By: Odis Lee Yarris
IT IS NEWS when a newspaperman bites a dog.
It also is news when a newspaper buys a dog for sentimental reasons. Such a dog is Gringo, a German shepherd, for which the Mobile (Ala.) Press Register paid $903.
In April 1992, reserve officer Mark Durden of the Prichard (Ala.) Police Department found the German shepherd at an animal shelter. Gringo was dispirited and underweight and had a broken nose and broken teeth. Durden took Gringo home, restored the dog’s health and trained him to detect narcotics.
Gringo continued to live at the Durden home after Durden resigned from the police department and went on auxiliary status in January.
The Prichard City Council said Gringo belonged to the city, not Durden, who was forced to turn over Gringo June 14. The council placed Gringo in the city dog pound.
Durden’s struggle to retain possession of the retirement-age dog became a popular cause in Prichard, a municipality about four miles from Mobile.
The Press Register began selling “Free Gringo” T-shirts and offered to buy a replacement dog for the city.
The Prichard council refused and put Gringo on the auction block.
The auction was to be by sealed bids, which were to be submitted by July 12. The minimum bid to be accepted was $750.
When it was time to open the sealed bids, only one had been received.
The envelope was opened to disclose that the Press Register had bid $903, the amount that it had earned by selling T-shirts plus cash donations.
The newspaper gave Gringo to Durden.
A reception for the dog was held at the Press Register building July 19.
In a front-page boxed story, the newspaper announced, “Coffee, donuts and dog biscuits will be served . . . . Gringo has agreed to pose for pictures and sign autographs . . . . He is pondering endorsements and movie options.”
?(Yarris is a free-lance writer.) [ID]