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The Dogs Ate the House

Houses get old. Their roofs leak, foundations shift, pipes rust, but her dogs ate a Willits’ woman’s house.

“My house was already quite damaged when I bought it,” Lydia Dittmeier, 45, begins, “but I don’t want to tear it down. The dogs tore the sheetrock to pieces in fact, but that can be fixed. Dogs are chewers, you know. And I never had 29 dogs in here, I had 20 dogs. I took 12 off the property because of the barking abatement order. That left 8, and then Arbayo seized 6 of them. Do the math! How many dogs do I have in my house?”

I did the math and came up with a multi-species algebra consisting of X number of dogs, two cats, three sheep, 29 guinea pigs, three rabbits, a donkey, and a male street person.

One might call Lydia a caregiver. One might also sanctimoniously cluck that there are more caregivers in Mendocino County than there are people. Hard to believe, but, go ahead, do the math. Lydia, unfortunately, has taken in so many animals she can’t adequately care for them.   

Lydia Dittmeier is an animal person, an animal person squared, you might say. She shares her property on Hearst Road east of Willits with a Noah’s Arc array of critters, including transient two-footers the police have had to muzzle and remove.

The cohabitation of two and four-footed creatures hasn’t been successful. Ms. Dittmeier’s home has been red-tagged, declared unfit for her and other language-proficient bi-peds to live in. 

Ms. Dittmeier says her difficulties began when a 32-year-old man named Robert Arbayo went to work for Mendocino County’s Department of Animal Control a little more than a year ago. Ms. Dittmeier says Mr. Arbayo is “nothing but a Nazi and a criminal.”  As if she hasn’t made her dislike of Arbayo clear enough, Lydia adds, “Arbayo is a college-educated, articulate con artist and charismatic devil. He’s like a mercenary soldier.” 

A gun for hire in, presumably, Animal Control’s War On Lydia’s Dogs. 

Lydia vows “to get rid” of Arbayo and has threatened to kill him to do it.

Last week, with court bailiffs looking on, Lydia repeated her intention to  murder Arbayo. She issues her Arbayo fatwas in a calm but determined  voice, making them that much more convincing.

Ms. Lydia Dittmeier is a presentable woman in early middle-age who says that when she reduced her population of border collies to a lawful 7, her problems with Animal Control should have ceased — would have ceased if the villainous Arbayo hadn’t continued to pursue what she alleges is Animal Control’s secret agenda.

“They want to improve and cover up for their extortive practices over the years,” Lydia insists. “That’s why they hired that punk! If he comes on my property I will kill him because a citizen of the United States doesn’t have to put up with this. And Foss, who’s Arbayo’s boss? They’re hand-in-hand to cover up their racket of seizing people’s dogs and selling them for research. And then they go and change their name to Animal Care and Control. It’s disgusting. They should be called Animal Control and Cremation!”

Lydia’s Hearst Road menagerie had overwhelmed her by the time Arbayo, a 32-year-old history grad from Oroville arrived to go to work for Animal Control.  Lydia’s 20 border collies had gnawed the sheetrock down to the framing, representatives of several animal species roamed the crowded, desert-like acre surrounding the house, and burn cans filled with dog waste rested out back awaiting infrequent dump runs. 

The stench? There are people who like it. And passersby, unaware of the mayhem behind the dog’s head peering back at them out of a hole in Lydia’s livingroom wall, chuckled at the rare spectacle.

Lydia’s immediate neighbors, however, were much less amused at either the human or the animal antics next door, and not amused at all at the perpetual din of Lydia’s barking dogs.

  Fresh off an uneventful tour with the SPCA in Oroville, one of Robert Arbayo’s first assignments upon arriving in Ukiah was Lydia Dittmeier, Mendocino County’s most formidable dog lady.

Arbayo walked straight into a kennel of grief, but he did what he had to do. Some of Lydia’s animals were in bad shape, and there were way too many of them on one crowded, deteriorated acre. Arbayo began a sort of animal triage he’d cleared with a three-person advisory panel headed by long-time county veterinarian Bob Shugart. 

The mandated trio agreed with Arbayo that Lydia’s beasts were not being properly cared for and told Arbayo to grab the ones who needed immediate care.

Lydia did not approve.

