By Jason Needham
I used to be mildly annoyed when I would see dogs running around off leash. I have two small kids (10 and 5) who have been chased once or twice by “vicious” little dogs. The result is that they have spent much of their short lives generally terrified of dogs. However, my oldest son recently decided that having a dog was the only thing he wanted in life.
I am not a dog person, as my experience with dogs has been biased due to irresponsible owners who let them do their business in my yard and leave it there, let them bark all day and night, or as mentioned previously, allowed their off-leash dog to chase my very young kids. But, my wife and kids finally wore me down and we decided that getting a puppy would be good for the family.
My wife researched the perfect dog for us. We needed one that was somewhat hypoallergenic due to asthma issues in our family, one that was small enough to fit within our little household comfortably, and one with the right temperament so that our somewhat skittish kids would have the best chance to bond quickly.
After a few months of searching, she found Charlie, a white, 2-month-old terrier mix, at Kritter Kamp Rescue in Elk Grove. She brought him home in mid-January and then the fun began! As I mentioned, I’m not a dog person, but not surprisingly, this little puppy that was so eager to please and full of loving energy took hold of my heart despite my best efforts. And, if Charlie could get me to fall for him so quickly, imagine how swiftly and deeply my wife and kids fell in love with him.
On Feb. 7, after school, they took Charlie for a walk around the block. (My wife was determined to train him to walk nicely on a leash.) They went around the corner and, coming down the street, was a man on a bike with his large yellow dog running beside him, off leash. Before anyone could react, that dog grabbed Charlie in his mouth and shook him to death, right in front of my wife and kids.
My older son, screamed to please “make him let go of my dog” over and over, before it became too much for him to bear and he ran all the way back home, with the 5-year-old not far behind. My wife found a hose and sprayed the dog with it to get it to finally let go of Charlie. A concerned neighbor came out and helped scoop up Charlie and take him to the vet, but it was too late. Charlie was gone.
Our house is now filled with anger and confusion, but mostly sadness. My wife and kids have violent images of Charlie’s passing seared into their minds that will take a lot of time to come to terms with, and never really go away.
What did the owner of the other dog say? “I can’t believe that happened; my dog is so sweet and gentle and has never tried to harm anything.”
Please follow our leash laws.
— Jason Needham is a Davis resident.