The McCabe residence on Franklin Street is not an ordinary household.
Russell, 52, and Christy, 47, have visitors who include motorcycle club members, people seeking Russell’s expertise in mechanics and construction, and sometimes people who, like Russell, are veterans who need a sympathetic place to chill out. They’re all aware, both from posted signs and advice from the McCabes, that nobody goes into Fleury’s room.
McCabe – his friends call him ‘Tank’ – suffers from PTSD, an outcome of his military service.”In the Navy, I saw a lot of things I shouldn’t have seen,” he said. “We’ll leave it at that.”This is why McCabe developed an attachment to Fleury.
The dog, a blue-nosed pocket pit bull, developed his own form of PTSD after being caught in the trauma of a law enforcement raid on a former owner’s home. Named by Christy after her favorite player on the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team, Marc Andre Fleury, the dog was hit by beanbag rounds and brutalized during the bust, which occurred when he was about 1½ years old. The McCabes have had Fleury for about four years, having heard about his unfortunate history as they were seeking a playmate for Chico, their bulldog.
“He was timid and scared when we got him,” Russell said. Since Fleury moved in, he’s been restricted to the living room, and takes a route through the kitchen to go outside, into a fenced backyard. The house is prominently posted with “Beware of Dog” signs, the interior is divided off with Dutch doors, and other signs inside warn visitors to keep out of the living room.
Nevertheless, two visitors have been bitten after ignoring the warnings.
“Everyone knows you don’t go in the living room,” Russell said. In March 2019 a woman walked into the house despite being told not to, and in January of this year, a man leaned over the Dutch door between the kitchen and living room to pet Fleury and was bitten, although he’d been warned against it, Russell said.
It might sound as though keeping Fleury around is a lot of trouble, but Russell and the dog have formed an unusual bond.
“Fleury has come a long way since we got him, and so has Russell,” Christy said. “They’re good together.”
“Maybe it’s because he’s broken, just like me,” Russell said. “I can’t think about not having him here. This was not his fault, he was abused for no reason. And this is his home, people are supposed to follow the rules. And that pen, it’s his safe place.” Fleury retreats to a medium size dog carrier when he’s alarmed – Christy said he’s frightened of loud noises and thunder.
Fleury was been designated a dangerous dog by the county after the biting incident in March, and after the most recent event on Jan. 16, the Washington County dog warden, Sgt. Kelly McGilton, requested a summons from Marietta Municipal Court. A redacted report from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, supported with photographs, indicated the incident in March resulted in bites to the victim’s arms and legs.
McGilton said there is a statutory requirement to report dog bites.
“I can’t comment on this case specifically, but the law states the requirements. The only time a bite is justified is if a person is trespassing for an unlawful reason. Even if you warn the person, when they’re visiting, if they don’t trespass, if you invite them into your home, there’s not much gray area in that section of the law,” she said. “It’s pretty cut and dried, as the owner it is your responsibility, you have to be extremely careful.”
With Fleury designated as a vicious dog after the most recent bite report, the court could order him euthanized. McGilton said McCabe will be able to make his case before a judge.
“They will have a hearing and go through proper court proceedings, they’ll have due process,” she said.
McGilton said the county deals with 10 to 15 dangerous or vicious dog complaints a year, and there are many such dogs that remain with their owners, who have to meet specific conditions.
“When off the property, they have to be on a chain-linked leash or tether six feet or less in length, and controlled by a person of suitable age or competency,” she said. “The dog needs to be kept in a locked enclosure outside or an enclosed back yard, and you can’t just tie it outside – there needs to be a responsible person close enough to capture it if it gets loose.”
Signs have to be posted warning people that there is a dangerous dog on the property – with an illustration for children or people unable to read – and the dog is subject to a special registration tag that costs an additional $50. The dog has to be spayed or neutered and microchipped, she said.”It’s a lot of requirements, but we do have a lot of people in the county who comply, and they do fine,” she said. “I do checks on occasion to make sure they’re safe.”
McCabe’s case was scheduled for a hearing Feb. 19, according to the municipal court docket.The McCabes bought their west side house several years ago and have been doing rehabilitation work on it since they moved in, including flushing away squatters and drug users.
The house, which had been abandoned for years, was built in 1830. Russell supplements his military pension by working on motorcycles in the garage in the back of the house, often on a barter basis for people who can’t afford to pay in cash. On Thursday morning, he played affectionately with the dog, who batted a scuffed billiard ball around the living room.
“We found it in the front yard a while back,” Christy said, referring to the three-ball, which has become the dog’s favorite toy. “He’s really good with Russell. He can always sense when something’s wrong.”
© 2020 The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.