“When Arbayo took my dogs he hit them with a baton right on my property right in front of me so hard they just dropped. That’s no lie. The dogs were fighting and he took a baton and whacked them so hard they just fell on the ground. One got a smashed nose from it and the other one I had to put in the pound truck myself because he was so broke up. It was such a fighter but seemed to have diarrhea, and I won’t keep an animal that’s sick. If something gets sick and I can’t cure it, I turn it in to the pound.”

  At the Ukiah shelter, Lydia visited her animals and haggled for their return. Animal Control, via the hapless Arbayo, informed her she had to pay for the maintenance and medical care the animals had required while they recuperated at the shelter.

Then marauding dogs broke into the animal shelter’s sheep pen and ate Lydia’s sheep.

The DA, a libertarian, is loathe to involve his office in seized animal cases unless, as he puts it, “They’re bleeding, starving or dead.”

Lydia’s sheep were bloody and dead.

Lydia went to the DA. 

“If my sheep were eaten by dogs while they were in the animal shelter, how much danger could they have been at my house uneaten?”

The DA conceded she had a point, and Lydia launched a counter-offensive against the county and her nemesis Arbayo that has become quite complicated. Someone, perhaps a someone in the DA’s office who has noted that the wife of the Public Defender is a paid member of Animal Control’s staff, and thus an immediate relative of a political and professional enemy, seems to have suggested to Lydia that she sue the county to get her animals back. The suggestion to Lydia from an office that ought to know better was to sue under the statutes that dope people sue under to get their property back after drug raids.

No dummy, and certainly every bit as articulate as her nemesis, the “articulate con man” Arbayo, Lydia didn’t need more than a shove in the direction of the right law book to devise her suit. Simultaneously, she tried to get a court order restraining Arbayo from her presence, as if Arbayo were an overly ardent suitor and not the guy whose job it was to protect the animals on Lydia’s property from her strained affections. 

Lydia didn’t get the restraining order and has threatened direct action against Arbayo in lieu of the court order she wanted.

“My dogs don’t need their tails cut off,” she insists. “And neutering and spaying is not something that’s done in other countries. Some people like their dogs natural. Personally, I find neutering so disgusting I just won’t do it. To cut off their god given testicles from a creature is robbery! I won’t do it! I would just rather have them put to sleep than have them cut up. Arbayo has another dog of mine that was a biter that he held probably because he likes the fact that it bit me. The man has no soul. He took my dogs for barking only. I’ve never had complaints about them not getting humane care, ever.”

If her suit against the county is successful, Lydia would not only get her animals released to her, she would elude the county’s bill of $7,140 for their care and feeding at the animal shelter. 

Lydia explains why she’s suing.

“My class action suit is aimed at all the damage Arbayo has caused myself and everyone else with his false arrests, and attempted false arrests, and his marauding and pillaging under the color of law, and doing what he pleases in his articulate, con way. He’s hand in hand with Mr. Foss who’s a con man, too. I witnessed Foss go on a lady’s property in Covelo and take her four horses — they were fat horses, not bony ones — and they put the lady in the nut house for three days while they sold the horses for slaughter. Foss must have got $3,000 for them at 50 cents a pound. Of course she was a dog lady and a widow living alone.....” 

Frank Zotter of the County Counsel’s Office is defending the county against Lydia. Lydia, predictably, is suspicious of him, too.

“Mr. Zotter is kind of nice, kind of appealing, but once he gets in with those two, Arbayo and Foss, it’s the three racketeers. If you’re going to write about this you could call it, The Three Racketeers or The Plunderers.”

Zotter isn’t quite as weary of the Dittmeier matter as Arbayo, but he sounds like he’s getting there.

“I don’t think we’re insisting on her paying every dollar. What Animal Control wants is that the animals have a reasonably safe place to be returned to and that they are not a nuisance to neighbors. They’d rather return the animals if she has a suitable place for them. I think we’d negotiate the fees she owes.”

But Lydia has managed to get Judge Henderson to further complicate things. Henderson has declared that Lydia’s animals are to be returned to her but only if she is prepared to properly care for them.

Which she isn’t because her property has been condemned as a comprehensive  hazard to the health of man and beast alike. 

And Lydia, failing to get an immediate restraining order against Arbayo from Judge Labowitz, followed Arbayo out of the court room and threatened to kill him!


Arbayo sighs. 

