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Dog shot dead to stop vicious attack

Excerpted from a must read story in The Spokesman-Review:
Original story entitled:
"Canine tragedy was avoidable, if law observed

Owners who don't leash dogs need wake-up call, Doug Clark says."
by Doug Clark - Staff writer
Publication date:  May 1, 2001

Six gunshots fired. Two dead. Blood on the asphalt. . .

More gang violence?

Nope. This is the story of Morris and Doris Little and the gruesome end of their beloved dog, Lucky.

The 30-pound whippet was being walked on a leash by his owners when he was torn to shreds by Brutus, an unleashed and aptly named 185-pound Rottweiler.

"He wasn't very lucky, was he?" says 80-year-old Doris of her dog. "Oh, Doug, it was awful."

There's nothing new about canine carnage. But Spokane County Animal Control Director Nancy Hill agrees that the surprise twist of this tale made it one for the books.

The Littles have their own reasons for sharing this story. They want it to be a wake-up call to those blockhead dog owners who don't leash their pets.

Spokane County recorded 275 dog bites in 2000. Most were avoidable had the mutts been properly restrained.

The Littles' nightmare happened April 19 at dusk in their normally peaceful Spokane Valley neighborhood.

Morris and Doris, the grandparents of NASCAR driver Chad Little, celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary the day before.

It's easy to see what a special place Lucky occupied in their lives. "Property Protected by Whippet Security System," reads the sign that still hangs next to the front door of the tidy home at 10th and Thierman.

Lucky "had the softest eyes. He'd look at you and seem to say, `What are we gonna do?"' says Morris, 79, of his four-legged friend. "I didn't know how much a part of me he was until he was gone."

Lucky got his name from being rescued in the winter of 1995. The Littles' daughter, Nancy, found the small black and white dog freezing in the cold and took him in.

"Daddy, I've found you a dog," she told Morris.

Morris said no, but Nancy knew her father was all bark and no bite. Within days, Lucky had a new home.

"We took walks all the time," says Doris. "We had to spell `W-A-L-K,' he'd get so excited."

They were on one of those strolls, a few doors east of their home, when Brutus struck. The bearlike beast had Lucky before the Littles could react.

Brutus' owner, Justin Trent, lives about a block away from the Littles. He was visiting a friend when the elderly couple walked by with Lucky.

"I never kept him on a leash because he never needed one," says Trent, 21, of Brutus. "It's kind of like he flipped out and went crazy."

Fast and sleek, whippets look like miniature greyhounds. Lucky probably could have gotten away. But being legally tethered has its drawbacks. Lucky couldn't run far.

Brutus chomped Lucky's right hind leg and shook him like a dishrag, tearing the leg out of its socket. Then the huge dog went for Lucky's stomach.

"I wake up at night and see that dog tearing him apart," says Morris. "I don't know why I didn't have a heart attack or a stroke."

Finished with the midsection, Brutus locked his massive jaws around Lucky's throat.

Trent dove on top of his dog and tried to pull him off. Ignoring his bad knee, Morris kicked Brutus repeatedly with all his strength. "It was like kicking a sack of wheat," he says. Trent "was trying to stop it, but there was no way to stop it."

There was one way.

Out of his pocket, Morris pulled the old black-handled Colt .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun that he started carrying for protection some 40 years ago. He has a concealed weapons permit.

I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong.

Morris never had to use his gun and he didn't want to start now. He grabbed Trent on the shoulder and extended the Colt.

"He's killing my dog," said Morris. "Either you shoot him or I will."

And so Trent put the gun to his own dog's head and pulled the trigger. Six times.

"I just had the impression that I had to do what I had to do," says Trent. After it was over, "I fell on the (street) and got blood all over me. I just shot my dog."

"He was crying because his dog was shot," says Doris, "and we were crying because our dog was half-dead."

Brutus' attacking days were over. Lucky, alas, was still alive. The Littles rushed him to an animal clinic, but the damage was too much. He was put to sleep.

With both animals dead, Animal Control decided not to cite Trent. Morris says he spoke to a sheriff's deputy and was told that, considering the bizarre circumstances, the gunfire would be overlooked.

Trent says he feels badly for the Littles and terrible about losing his own best friend. "He was a major part of my life," he says.

If only he loved his dog enough to keep him on a leash.

The Littles say they might get a new dog, but it will take time.

"I keep visualizing it over and over in my mind," says Doris. "It's like a movie reel that won't quit."

 

 

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.

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