Trial Postponed in Spat Over Dog-Walking Etiquette

Linda Johnson was arrested for walking her two miniature poodles in the yard of a state trooper. Ollie is the Black poodle and Hershey is the brown poodle.
Linda Johnson was arrested for walking her two miniature poodles in the yard of a state trooper. Ollie is the Black poodle and Hershey is the brown poodle. (Courtesy Of Linda Johnson - Courtesy of Linda Johnson)
By Jenna Johnson and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 17, 2008; 4:18 PM

A trial stemming from a spat between neighbors over whether one of them allowed her dogs to use the other's lawn as a latrine was postponed today in Calvert County District Court.

Linda May Johnson, 47, is accused of repeatedly walking her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, on her neighbors' lawn in St. Leonard and allowing them to relieve themselves there. The neighbors, James and Jennifer Barth, said in court documents that they repeatedly asked Johnson to walk her dogs on the other side of the street.

The trial has been rescheduled to Monday, when a visiting judge can hear the case.

In May, Johnson was arrested, shackled and charged with trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. This afternoon a Calvert County District Court judge will hear the case.

The fight began months ago when Johnson called animal control to report that a dog had attacked her poodles and her son, according to those involved. In court documents, Jennifer Barth wrote that her dogs were inside during the "supposed incident."

"From this point forward, she began to constantly walk the dogs in our yard," Barth wrote in an application for a protective order against Johnson. That temporary order, obtained after Johnson's arrest, was dismissed when Barth, 35, did not attend a court hearing to finalize it.

"I would tell her to get the dogs out of the yard, always hearing the same responses -- It is not your yard, stating we are harassing her, Yelling obscenities, giving visual obscenities, etc.," Barth wrote. "The dog walking was/is an almost every day event."

Johnson has said in interviews that Jennifer Barth would bellow at her every time the dogs walked on her lawn and that the two women would get into heated arguments.

During one such dispute May 16, the two women began arguing near the bus stop in front of the Barths' home. Johnson said that during the argument, she stepped onto the Barths' lawn and said, "What are you going to do about it?"

The next day, Johnson was arrested at her home by state troopers and charged with four counts of trespassing, one count of harassment and one count of disorderly conduct. A single trespassing charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Johnson said she walked her dogs on that side of the street, fearing that neighbors on the other side would also berate her and her dogs. She also firmly believes the first few feet of the Barths' yard are public property and belong to the homeowners association of the Old Glory subdivision, where both families live. State police officers say the Barths' property line extends to the street.

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