Arbitrator to rule on fight to keep Chihuahua at condo

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Missy Stoddard
Sunday, May9, 2004


A year after a West Delray condo association notified 86-year-old widow Bernadette Casale that she needed to get rid of her 21/2 pound Chihuahua, the case is headed to arbitration and Casale is on the mend from heath problems she thinks were prompted by the stress.

"I was in the hospital last July for seven days, I had a case of diverticulitis and I had a mini-stroke last month," said Casale. "One day I'm all right and the next I'm not."

Casale in June filed suit against the Bridgeview Association, the community where she has lived for 21 years. She believes that fair-housing laws protect her right to keep her 6-year-old companion, Cha Cha. Though Bridgeview doesn't allow pets, Casale said Cha Cha is medically necessary. Legally blind and suffering from lupus, arthritis and depression, Casale credits her canine companion with saving her life.

Following her husband Bill's death in 1989, Casale said she fell into a deep depression. Her 5-foot, 2-inch frame dropped to 90 pounds. After a while, just getting out of bed became a chore.

"I didn't eat and I wasn't sleeping," she said.

Casale's daughter, who lives in California, suggested that a dog might lift her mother's spirits. Casale took the advice and has thrived ever since.

"I gained 30 pounds since I had my little one," she said. "Since I have her, I have to cook because I have to feed her. She don't like dog food. I cook chicken, hamburger, stew. I'm busy with her."

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks ordered that the case be dismissed and sent to arbitration. No date has been scheduled.

Casale feels confident she will prevail. The Long Island, N.Y., native is certain about one thing: She's not giving up her pet. "I'm a positive-thinking person," she said.