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Judge Will Have Decision in Custody Battle Over Great Dane in a Few Weeks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Woman took dog to Illinois when couple broke up last year; Man is suing to get the dog back

A Great Dane who is at the heart of a legal tug of war will be returned to Albuquerque for now, and the woman who failed to bring him earlier this week was ordered to pay $1,000 to a charity.

The dog, Diesel, was owned by Matthew Forslund and Colleen White for a couple of years while the couple lived together. When they broke up in 2009, White took the dog to Illinois, but Forslund sued to get him back.

A trial ended Thursday, but Bernalillo District Court Judge Beatrice Brickhouse said she probably won’t reach a final decision for a few more weeks.

Brickhouse had ordered the dog be brought back to Albuquerque until she reached a decision, but White decided not to bring him because she said the 130-pound Diesel would have suffered during a plane ride.

Brickhouse told White she had two choices; let Forslund drive back to Illinois and get the dog until she reached a decision or pay $200 a day pending the verdict.

White decided to allow Forslund to get the dog, but the judge still ordered her to pay $1,000 for disobeying a court order. White decided to donate the money to an animal shelter.

During his closing arguments, White’s attorney, Ray Padilla, said there is no basis for Forslund’s claims that he was the true owner of the dog.

“He’s clearly testified that no matter what, the dog was his, the dog was never theirs,” Padilla said of Forslund. “The reality is this. … On Feb. 13 of 2007, two people went to a home to consider adopting a dog that was being given away. Two people made the decision to adopt that dog. Two people took that dog to the home where the two people lived. The two people cared for that dog.”

Padilla said since animals are considered property under New Mexico state law, the dog was a piece of property shared by the couple that White ended up with at the end of the relationship, and that should be the end of the matter.

Forslund’s attorney, Don Harris, pointed out that Forslund thinks of Diesel as a son and has twice already driven 17 hours to Illinois to visit him.

“The only thing he wanted out of the relationship — he was going to walk away from everything — the only thing that was important to him was that animal,” Harris said. “It’s clear Diesel was Matt’s and was an irreplaceable piece of personal property.”





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