MANCHESTER, NH – This is not the first time I’ve had to pay for my good intentions and penny-pinching ways.
But when Officer Gannon knocked on my door this morning, to serve me a civil forfeiture summons for failing to renew my dog’s annual license, I felt a particular kind of dumb.
“I thought I paid that,” I said, with complete sincerity.
Officer Gannon smiled knowingly. I’m sure he’s heard it before. He suggested I call the City Clerk’s office and see if they had made a mistake.
But just as the words came out of my mouth I remembered the exchange I had with the woman at the clerk’s office, back before I was a delinquent dog owner.
ME: “I see here on my renewal that there’s a senior discount – my dog is 12, does she qualify?”
CLERK’S OFFICE: “Um, no ma’am. That is for the dog owner, not the dog.”
ME: “Oh. Well, I’m 55. Do I qualify?”
CLERK’S OFFICE: No, I’m sorry. You have to be 65.”
So, I couldn’t wiggle out of paying the full $7.50 to make sure Roxy is legal for another year based on the fact that neither of us are spring chickens. And yes, I could have paid the fee right then and there, using my computer. But the only thing that bothers me more than an annual fee for having a dog is paying the additional $1.95 service fee (or $2.75 percent of the payment, whichever is greater).
That is the last time I thought about paying the fee. I decided to go pay it in person, or mail a check. Then, I forgot.
The last time this happened to me a few years back, the nice officer parked in my driveway with the animal control vehicle. Fortunately, I’d mailed in my check that year just on deadline and had received Roxy’s new tags a few days before he came calling. They were still in the envelope, which I produced as evidence that I was still a noble dog owner in good standing.
“Were you going to take my dog away from me if I didn’t have this?” I asked the officer, craning my neck to see if the van in my driveway was full of yelping dogs. He said no, that I’d just have to pay a fine.
Well, at least I’m not the only dummy. Officer Gannon said he had a stack “like this” of summonses to serve this morning, holding his hands several inches apart to illustrate the thickness of the stack of papers waiting in his cruiser.
I asked him if I could take his picture standing outside my door so I could post a story on my news site. He politely declined, and suggested I post a picture of the summons.
I will stop by City Hall today and pay my fine, which is now $33.50 – the $7.50 for the license, plus the $25 civil forfeiture, plus $1 late fee. My sympathies to all of my fellow forgetful, penny-pinching dog owners out there. I feel your pain.