A Windsorite has been forced to take his dog-sitter to court, to get his Newfoundland named Lemmy returned to him.
“Three and a half years later I still don’t have him,” Greg Marentette tells CTV News in a recent interview. “She just fell in love with my dog and she wanted my dog.”
Marentette, 53, is referring to Samantha Roberts, 26, who he hired in 2016 to dog-sit Lemmy.
“It was just for her to come over for an hour to walk him. Let him go poop. Let him back in the house,” he says.
But within months, Marentette says Roberts became so attached to Lemmy she would take the dog for the entire day and sometimes not return him when Marentette was done work.
“She had become glued to her side,” says Marenette.
“I’m very, I guess, obsessed with Lemmy,” Roberts told CTV News in an interview. “I think Lemmy’s very special. And he offers his own unique personality and quirks that brighten my day.”
Roberts says within six months, Marentette couldn’t keep up with paying her for dog-sitting but she agreed to continue because not only did she love the dog, she found Lemmy helped her cope with her mental health issues.
“Being around people can be a struggle for me. (I have) certain triggers, like touch, waving hands (and) creeping up behind (me). I don’t feel that with dogs. I feel safe with a dog,” says Roberts.
According to Roberts, Lemmy can perform 15 “tasks” to assist her. Everything from retrieving medication to assisting her if she faints.
“I lost consciousness once here (at home) and I noticed that when I came to, he was licking my face and crowding for me and it really helped because normally when I was coming to and my parents were assisting, I was violent,” Roberts says.
Samantha Roberts says she depends on Lemmy as her service animal in Windsor, Ont. on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)
That’s when Roberts says she started training Lemmy to be a support dog and she launched a business to train dogs to help others.
Marentette says he knew Roberts was training Lemmy but he thought it was for simple dog commands.
“She used my dog as a model, as a business associate, to run her business out of her backyard,” says Marentette. “Of course she does not want to get rid of him. He’s making her money.”
Between 2016 and 2019, both Marentette and Roberts say their relationship deteriorated and the arrangement wasn’t working.
In August 2019, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” according to Marentette, was when he told Roberts he was taking Lemmy on a week-long summer vacation.
“I told him ‘no,’” says Roberts. “He’s my service dog. He can’t be away from me for a week.”
“I said, ‘I’m not asking you. I’m telling you,’” says Marentette. “The next text I got from her was ‘I’ve taken the dog to an undisclosed location and I’m seeking legal counsel for custody of Lemmy.’”
It was Marentette who filed a lawsuit in small claims court in Windsor in August 2019.
“Everybody’s feeling sorry for this girl. But I’m the victim. Ella she’s the thief, ”says Marentette.
Marentette represented himself during a three-day trial in small claims court in November 2021.
He presented a receipt – worth $1,200 – for the purchase of Lemmy in March 2016, in addition to checks for dog-sitting services between December and February 2018.
Roberts hired a lawyer, Andrew Colautti, to argue on her behalf.
“It was our position at trial was that this dog was jointly owned,” Colautti told CTV News in an interview.
Colautti presented a series of text messages between Marentette and Roberts, where he refers to Lemmy as “our dog.” In one message, Marentette also says Lemmy is lucky to have “amazing parents that love him.”
And, Colautti argued Marentette did not keep up with the costs of feeding Lemmy and paying for veterinary care.
Roberts presented $10,000 worth of receipts to the court, detailing all the expenses she had for Lemmy between 2016 and 2019.
In her written decision, Justice Kristen Hales wrote, “I do not find that the plaintiff (Marentette) ever gifted a share of the dog’s ownership to the defendant (Roberts).”
Greg Marentette hasn’t seen his dog Lemmy since 2019 in Windsor, Ont. on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)
Justice Hales concluded Marentette was the legal owner of Lemmy and ordered he be returned to him “forthwith.”
That was November 2021, and Lemmy is still with Roberts.
Colautti won a motion to leave the dog in Roberts’s care pending an appeal.
On March 21, 2021, Justice Helen Rady dismissed the appeal.
In her written decision she wrote, “In my view, the appellant (Roberts) is seeking to re-litigate the facts. She (Roberts) simply disagrees with the deputy judge’s findings of fact.”
Roberts says she will keep on fighting for Lemmy so he can continue to live a lifestyle he’s accustomed to.
And she tells CTV News she can only survive on “short windows” of time without him by her side.
“I don’t plan on giving up,” says Roberts. “I plan on doing whatever I can to keep Lemmy here and to fight for him.”
Coluatti has now asked the Ontario Court of Appeal to review the case.
“I really feel like there’s an injustice in this case, and that my client has been ordered to essentially surrender her service dog,” says Colautti.
If successful, Colautti will be allowed to argue before three judges that Roberts believed she co-owned Lemmy and as such should be granted shared custody.
The appeals anger Marentette.
“Now he’s (Colautti) got to convince three judges that the last two judges were wrong in law?” says Marentette. “Just give me my dog back.”
Marentette’s lawyer, Joe Deluca, hired to argue the first appeal, agrees.
“It’s difficult to get to the final court of appeal,” says Deluca. “You’re duplicating what the earlier courts already did.”
And he says it doesn’t matter if Roberts assumed or thought she shared Lemmy with Marentette. The text messages, according to Deluca, don’t infer co-ownership.
“If we lived in a world where we took these colloquial expressions, literally, there would be chaos,” says Deluca.
And he says as far as the law is concerned, dogs are a person’s property.
“What if I borrow my friends Ferrari? I really love the Ferrari. It’s good for me. Why can’t I keep it? That’s impossible,” says Deluca.
As the case winds its way through court, Marentette is still without Lemmy. He has not seen his dog since the initial small claims court trial.
Roberts brought Lemmy to court with her on the first day. Marentette says the dog reacted, immediately, to the sound of her voice.
“He (Lemmy) started bawling his eyes out and started whining and crying,” says Marentette. “It just broke my heart and I’m like looking at the judge. I’m like, ‘if that’s not my best witness?’”
Colautti and Deluca expect to know within a few weeks whether or not the Ontario Court of Appeal will grant the appeal.
Until a decision is made, Lemmy will remain with Roberts.
“How is this happening?” Marentette asks. “Three and a half years later I still don’t have him.”
Lemmy is a purebred Newfoundland. (Courtesy: Greg Marentette)