“We were out in the lobby and she threatened to kill me in front of about a dozen witnesses. I just kind of moved out of the way, thinking that if I arrested her myself I would just be feeding into whatever it is she has for me. I thought the bailiffs were going to take care of it, but they let her go. They suggested I call the Ukiah Police Department. I called Ukiah and they said they’d take her in if the bailiffs arrested her. The bailiffs then said they wouldn’t do it because I didn’t seem to think it was an emergency at the time she issued the threat. So I said I’d do the arrest and they could take her to jail. The bailiff went to Judge Henderson, the judge called my boss and County Counsel and told them that under no conditions was Lydia Dittmeier to be arrested.”

Arbayo says he’s “perplexed.” He doesn’t understand why a judge would fail to back up a county employee going about his lawful duties. 

“The judge knows that Lydia’s animals should have become county property two weeks ago. The law is very clear. But he gave Lydia ten more days to ‘work it out with Animal Control.’ She never came to the table. She went to court, and now she thinks that the DA and the judge are on her side and that she’ll get her animals back at no expense and with no stipulated conditions for their care.”

When Arbayo and County Counsel Frank Zotter went into court to argue with Judge Henderson that his delay in applying state law to protect animals was not helping Lydia or her critters, the judge refused to look at photographic evidence that Lydia’s property had literally gone to the dogs.

Arbayo has just about had it. 

“A lot of our work is preventive,” Arbayo says in the weary voice of a man explaining what ordinarily requires no explanation. “If we don’t have the teeth to help these people understand that if they don’t change they could go to jail, we’ll never get them to change. The county puts out a bad message if it negotiates with a person on her own terms who maintains a neighborhood nuisance who says if she doesn’t get her way she’ll kill somebody.”

