Yesterday, as I was moving to preclude a litigant from introducing any evidence, testimony, or discussion about anything at all during the trial of his action, including but not limited to the weather, the stock market or his full name, a member of my firm barreled into my office, brandishing a copy of the Connecticut Law Tribune, which flapped limply open as he threw it toward my head.
"Another horse case!" he said. "Fodder for a column, hey?" he chortled. "No pun intended!"
Unable to resist, I closed my document and explored the table of contents. There was the case of Vendrella v. Astriab, It did, in fact, pertain to a horse. Into the text I plunged. I did not even reach the end of the decision before I was moved to write.
The first portion of the opinion I encountered which piqued my curiosity was a description of another animal altogether. Quoting Bischoff v. Cheney, 89 Conn 1, the court described that "[t]he cat is not of a species of domestic animals naturally inclined to mischief … The cat’s disposition is kindly and docile, and by nature it is one of the most tame and harmless of all domestic animals."
May it please the Court – the authors of the Bischoff opinion never met Mr. Cool. Mr. Cool is a cat. He was rescued in Springfield, Mass., and put to work catching mice in our barn. He has not yet caught any that I know of. "Kindly" does not quite describe his disposition, unless his use of the stalls as giant litter boxes could be construed as politeness, given his potential to leave excreta in our boots. Clearly, when the Court described cats as lacking an impulse to mischief, it had not observed Mr. Cool attempting to climb up Harley the Clydesdale’s leg. Apparently, he mistook it for a tree. Harley the Clydesdale was standing in the middle of the riding ring at the time, with his rider in place, and remained admirably stoic as the cat clawed into his furry fetlocks. Eventually, he stomped. Mr. Cool abandoned the idea of summitting, and sauntered away. Since then, Harley shudders in his stall when the cat streaks up the aisle. I can’t blame him.
I have recently observed Mr. Cool in a nearby tree waiting to spring onto the shoulders of a grazing horse. I cannot quite reconcile this behavior with the harmlessness of cats endorsed by the Court.
Mr. Cool also fails the test for docility, having taken to enthusiastically hunting birds in the barn with all the horses watching in horrified fascination as he climbs up the rafters. He leaps into piles of hay, while horses are engaged in eating it, heedless of the large sets of nearby teeth. Harmless can not be said to fit the diverting spectacle of. Mr. Cool emerging from the arbor vitae bordering the riding arena at top speed. at the precise moment when one is attempting to persuade one’s horse that the hedge is not really haunted. You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen Mr. Cool chasing the tail of a longe whip, while the startled horse at the end of the longe line attempts to depart for Nebraska at 70 mph, or, in the alternative, takes to the air like a Southwest jet. Mr. Cool’s favorite game is to climb into one’s car and hide until one is well away from the barn and late to the next appointment.
"Tame" is not an adjective which would ever occur to me when describing Mr. Cool. Though content to be turned upside down by Wren, his four-year-old friend and confidante, he does not take kindly to petting by others, and can only tolerate holding for several seconds before wriggling out of captivity in the interests of some happier pursuit.
Bischoff notwithstanding, I respectfully dissent.
Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.