Brenda Chamberlain was driving down Monad Road on Monday morning and thought she saw Mike Mallory on the sidewalk in front of the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter. But she figured she was mistaken.
“I didn’t recognize him because he didn’t have his dogs,” she said. “He always has his dogs.”
And that was the problem. Mallory’s three dogs—all red heelers—were impounded by Billings Animal Control last Friday after one of the dogs bit two people Mallory was in an altercation with behind the downtown St. Vincent de Paul store.
Tom Stinchfield, the city’s animal control supervisor, said it was impossible to determine which dog did the biting, so all three had to be impounded for a mandatory 10-day rabies quarantine. That means the dogs will be released to Mallory on Monday.
Mallory’s not sure he can wait that long, and some of his supporters fear that he might get himself into trouble before then.
As anyone who frequents the downtown will probably understand, Mallory’s life revolves around his dogs. He began pulling Red, his first heeler, around the city, mostly downtown, in a wagon eight years ago, trying raise money for surgery Red needed.
He managed to get that surgery and a follow-up procedure done, and he has since added two more heelers, Rosie and Libby, to his elaborate two-story wagon. He is no longer raising money, he said Tuesday in front of the shelter; he’s just trying to raise awareness of the need for a new adoption shelter. He is also on a mission to spread the love he and his dogs share.
As he put it, “I’m schooling the world on love, brother.”
Mallory, who has befriended so many people on his ceaseless foot travels, has attracted a sizable number of supporters on his personal Facebook page and a Walking for Red page, and on a GoFundMe page begun on his behalf. The page apparently has been taken down, but it had raised more than $1,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
He has also had lots of support during his vigil at the shelter, where he has been since Sunday at 4 a.m.
Molly Adair said that Mallory at one point said on his Facebook page that he needed a flashlight. She drove down to give him one, and while she was there three more people showed up with flashlights, with more coming in later that day.
“We had so damn many flashlights,” she said.
Mallory contends all three of his dogs shouldn’t have been taken because he said he knew it was Libby who snapped at one of the three people he was tussling with. The dispute centered on a 19-year-old man from Idaho whom Mallory had befriended a day earlier.
Mallory said the man had been molested by his family members and did not want to return to Idaho, but when the young man’s mother and two uncles showed up and confronted both of them behind St. Vincent de Paul, Mallory tried to stop them from forcing the man into their car.
One of the uncles grabbed him, Mallory said, and that’s when Libby “nipped at” one of the men, grabbing his pant leg and barely scratching him. Mallory said no one else was injured by his dog.
Lt. Mark Cady, with the Billings Police Department, said as far as the responding officers knew, the young man willingly rejoined his family and two of the three people were bitten.
Stinchfield said all three people claimed to have been bitten but only two had injuries, which he described as “small puncture wounds.” In any case, he said, Mallory was not issued any citations because there was an altercation “and it appears the dogs protected their owner. The dogs did what dogs do when their owner’s attacked.”
Cady said a report on the incident was turned over to the city attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file any charges. At most, Cady said, it would be a disorderly conduct charge. And since it was “a mutual disturbance by both parties,” if charges are filed it would most likely be against both parties, he added.
As the Billings Gazette reported in a profile of Mallory in 2012, he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 2001. Some of his supporters have said he is a vet with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, but Mallory said that is not true, though he did serve in the military.
He said it is also untrue, as some people seem to think, that he is either homeless or a panhandler, or that he is disabled. He lives in two camper trailers parked on a friend’s property on the east end of the downtown. He said he often works, usually cleaning up vacant properties and doing whatever repairs need to be done. He said he also does a lot of volunteer work.
In fact, he said, he was at St. Vincent de Paul on the day in question because he was cleaning up the sidewalk in front of the agency’s charity office on Montana Avenue, as he often does. He thinks the homeless and the destitute who gather there deserve respect and decent surroundings.
Some of his supporters have also said on Facebook that his dogs shouldn’t have been seized because they are service dogs, but Stinchfield said “as far as I know they are not certified as service animals.”
When the dogs are released Monday, Stinchfield said, Mallory will have to pay total handling charges of $300, plus any license or rabies vaccination fees, if needed. The money from the GoFundMe account, assuming Mallory receives it, should be more than enough to cover those costs.
He has been growing increasingly agitated as his vigil stretches out. He swore violently at Cady when the officer went down Tuesday to tell Mallory he was welcome to enter the shelter as long as he wasn’t disruptive, and Mallory’s profane rants on Facebook have been growing more unsettling. His supporters have been pleading with him to calm down.
In the meantime, Mallory’s not going anywhere.
“It’s not fair for me to be home if my babies are locked up,” he said.