My dog, Lester was due for his Rabies booster. During the check up the veterinarian noted that Lester had a slight fever. Obviously, since his body was busy dealing with something important enough to cause a fever, we delayed the vaccination. A few weeks later, Lester was fine and bravely received the injection.
Lester's dog license renewal was also due. Visiting City Hall is one of those things that invites procrastination so it was a couple weeks later when I appeared at the City Clerk's window with proof of Rabies Vaccination in hand and some cash in my purse. A bland woman slipped me an official City of Royal Oak form and instructed me to fill it out. She did not make eye contact with me. On top of the fee for the license was a ten dollar fine for lateness. I did not bother to explain to Ms. Bland why my beloved dog's rabies vaccination and license application failed to meet her timeline.
For some time, I've been flirting with the idea of helping out a local rescue group by fostering dogs until permanent homes can be found for them. This would mean additional dogs would be living in my home for periods anywhere from two days to two years. I wondered if the city rules would permit me to do this good deed. Ms. Bland didn't know or seem to care what the dog limit per household was. She turned to a large woman wearing a smirk. While not making eye contact with me, Ms. Smirk said three animals was all you are allowed. Animals. She stressed the word animals. Not just dogs but animals. I asked what can you do if you wish to have more than three animals. Ms. Smirk said they don't answer questions like that. This is the City Clerk. I'd have to go upstairs to Zoning.
I climbed the stairs to the second floor and found court rooms. I was pleased to find a bathroom on the second floor too. It is always good to know where the bathrooms are. The theme on this floor was courtly not zoney. Determined to find and query Zoning, I headed up to the third floor.
There were signs on the walls on the third floor but none for Zoning. Walking through several twisting interconnected narrow hallways did a thorough job of getting me turned around. It is troubling not to know which way North is, even when you don't really need to know it. Eventually, I found a man in the Engineering Section. Not only did he make eye contact with me, he smiled too! Zoning isn't a real destination, he told me. What I wanted was Planning- go right then left then through a curving hallway and Planning is on the right. It was.
At the Planning window, an elderly woman wearing thick glasses greeted me with indifference. She told me she couldn't answer my question and called to someone behind a cubicle wall. A nerdy looking fellow of indeterminate age appeared. When I asked my question he reached for a reference book and quickly found the page he was looking for. Yes, three animals is the limit. If you want to have more you can request a hearing. He paused and looked at me with sheepish sympathy. He could give me an application. There is a fee. The process is not inexpensive, Mr. Nerd added, a remarkable understatement that would reveal itself shortly.
I'd been intending to get this information for months. There I was in City Hall. So, of course, I asked- how much does it cost? In a soft voice, Mr. Nerd answered. Seven hundred dollars. Seven hundred dollars to ask for a hearing. Seven hundred dollars to ask some bureaucrats whose salary I pay, if is OK with them for me to have more than three dogs in my house. Seven hundred dollars to ask for permission to do something in my own home.
I thanked the nice nerd and walked out to my car. Incredibly, I did not cry. I rather thought I would. But by the time I reached the privacy of my car the tears had gone.
It turns out- I am too angry to cry.