The dog's name was Rebel. He was out for his usual walk on the morning of May 27. At approximately 7:30 a.m., his master, R. L. Locke of Oxon Hill, called Rebel inside. But as the dog crossed Galloway Drive, a car materialized suddenly.


"As he lay in the street," Locke writes, "I went to him and waited until his last breath. Mercifully, our 4-year-old son was not a witness to the death of his friend and companion."

But mercy was conspicuously absent in the rest of R. L. Locke's tale. So was common sense. It seems that the bureaucracy can't even dispose of a dead dog without causing ill feelings.

Here's the way it went on May 27:

Locke laid Rebel's body in the gutter and called the Prince George's County government. He learned that nothing could be done until the appropriate agency opened at 8 a.m.

Fair enough, except that both Locke and his wife had to be at work by 8. So Locke dragged Rebel's body onto his lawn, left it there and decided to try to arrange a pickup from work.

No soap, said the P.G. dog pound people, when Locke reached them at about 10:15. A person has to be there when the pickup of a body is made, for two reasons. One: there's a $5 fee, and it must be paid on the spot. Two: the person must sign a release so the county government doesn't get in trouble for trespassing onto private property.

Wouldn't they bend or break the rules just this once, given his situation, Locke asked? Sorry, said the pound.

Infuriated, Locke went home on his lunch hour and buried Rebel in some nearby woods.

Asked to explain the pound's policy, Evelyn Wise, acting assistant director of the Prince George's County Department of Licenses and Permits, said that the pound "has to make sure it's the right animal. That's why we want the owner there."

Why insist that an owner pay the $5 fee on the spot? "Because we just don't have any provisions for billing," Wise said. "And we don't want to get involved with checks. When you're dealing with small checks, like $5 and $10, they have a tendency to bounce."

Sorry, but both arguments fail, it seems to me.

There's no need for an owner to make a personal identification of a dead dog if the dog is wearing an ID tag around his neck. Every jurisdiction in the metropolitan area requires pets to wear tags. If the P.G. government wants to enforce an ID policy, it should be that one.

And why does an agency that handles as little money as the dog pound refuse to accept checks? The agencies that handle far larger sums, such as the motor vehicle department and the tax collector, seem to deal with checks just fine. Besides, if a check to any agency, large or small, turns out to be rubber, machinery is already in place to deal with the offender. It's called fraud law.

Rest well, Rebel. At least you have been delivered from a world in which, bureaucratically, the tail sometimes wags the dog.