"They called here threatening me. They said I broke the law," Ledwell says. "I didn't break any law. As soon as the usher told me to leave, Bob and me left."

He emphasizes that he never threatened Wiggins, never got ugly with him. The worst thing he ever did was call him "the devil" one time, he says. He even had an attorney go over his flyer before he distributed it and took out the one accusation he couldn't make: that charges had been filed. He didn't put any flyers in mailboxes -- he knew that violates federal law and told Bob the same. As he sees it, he was drawing attention to an egregious wrong, and to do so he'd be relentless and creative in tracking people down and holding their feet to the fire, but he would not step over the line.

Kibodeaux sees it a little differently. "Corey was working here pouring some concrete for me. He lets his dogs run loose. Dogs aren't supposed to be running loose in Cedar Point." The dog could have gotten into antifreeze just about anywhere, he says.

Kibodeaux didn't like it that Ledwell started showing up at Wiggins's property, saying he would "glare at him from his truck."

"The guy, in my estimation, he's almost lost his mind over this."

There is no fence around Wiggins's lakefront home, nothing to keep any animal, any child, from walking right on in. The deck is raised so that even an adult only has to bend at the waist to duck under. It's cool there, at least 20 degrees cooler than under the glare of the sun.

When Lavery's cats turned up dead, he assumed some kid had done it. He's certain now that it was his neighbor, and he's mad -- mad because he let Wiggins use his pier once, mad because the cats died lengthy, agonizing deaths and he's feeling guilty about not having them euthanized.

"I've been here six years. I never had a problem with raccoons. I haven't even seen a raccoon," Lavery says.

"I've seen squirrels dead. I've seen snakes dead. I've seen birds dead, two ospreys. They don't have a mark on them like they would if a cat got them. They're just dead."

He has a little dog and three cats left. They do not go over to Wiggins's yard, he says.

It's now three weeks after Gerda's death, and Ledwell has done an about-face. It's not that he mourns Gerda any less. It's that he realizes he let himself get sucked into a maelstrom of bad feelings and needs to get out.

"I'm not calling him anymore," he says of Wiggins. He's finished. He contacted the media, set out the flyers, and wants to let it go. "If I do anything, it's going to be helping change the laws for animals or helping people adopt animals who need good homes. I found myself coming up with all these different ideas to upset this man. Why do this? I want to use my energy to do a more positive thing."

"I don't want to be down to his level. I don't want to turn mean." Ledwell leaves this week on a family camping trip with his remaining dogs. He says he still catches himself calling out for seven dogs, and had thought about getting another dog to fill the missing space, but now says he can't take any more.

Not surprisingly given their backgrounds, both Ledwell and Wiggins called upon God to do the final judging in this, though the tones of their approaches diverge sharply.

"If I wronged my fellow man, I try to make it right. I try to make God forgive me. I never intend to put out any more antifreeze," Wiggins says.

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