By Shelby Toth
Canalside Chronicles Staff
The canal is a defining feature of Brockport. Afterall, it owes its very existence to it. And like any heart of any village, it comes with a few strange tales.
While many people have died in or near the canal over the years, one death in particular stands out. This is the July 4, 1936 death of Maxwell Breeze.
According to old news stories, Breeze was 14 at the time, and was playing in the water with his friends when something jumped from the edge of the canal and climbed onto his back, causing him to drown. The reason this story was so unusual is because of the murder suspect: a dog named Idaho.
Not only was Idaho the suspect, but according to the “Useless Information” podcast, the dog was arrested and brought to trial.
According to a 1936 article in the Owosso Argus-Press, “Idaho, a shaggy puppy of Airedale and Police Dog parentage, was a defendant before Justice of the Peace Homer D. Benedict on charges brought under the farm and markets law that he is a dangerous animal and should be destroyed.”
Idaho’s owner, Victor Fortune, as well as many others, helped defend the dog in court, saying that he wasn’t dangerous and was merely playing. According to “Useless Information,” Idaho went through a two-week long evaluation to determine whether he was vicious. Idaho’s evaluation was at the insistence of secretary of the Rochester Dog Protective Association Mary Foubister. At the time, donations and letters of support came in from all across the country. The story of Idaho had gained national media attention.
Idaho’s owner used the donations to hire lawyer Harry A. Sessions. Sessions mounted a strong defense, and called almost 40 witnesses to testify on behalf of the dog.
Maxwell Breeze’s parents however wanted the dog euthanized. In the end, Justice Benedict decided to spare Idaho’s life and sentenced him to house arrest.
“After considering all the evidence regarding the dog Idaho’s actions in the water which, in my opinion are dangerous, I have decided to order the dog returned to his owner, Victor Fortune, to keep him in confinement until October 1, 1938,” Benedict said. “If said dog is not so confined, it must be killed by any legally constituted peace officer.”
The trial of Idaho sparked more unusual stories. After the picture of Idaho was released, a man in the state of Idaho thought the dog looked familiar, according to “Useless Information.” In fact, he thought Idaho the dog was his brother’s dog that had been stolen. This claim was later dispelled.
While the canal can be a dangerous place, it makes for interesting stories. And while the death of a boy should never be taken lightly, it’s hard not to chuckle at the idea of a dog standing trial.