Friday, March 18, 2016

A Tragedy of Three Dead LGDs

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” 
― George Orwell

In 2012, three Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dogs were shot on public lands by bow hunters in the thickly wooded forest of Oregon's Ochocos, east of Prineville.  They and approximately 3 other LGDs belonged to Gordon Clark of the Hay Creek Ranch, and were traveling with a large band (over 1,000) of sheep on an allotment with a solo herder.

Initially, I, along with practically every other LGD owner out there, was swept up in the drama of the case.  How could these men shoot these poor dogs?    Off with their heads!  The press painted Craig and Paul Johnson out to be scumbag elk hunters on a killing spree.  When they were given probation, fined, and community service, the LGD community cheered.  There was some sense of relief.

But it wasn't over yet.

Fast forward to spring of 2015.  

I received a phone call out of the blue from an Oregon attorney, and the rest as they say, is history.  I was retained as an expert witness on this case.  But not for who you think.

This blog post is a story of how I, since 2009 a successful breeder, trainer and devout lover of LGDs, was convinced to become an expert witness - NOT for Gordon Clark, the owner of the Great Pyrenees, but rather for the defendants the Johnson brothers, who were now being sued for "emotional damages" and "losses" by Clark in a civil suit.  It is a story of the other side the media has covered up or neglected to probe from day one. It is a story of poor sheep management, of a grossly undermanned operation, and of dogs being reared in the now-dismissed and frowned upon "hands off/don't touch/toss them in the sheep and walk away" training methods. It's a story of undertrained herders and documented prior incidents of Clark's dogs attacking, chasing and threatening people on public lands in the Ochocos for years prior.

It is a story of why I chose to take the side of the defendants after being sent reams of court documents, pleadings and depositions to review.  Because I advocate for the dog, I took the risk of ridicule and getting hate mail, and advocated for the defendants.  Because this was a tragedy that could have been prevented…by more responsible operation management by Mr. Clark.  The dogs paid the ultimate price for his incompetence.

When shot, the dogs were no where near the band of sheep, but were chasing elk and deer.  No herder was in sight, nor were any sheep near the dogs when they were mistaken for feral dogs illegally chasing wildlife on public lands, and shot.  They wore no collars, no spray paint marks on their sides, for identification. No ID, no tags, no bells, nothing.

On March 10, 2016 the $250,000 verdict in Clark's favor was made public.

As an expert witness beginning in the Spring of 2015 I was given access to sworn depositions, summaries, pleadings, police reports, incident reports and statements, and other related documents in this case.  What I based my opinion on was what was handed to me - sworn testimonies and depositions from all sides and parties involved, and police and incident reports.

You may or may not change your mind after reading some of these statements, but you'd be brain dead not to begin to wonder if the media just pulled off a blanket character assassination of the defendants, and the "mourning" and controversial ex-surfboard foam manufacturer Gordon Clark was and is not what he's been painted to be by the press corps.  Again, I'll be taking my material directly from sworn court depositions and police reports.  This will be the first of two or three blog posts on this subject over this coming year.  They'll be short, just  to show you the other side.  I personally feel it needs to be heard.


"Clark said the money and favorable verdict don't make up for the deaths of Elvira, Tony and Jackie Chan, the three dogs killed in 2012."
---- Associated Press, March 10, 2016

Sworn deposition of Gordon Clark, Monday, February 2, 2015, 2:45 pm 
Bend, Oregon:
21:9: Q: What were the names of the three dogs that were shot?
10: A (Clark): I can't remember.
11: Q: What were their ages?
12: A (Clark): I can't remember.
13: Q: Sex?
14: A (Clark): I believe -- I don't know the exact age.  I believe they were all fairly young.  
I can't remember exactly.
17: Q: And what about their sex?
18: A (Clark): Two were females, one was a male.  I might clarify that.  The dogs, when they are puppies, are named mostly by my daughter and others around, but when they go out with the herders they give them names, some that I cannot pronounce, and so they get renamed.  And we have some sort of naming system for the veterinarians and I can't remember what it is.
25: Q: But would I be correct in assuming, 
22:1: Mr Clark, that with respect to the three dogs that were shot you probably didn't go out and call them by name to get them to come to you?
4-5: A (Clark): When I saw them would I call them by name? No.

So let's get this straight.

In February of 2015, Mr. Clark cannot name any of his dead dogs he claims the loss of "caused him emotional duress", when questioned under oath, above.  That line rapidly changes for the bleeding heart press corps, however, in March of 2016 when he suddenly regains memory and can come up with three names for the dogs, "Tony", "Elvira" and "Jackie Chan".  But those weren't the names the herders called them by, as you'll read later from more sworn depositions….

"Photo by Holly M. Gill - Gordon Clark, the owner of Hay Creek Ranch, sits beside a mounted cougar he shot when it threatened his sheep. Clark lost three of his well-trained Great Pyrenees dogs last month when they were guarding sheep in the Ochocos, and were shot by hunters."

MY NOTE: One must assume that Clark was forced to shoot this cat because his supposedly "well trained" dogs were nowhere near their sheep doing their jobs when the cat came around…..


“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” 
― Aldous HuxleyComplete Essays 2, 1926-29