OT: Shaggy dog story - Only in Texas!

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Posted by #1 Son ( on 23:21:34 01/16/08

I found this weird story in today's Hosuton Chronicle. It is rather weird and yet interesting! It can only happen in a state where an impeached Governor's wife got elected to succeed him:

#1 Son

Shaggy dog story:

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

It happened yesterday in Alice.

Last month I told the story of Puddles, the Shih Tzu that the Rudy Gutierrez family left with their neighbor, the mayor, while they went on a weekend vacation.

When a family member called during the weekend to check on the dog, Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez sadly said the dog had died and she had buried it.

But months later, a friend spotted a dog that looked just like Puddles at a local grooming shop. When the family called the groomer, she said the mayor had dropped it by for work. Its name was Panchito.

Through her lawyer, the mayor admitted that Panchito was Puddles, but said she had rescued the dog from a family that was killing it by neglect.

The family filed a criminal complaint, but the county attorney ruled it was a civil matter.

Is it the mayor or her twin?

Last Friday, a court date to resolve the matter was set for Feb. 4, but Sunday morning Mayor Saenz-Lopez called the Alice police to report that the dog was missing. An officer and a supervisor came to her house to make a report.

She said she suspected the Gutierrez family of taking the dog back.

At the requests of both parties, police searched both houses, but Puddles wasn't in one and Panchito wasn't in the other.

Enter Gabe Caggiano, a burly, Boston-bred reporter for Channel 10 in Corpus Christi, about 45 miles east of Alice.

Caggiano has been covering the story from the beginning. At one point he went to the mayor's home and found a woman who looked just like her in the backyard.

But the woman told him she was the mayor's twin sister and the mayor was in Arizona.

After driving around the block with his cameraman, Caggiano decided to go back. By this time, the woman was on the front porch, sweeping with her back to him.

Behind the blanket ...

"Hi, mayor," he said as he approached.

"Hi," she said, glancing back at him and continuing to sweep.

"I've been told you're the mayor and not the twin sister, that she lives on a ranch," he said. "Which are you?"

She shoved his microphone away and said, "Get off my property."

Then she went inside as Caggiano asked: "What kind of mayor would not admit that she's the mayor?" And, as the door slammed, voice raised: "Where's Puddles?"

Monday Caggiano received a tip from Sylvia Treviño, the breeder who sold Puddles to the Gutierrez family.

The dog, she said, was at the home of the mayor's twin sister, Gracie Garcia, who is a trustee of the Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco Independent School District.

Caggiano and his cameraman, Travis Cobb, drove to the home about 15 miles from Alice. Nobody answered his knocks, Caggiano said.

"About six or seven dogs were running loose and barking," Caggiano said. "Around the back there was a porch area with a blanket covering the railing. Behind it we found the dog."

Cobb got about 40 seconds of clear video which they showed first to Treviño for a positive identification. Then they called the sheriff, who sent deputies to Garcia's house.

"We went back, but Gracie wouldn't open the door for the deputies," he said by phone late yesterday afternoon.

Caggiano also showed the video to Alice Police Chief Danny Bueno, who later announced that charges of making a false police report and tampering with evidence were being filed against the mayor.

"Why don't you go and arrest her?" Caggiano said he asked the chief.

"I'd like to keep my job," Bueno said.

Caggiano said the chief assured him that officers would retrieve Puddles and place him with a veterinarian until the Feb. 4 hearing.

The sheriff's department was getting a search warrant for the twin sister's house, Caggiano said, but, "We just noticed that the sister's car is in the mayor's driveway."

In what I took to be a playful mocking of a cable news reporter, Caggiano said, "We're at the mayor's house now. The mayor is not answering the door. The shades are down. We just hope this isn't another Waco."

You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at rick.casey@chron.com .

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