One Comment

  1. Joseph Bodden July 17, 2021

    Lydia Dittmeier was a somewhat cantankerous person especially when braced with hostility… but then, aren’t we all just a LITTLE cross and irritable when faced with false accusations, manufactured evidence, destroyed evidence, false arrest, harassments by county officials on behalf of neighbors who resent her buying the property ‘out from under them’ (she paid the asking price, cash… shame on her!) and she just wanted to live on her AGRICULTURAL ZONED property without needless and unwarranted interference in her lawful daily life… YES, she was a ‘dreamer’… and she was delivered a nightmare.
    I was part an party to much of the actual crap that was dumped on her.
    Animal control at a ‘seizure hearing’, postulating that her dogs were being starved because… of fifty empty dog food bags… gee, I wonder what the county brain trust supposed happened to all that fifty bags full of dog food? Obviously, not fed to the healthy, bright eyed, well fleshed and somewhat mischievous dogs that she loved so much.
    And no mention of Nadia, the woman who rented the same barn and property to two different people at the same time, and wanted very much to get RID of Lydia… who had rented the property FIRST. Maybe that had something to do with the several FULL bags of dog food vanishing just prior to the raid by MCACC (Mendocino County Animal Carnage and Cremation) who is now defunct since I collected about five years of history of abuses of citizens and their rights by the fascists at MCACC (who reported directly to the Board of Stupidvisors, who never admitted to them doing any wrong… how would it look at election time to have admitted to their subordinates committing actual crimes against citizens… kinda shows some incompetence and duh, by the Stupidvisors eh? As a result, complaints about MCACC fell on blind ears and deaf eyes.
    OMG, there is SO much to all that, that poor girl called me one night to talk her down from committing suicide… every year for like years or so, a yearly raid based on falsehood, innuendo, playing to every prejudice and aided an abetted by media (especially AVA’s Bruce Anderson who had NO qualms about playing the entire torturous ordeal for comic value at every opportunity, complete ignoring the violations of Constitutional, civil and legal rights of Lydia… as a result she said she could not see any future that did not involve a raid by MCACC to falsely accuse, fabricate evidence, illegally levy fees (if the seizure is not legal, board and keep fees do not apply, not even ‘by the cage’ for which she was assessed 18 dollars per day for ONE GUINEA PIG… AND her animals being seized under a ‘barking abatement order’ that also seems to include the barking donkey, the barking ducks, the barking rabbits, the barking guinea pigs, suffice to say, for MCACC’S purposes, EVERYDAMN THING WAS BARKING!!!
    Those neighbors? She knocked on the door to try to work things out with them, civilly, and they called in a police report that she was ‘breaking the door down’… they wanted that property SOOOOOOO bad… and had no problems with her death being an avenue to their gain, and being ‘old family and old money’ in the county, they had all the help they could ask for from the county.
    I am surprised she didn’t kill somebody… there were plenty of lying, cheating, power tripping, corrupt targets to shoot at!!! It would have been self defense.
    Even the Mendocino courts cheated her to her face…
    She appeared an yet another seizure hearing (to determine whether the SUMMARY seizure was lawful or not) and ARbayo said ( in so many words) to the panel, Uh, we have filed felony abuse charges against Ms. Dittmeier and until the District Attorneys office either charges her or drops the charges, we want you to extend the seizure of the animals until that is resolved. So, instead of the legal mandated LIMIT of two weeks of seizure, the animals were kept by MCACC (racking up food and board fees!!!) for as long as TWO MONTHS. IF memory serves, the total amount she allegedly owed was over SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS…
    Now Arbayo said, IF the DA drops all charges, this will be as an unlawful seizure and she will not be owing any fees.
    Well, the DA dropped the charges for LACK OF EVIDENCE.
    Apparently all the water pans tossed OUTSIDE the pens and containments were not cruelly depriving the animals of water, NOT BY LYDIA!!! (I had videotapes!)
    So Lydia was given back her animals and the fees dropped, right? NO FREAKING WAY!
    Frank Zotter, the ‘county counsel’ appeared and pleaded with the judge to understand that although the MCACC had corrupted due process by interfering with the two week limits on a seizure… and imposed an extra legal and criminal offense against Lydia by insisting that if the seizure were deemed unlawful (felony charges dropped), HE EXPLAINED THESE ILLEGAL ACTIONS TO THE JUDGE IN A COURT OF LAW ON THE PUBLIC RECORD!!! (ALTHOUGH THOSE RECORDS MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED BY NOW, YOU KNOW THAT COURT REPORTERS GET WORK ‘AT THE PLEASURE’ OF THE JUDGES, RIGHT? Another reason for judges to demand ‘no recorders in my courtroom (that I don’t’ control…)
    Back on track, illegal ‘deal’ and constitutional, civil and legal rights explained to the judge, and admission that the charges had been dropped, and that the ‘deal’ (aka extortion, they wanted her to sign a lien against her property for the food and board fees… this was all about stealing her land under color of authority) and then Zotter, bless his pointed little wormy brain, said… Regardless, Your Honor is it THE FEELING of county counsel and the FEELING OF ANIMAL CONTROL (Gregory Foss) that this SHOULD BE a lawful seizure.
    Well, the judge being soft hearted, and soft headed (like rotten cabbage) as much as said, “WELL I LIKE FEELINGS, I LIKE FEELINGS MORE THAN I LIKE THE LAW, SO INSTEAD OF UPHOLDING THE LAW IN THIS CASE I WILL UPHOLD YOUR FEELINGS.
    No feces, and if I am lying I am dying!!! Remember this is, or should be, on public record in Mendocino County!
    This may have been when I got the ‘help me, i am dying’ call from Lydia.
    That is when I got sucked into the drama big time, and advising Lydia AS A FRIEND, NOT A LAWYER, and directing her to laws to read, dictionaries to look up legal terms, rules of court, and explaining what the laws I read said to me, then telling her to read them for herself and if HER understanding happened to match up with MINE… well, great minds think alike LOL… and she could do what she felt best with the info she gained.
    Meanwhile, Brucie Woosey was making hay and playing both my own issues. and Lydia’s issues for laughs and prejudicial catcalling at every turn. (I wrote a column for the AVA for a while, called This, That and the Other Thing, I kinda put up with it, because he was the only publisher with enough guts to brave the Wrath of Mendocino county even though he was always MORE than kind in his writing of the county agents and roasted Lydia at every opportunity.
    Never mind that she was transactionally raped at every turn, her legal and constitutional rights were raped at every turn, she was the county’s bicycle for anyone to ride, whenever. Never mind that she was for years on end physically, mentally, psychologically and emotionally tortured and abused… after all SHE was not OLD FAMILY AND OLD MONEY in Mendocino County.
    Yes, she did love her animals. In many ways caring more for them than herself… kinda like Mother Teresa and Doctor Doolittle all rolled up… but see, if your heart has a ‘minds eye’, maybe YOU can see that the animals gave her trust, respect, affection, love, kindness and compassion that she almost never got from the hairless apes masquerading as ‘humans’… to me that was never a fault.
    Too bad she was prosecuted for it, with lies, frauds, false arrest, thefts from her pockets and violations of her rights of all descriptions.

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