SALEM — Like thousands of others, Brendan Bulfin and Courtney Casey decided to spend the day in Salem on Sunday, taking in the city's Halloween festivities.
They brought their 3-year-old French bulldog, Nigil, along on the drive to the city.
But Nigil, who had recently been certified as an emotional support dog for Casey, suffers from physical problems that would make it hard for him to walk around for long, the couple later acknowledged.
They made a decision that would prove fatal to the little white dog — they left him in the car.
Five hours later, Nigil was found, lying in a puddle of his own vomit. Police estimate the temperature inside the Jeep, parked on the third level of the MBTA commuter rail parking garage off Bridge Street, could have reached as high as 122 degrees.
The windows were cracked open — half an inch on one side and about an inch and a half on the other — but it was more out of concern that the dog would jump out than for ventilation, they later admitted.
And while Casey initially told police she'd given Nigil water, investigators found no evidence of that, and Bulfin acknowledged they had not left any water for the dog.
On Monday, Bulfin, 38, of Setauket, New York, and Casey, 28, of Brighton, were arraigned on animal cruelty charges in Salem District Court.
Both appeared to be crying as they stood before the judge, Bulfin trying to comfort Casey by holding her shoulder.
The two, who had been released on their own recognizance from the custody of MBTA Transit Police on Sunday night, were briefly put back into custody Monday after the district court judge set bail at $250 each. But Bulfin posted bail for both of them shortly after that hearing.
The two declined to comment as they left court.
Prosecutor Erin Bellavia had asked for higher bail in the case, citing the out-of-state ties of both Bulfin, who lives on Long Island, and Casey, who once lived with Bulfin until moving to Brighton to attend law school in Boston.
Bellavia told Judge Randy Chapman how another couple, Kevin Shea and Sarah Cartier, who had parked near the Jeep, first noticed the dog jumping up and down in the passenger seat.
That was just after 1 p.m.
When the couple returned around 5:30 p.m. they could no longer see the dog jumping. When they approached the car, they saw the dog lying on the seat.
They tried to rouse the dog by knocking on the windows. When there was no response, they called 911.
Salem police Patrolwoman Tracey O'Leary was the first to arrive. She too tried to wake the dog, still inside the locked car. She tried to break the windows to get inside. Then firefighters arrived and were about to smash the windows when Bulfin and Casey walked up.
They opened the door, and O'Leary confirmed everyone's fears.
Salem animal control officer Don Famico and the MBTA Transit Police arrived shortly after that.
Casey insisted she'd checked on the dog earlier that afternoon and said he seemed fine.
She gave conflicting answers about whether she'd given Nigil any water during that check, claiming that she'd given him "whatever was in my bag."
Paul Woods Jr., a lawyer appointed to represent Casey for her bail hearing, said she thought the dog would be OK because the Jeep was parked in the shade.
He called the dog's death a "tragic accident," a comment echoed by a lawyer appointed to represent Bulfin, who according to court papers owns Napper Tandy's Irish Pub in Bay Shore, New York.
"Obviously, it's a very disturbing allegation," said the judge, agreeing to set bail at $250 each for the defendants.
He also ordered the couple not to obtain or take custody of any other animals while awaiting trial.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16.
French bulldogs are known for their flat faces, and like other flat-faced breeds — such as English bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers — frequently suffer breathing problems.
In a similar case, an English bulldog named Penny died when she was left in a truck outside a Beverly restaurant in July 2016. Her owner is now on two years of probation.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.