Cautionary Tale For Dog Owners


It is strange how sometimes things that shouldn’t happen do and they have a more far-reaching impact than it would initially seem.    The size of the impact is  not always proportionate to the size of the event.  Today a small dog made a big impact on many people.  Hopefully something good will come out of this event and will prevent a similar one from happening in the future.

This afternoon my sister, my two nieces (ages 9 and 12) and my mother took their dogs to a dog park in Seal Beach.  This particular dog park does not have an area for small dogs and an area for large dogs, all dogs are in the same area.  Pepe, the Chihuahua, was taken off his leash and happily ran off to play.  Before my Mom and sister could even get the other two dogs (Darla – Cockapoo and Brandi – a cocker spaniel) off their leashes, a ruckus occurred.  My mother looked up and a German Shepard had Pepe in his mouth.  She alerted my sister who ran over to assist Pepe.  By the time she go there, someone had gotten Pepe away from the other dog.  They rushed Pepe to the animals hospital, but sadly he died on my mother’s lap before they got there.  Pepe was maybe 8-10 pounds and the German Shepard easily over 70 pounds.  The veterinarian said that the attack had likely punctured Pepe’s lung.

My nieces were distracted (one had not even made it through the gate) when the attack took place, but were there along with several other dog owners.   Another dog owner was irate and berated the German Shepard’s owner for her lack of responsibility and supervision of her dog in the dog park especially when it was largely occupied by small dogs.  He was obviously very upset by the event. My nieces were distraught and hysterical at the park, on the way the animal hospital and into the evening.

My mother called the dog’s owner to let her know that Pepe had died and to ask that she not put her dog in a situation where it would have an opportunity to do anything similar in the future.  The young woman was very remorseful and felt terrible.  She said  that she could not get the sound of my nieces crying out of her head.  Her boyfriend called my Mom’s house a few minutes later to express the same and offered to do anything they could to make things better including buying the kids a new dog and paying all of the related expenses.  This was a very kind gesture, but in no way eased the pain of the incident.

In the course of just a few minutes several lives were impacted by this incident involving a very small dog.   While I am sure that the other dog’s owner did not intend for this to happen, she was very likely not paying attention to her dogs signals and obviously made a very poor judgement call when she chose not to “control” her very large dog in a setting full of very small dogs.  The dog park is commonly believed to be a safe place for all dogs.  It is assumed that  each owner is responsible for ensuring that any dog they bring into the park is well socialized with other dogs and not dangerous.  This was the belief that my sister and mother went to the park with.  I am sure the other dog owners had the same confidence that someone would not bring a dangerous dog into the park.

As a result of this incident I am not sure that my mother or sister will ever return to a dog park.  My nieces will likely never feel safe  bringing a dog to a dog park and may distrust German Shepards forever. The woman who owns the German Shepard and her boyfriend will likely never look at the dog the same.  The other people in the dog park who witnessed this likely will not have the same level of confidence that the park is safe and will no longer assume that other dog owners are only bringing in dogs that are appropriate for the park.

I am having second thoughts about the safety of the dog park I frequent even though it has  separate large and small dog area.  I feel this way not only because my dog could be injured but because I cannot even imagine how I would feel if she hurt or killed another dog.  This makes me sad since I have come to enjoy seeing the other dogs and dog owners at our local dog park.  It is a finite group of people and we have become kind of like a little quirky community.

If you own a dog and take it to dog parks, please do not become complacent and assume that they are safe places for you and your dog.  Try to visit those that have separate areas for large and small dogs.  If you have a dog that is not socialized with other dogs, keep him on a leash for your visits until you are confident that he will not pose a danger to the other dogs or people in the park.  Even when you feel that he will not, pay attention to his signals and those of the other dogs so that you can intervene before an unfortunate “accident” occurs.  Please don’t let this happen to your dog or let your dog inflict this kind of injury and pain upon another animal.

Pepe was a beautiful little dog with a big heart and a great personality.  He had been with my sister’s family since he was a small puppy and my youngest niece was only two years old.  He was her dog and in an instant he was taken from her and the entire family in a most tragic way.   This is a very difficult thing for  anyone involved to process , perhaps especially someone only 9 year olds.  This likely happened because a perfectly nice young woman was not paying close enough attention and/or did not know the tendencies of her dog well enough.  She and her boyfriend are also suffering tonight because of this.

Now please go and hug your dog and give him a treat in Pepe’s memory.  Pepe loved his treats.  RIP Pepe.


  1. Sue Bessette says:

    What a tragic story with such a powerful message! Unless you have ever loved a dog you may not fully understand the impact of such a loss. It brought tears to my eyes as I recently had to have my dog put to sleep because of age and illness. My heart goes out to your entire family but most especially those little girls!!

    • Thank you Sue. Even though it was an accident it was preventable. I hope the dogs owner learned something and will not take an aggressive dog into a dog park ever again. Breaksy heart that Noelle chose the dog park over a trip to Knott’s or Soak City and this happened. I am sure it has ruined this rxperience for her and the rest of them forever. They laid Pepe to rest today. I am so sad about it. Thanks again for the kind words.