The protesters were the first to arrive Friday morning outside the Calaveras County Courthouse, well before 8 for a 9 a.m. hearing.

They were waiting for Vonna Faye Hughes, owner of the Pet Bath House, where three dogs went missing this summer. One was found dead. The two others were captured on the side of a road in Murphys,

Hughes is charged with six felonies in connection with the case and Friday was the day she was supposed to learn the date of her preliminary hearing, which would determine whether the prosecution had enough evidence for her to be tried.

The group, most of whom wore purple T-shirts adorned with a photo on Cici, went inside when the courthouse opened and watched for Hughes’ car.

“There she is,” one said.

Hughes walked into the courthouse after Steven Mendoza and his wife, Natalie, who owned Cici and the two other dogs.

The Mendozas said they were anxious about the proceeding. The group filled most of the rows behind the prosecutors.

Hughes stood at the back, waiting for her attorney, Ken Foley, who arrived 45 minutes after Hughes’ case was called.

Foley told Judge Donald C. Boyack, who seemed annoyed by the delay, that he had been caught up in a code compliance case in the other courthouse.

Foley said he had just recently received 100 pages of evidence from the prosecution and asked that the preliminary hearing date be set after he had a chance to read it all and conduct his own investigation.

Hughes has said she did not hurt the dogs and is not guilty of animal cruelty.

The judge and the prosecution agreed they would reconvene on Nov. 3. Foley also asked that Hughes be excused from appearing that day. She was.

Hughes left the courtroom. The protesters followed.

Amy Monsen, one of the protesters, said afterward that the time in court was not wasted even though not much happened.

“We’ll always show up,” she said.