By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
Highlights from Hair Balls
This is a story about a puppy who was needlessly euthanized by people who claim to be big animal rescuers in Houston, who appear to have perpetrated a lie and who were dumb enough to put the lie in writing.
At center stage, really, is the dog: Juno. A stray pittie, twenty-odd pounds when found, with an unknown skin condition — possibly allergies. Juno's found by Jeff Caldwell around June 1. He'll die on July 9, but we'll get to that later.
Caldwell and his wife Lydia are referred by a fellow animal rescuer to a woman named Amy Walther. A volunteer with Citizens for Animal Protection. The deal is, Walther will foster Juno, and the Caldwells get a chance to screen any potential adopters. But when Lydia Caldwell says she's ready to take Juno back in early July, Walther surrenders him to CAP and then tells her buddy Shelby Kibodeaux that Juno is lost.
Kibodeaux, who recently co-chaired a fund-raising gala for Citizens for Animal Protection, tells Caldwell the dog was adopted by a woman in New Mexico. Now, Kibodeaux's a big name in animal rescue. He's also a big self-promoter — the kind of dude you see a lot of in society pages and on Web sites. He spins a glorious yarn for the Caldwells about how Juno is living it up with Kibodeaux's in-laws in Santa Fe. Or wait, is it Albuquerque? Kibodeaux and Walther can't seem to nail it down. Lydia and Jeff Caldwell express dismay and try to get the dog back. Of course, the dog isn't in New Mexico. He's dead.
Now there's a lawsuit over alleged fraud, a string of e-mails so mind-blowingly disgraceful that show how at least two adults participated in a needless death, and a cover-up attempt whose stupidity ascends to the sublime.
Here's the nitty-gritty: The Caldwells are suing Walther, Kibodeaux, Kibodeaux's partner, Bruce Padilla, and Kibodeaux's relative, Natalie Bustillos, for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Walther et al would have gotten away with their plan, too, if it weren't for the fact that the Caldwells are not four years old and are also in possession of circulatory systems that allow the flow of blood in order to oxygenate fully functioning brains. And it was because of this absence of hypoxia that they came to realize that something was really, really wrong. They came to realize that Walther and Kibodeaux were totally and utterly full of shit.
For one thing, Kibodeaux already admitted to Hair Balls that he lied to the Caldwells when he told them Juno was in New Mexico. He had to admit it, because he knows he was dumb enough to leave an e-mail trail. But what he does when he admits it to Hair Balls is, he throws his pal Walther under the bus. He says she told him Juno was lost, and he had no reason to believe she was lying, so he makes up the New Mexico story to buy time. In the meantime, he says, he and Padilla scour Walther's neighborhood for more than a week, looking for Juno, figuring he'd turn up eventually.
Here's what Kibodeaux and Padilla don't do: They don't immediately use their vast network of concerned animal rescuers to distribute a photo and description of the dog. They don't post flyers. They don't visit shelters. Pretty much whatever it is people do when they lose a dog, they don't do it. See, they can't, because they've already spun this cockamamie story about New Mexico, and if the Caldwells find out it's a lie, Kibodeaux and Walther will have egg on their faces, and a yolk-covered mug don't look good in society pages. See, they've got airs to maintain, people. Airs that are more important than some dumb stray dog.
If you've made it this far, you can quit after reading a single e-mail, sent by Amy Walther to Lydia Caldwell — with Kibodeaux copied — 12 days after Juno was euthanized. It was sent because the Caldwells had desperately been trying to get pictures of Juno in his new home, and then trying to get Juno back after they realized something wasn't right.
"Juno has been adopted. THIS IS OVER All contact ends now. Please do not continue to harass Shelby, Bruce, or me.
"We are prepared jointly to take legal action against you for harassment and slander."
Now how 'bout that?
Okay, so now you know what kind of people we're dealing with. But the string of e-mails leading up to that apotheosis of asshole-ishness is an almost equally fascinating journey into mystifying human behavior.
Here's an e-mail from Kibodeaux to Lydia Caldwell (with Walther copied):
"I did a Vet check and their my in laws so I know their yard is secure and their are no other dogs in the home. I will see Juno for the rest of his life and will have them send pictures as soon as he acclimated into the new home.
Kibodeaux sent that e-mail on July 11, two days after Juno was put down.
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