Sit, roll over, beg -- dial 911
You absolutely cannot make this stuff up.
Sit, roll over, beg -- dial 911
Morris woman cited for dog calling the cops
By Rob Jennings, Daily Record
PARSIPPANY -- Can dogs dial 911?
A Lake Parsippany woman apparently thought so, but her late-night training session with Slayer prompted a visit on Thursday from three unamused police officers who slapped her with a disorderly conduct summons.
Sylvia D'Antonio, 46, admitted placing three 911 calls that evening, Sgt. Yvonne Christiano said on Friday.
A police dispatcher was alarmed because when the calls were picked up "the only communication was someone breathing," Christiano said.
The calls were traced and three squad cars raced to D'Antonio's home shortly before 10:30 p.m., Christiano said. Once inside, officers realized that there was no emergency -- just D'Antonio's ill-advised attempt to teach Slayer, a German shepherd, how to dial 911.
But D'Antonio told a reporter on Friday night that she had warned police ahead of time that she would be training the 5-year-old dog, which, she said, is named after a heavy-metal band.
"I called the police department and told them we were practicing," she said as she smoked a cigarette on her front porch. "He didn't say anything. I said, 'Don't respond to any calls to this address.'"
Slayer was not charged, but police weren't about to let D'Antonio off the hook.
"This woman was aware she was not supposed to be dialing 911. She did it anyway," Christiano said.
But D'Antonio swears it was the dog who dialed, and she accused police of being "obnoxious and nasty" when they came to her door.
D'Antonio said she wants to train Slayer to be a police dog. A friend of hers in Bernardsville taught her German shepherd to dial for help, D'Antonio said.
"She's (Slayer) like my guardian angel. If anything happens to me, she'll call 911," D'Antonio said.
Last week, D'Antonio said she trained Slayer to "sniff out bombs, drugs and fireworks."
A firework, set off by a neighbor, landed in her yard and caught fire recently, she claimed. D'Antonio said she then proceeded to teach Slayer how to bring the watering can over to extinguish the flames.
D'Antonio further said she didn't even need to physically demonstrate how to dial for help. She merely instructed the dog verbally and Slayer got the number right.
"She knocks it off the hook and then she steps on it," D'Antonio said.
"She knows what the phone is. This was the first time I let her try something like this."
D'Antonio also has a 2-year-old Cairn terrier named Gizmo, but she did not want to teach Gizmo to dial 911 because Gizmo is too young and not as smart as Slayer, she said.
With conflicting opinions between D'Antonio and police, the question lingers -- can a dog be trained to dial 911?
The answer is, sort of.
In 1996, CNN reported that a dog in New Hampshire had saved its owner's life by calling 911. That dog, though, used a phone that was specially programmed to call 911 after any three touch-tone buttons were pressed.
Steven Hodes, a Mine Hill veterinarian, said he seriously doubted that a dog could be trained to dial 911 on a regular phone.
"To be that dexterous with a paw would be almost impossible," Hodes said.
"Not that you couldn't train a dog to want to do it," Hodes added.
D'Antonio noted on Friday that it's easier for Slayer to dial the phone because she owns a telephone with extra-large buttons.
Mary Pregent, the northeast regional manager for Canine Companions For Independence, said dogs trained by her organization respond to 50 commands -- from opening doors and turning on lights to holding up credit cards in their mouths.
None is able to dial a phone, she said.
Christiano said no court date for D'Antonio has been scheduled yet.
Meanwhile, D'Antonio said she's not planning on letting her dog dial 911 any time soon.
Still, she said, she thinks it's useful for dogs to learn the skill. Before teaching the dog, however, she noted that it's important to have the support of the local police department.
"They're not on the ball down there," she said of the Parsippany police.