Robin Lohre loves big. She loves her daughter, Imogene. She loves her boutique, Talulah Jones, a true Denver retail treasure. And she loves dogs -- especially mutts like Ruthie, who she adopted last year and took with her everywhere "other than restaurants and the grocery store," she says. Which explains why she was shocked to return after having her house cleaned to find Ruthie dead under a table -- and why she's suing the maid service she holds responsible.
"It's broken my heart," Lohre says.
When asked Ruthie's breed, Lohre doesn't have any easy answer. "She was from the pound, so we don't know for sure -- but she was probably part wirehair dachshund. She was ridiculously long -- a one of a kind dog, just the sweetest dog you could ever meet."
She was also a "shop dog" -- a regular fixture at Taluah Jones, and a successor to Fred, a pooch so beloved by customers of Lohre's previous establishment, Miss Talulah's, that dozens banded together to nominate him for a Westword Best of Denver award in 2001. When Fred died of cancer in 2005, Talulah Jones regulars shared favorite memories of him with Westword as a way of working through their grief.
Ruthie wasn't around nearly as long as Fred had been -- Lohre adopted her in April 2010, when she was approximately three months old. But she quickly charmed all who came into contact with her, Lohre says. She adds that Ruthie was incredibly patient with Imogene, who's six. "Every little girl who'd see her would pick her up and carry her around, and my daughter would dress her up in doll clothes and sing to her for hours in her rocking chair. And she wouldn't struggle, and she wouldn't try to get away. She knew it was love, and she accepted it."
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Then, this past August, Lohre purchased a Living Social coupon that offered a three-hour housecleaning by the Posh Maids company for $49. The maid arrived at 10 a.m., and Lohre offered to take Ruthie with her. "The housecleaner said, 'Leave the dog. She'll be fine,'" notes attorney Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center, who's representing Lohre. "So my client gave very specific directions -- that the only door to use is the back door, because there was a mudroom attached, and you can close one door and put the dog in the kitchen while you go out, so she never would have exposure to the outside."
At about 12:22 p.m., Edwards continues, Lohre received a call from Posh Maids owner Miranda Pallone, who's named in the suit. Pallone allegedly told Lohre the job was done, having been finished in fewer than three hours because a second housecleaner had joined the first.
"Robin returned about forty minutes later with her daughter," Edwards says. "And Ruthie wasn't at the back door waiting, like she usually was. So Robin looked around for her, and discovered her lying under the dining-room table. And she realized she was deceased." At that point, Edwards continues, Lohre "immediately got her child out of the home. She didn't want her to see that. Another twenty minutes elapsed after that, and then she called Posh Maids, and they didn't answer; she left a message. But the owner called back and said, 'Your dog got hit by a car, but she seemed fine. When my maids put her under the table, she was whimpering a little bit, but she was okay.' And she obviously wasn't okay.
"Robin asked why they didn't get any medical attention, and there was no explanation. And she said it had happened five minutes ago, when an hour had transpired."
Recalling the conversation, Lohre says the owner "was very apologetic. She actually called me later in the day to see how I was doing -- which obviously wasn't great. And she dropped off some roses that were dead; when I put them in water, they all drooped down. But that's the last I heard from them."
After more radio silence, Lohre called the Animal Law Center. "We sent Posh Maids a demand with a time limit to respond," Edwards says. "But we received no reply, and no explanation was given. We don't know if the dog was really hit by a car, or if something else happened. And my client wants an explanation. She wants to know what happened to her pet."
The lawsuit is intended to accomplish this purpose -- and while Posh Maids hasn't responded, Edwards has plenty to say about, among other things, Ruthie's value. The legal system typically treats pets like property, determining their worth by how much they might cost to replace. However, "it's not like Posh Maids broke a lamp in her living room," she argues. "My client has been in intensive therapy since this happened, and she's missed time from work. This was a member of the family -- a very dear member of the family."
Edwards hopes the case convinces housecleaning companies to develop pet-safety policies -- like establishing a safe room in a house where pets can be placed -- in order to prevent any more incidents like this one.
For Lohre's part, she says she's never sued anyone before, "and I never thought I would. But this has just been so horrendous and wrong."
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