For 88-year-old Dorothy Frank, 6-year-old Mocha was her best friend and lifeline. She slept with the chocolate brown Chihuahua and was reluctant to go out to eat because she didn’t want to leave Mocha behind.
But on Saturday, during an outing to the Canyon View Dog Park with her son and daughter-in-law, Frank watched in horror as a standard poodle attacked and killed her companion.
Now left with a mother who’s so traumatized that she won’t sleep alone in her own house, Joe Frank said he hopes the mauling will serve as a reminder to owners to be more conscientious with their dogs in social situations.
“So many people just don’t believe their dogs can be dangerous,” he said.
Joe Frank said he and his wife, Cathy, had driven from their home in Crested Butte to Grand Junction to visit his mother for the weekend. He said they had been to the dog park a few times before and had never had problems. The park has separate, fenced-in sections for large dogs and small dogs, as well as an area with a pond.
On this day, though, when Joe and Dorothy Frank entered the small-dog park, they were greeted by a large, male, charcoal-colored standard poodle. A sign with a list of rules posted at the dog park instructs owners to keep large dogs and small dogs separated by the sections.
Joe Frank said they asked the poodle’s owner, who also had a smaller dog, why she had a large dog in the small-dog section. He said the woman responded that the poodle liked to be near the smaller dog and that the smaller dog was too nervous to be in the large dog section, so she brought both into the small-dog section.
He said the poodle was excited and curious about Mocha and that the two dogs sniffed each other.
“It looked like everything was fine,” he said.
He left his mother with the poodle’s owner in the small-dog area and entered the large dog area with his wife and their Australian shepherd. A few minutes later, his mother came running into the large dog section, screaming and crying with blood on her hands and jacket.
He said his mother told him that she had sat down on a bench and began talking with the poodle’s owner. But then Dorothy Frank became nervous because the poodle was standing over Mocha. When she stood to go pick up Mocha, “the poodle just tore into the little Chihuahua.”
Dorothy Frank grabbed Mocha, handed her to the poodle’s owner and went to find her son. Joe Frank said the poodle’s owner then handed Mocha back to them, saying, “I think she’ll be OK.” But with a 3-inch wound in her side, he said it was obvious the Chihuahua was not OK.
He said he, his mother and his wife jumped in the car, and another woman led them to the Grand Valley Emergency Veterinary Center on North Avenue. But he said Mocha died about two blocks from the clinic.
He said no one got the name of the poodle’s owner.
Joe Frank said his mother is devastated, having lost her pet companion three years after her husband died. He said someone is now staying with her at night because she has had nightmares and won’t sleep by herself.
Traci Wieland, recreation superintendent for the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department, said she’s heard of only three other dog attacks at the dog park since it opened in 2005. This was the first fatal one, she said, which a friend of Dorothy Frank’s reported to the city on Monday.
Wieland and Parks and Recreation Director Rob Schoeber said dog-park users are asked to follow the rules, which also require bites to people or other dogs to be reported to 911 or Mesa County Animal Services, but there is currently no punishment assessed if the rules are broken.
“It’s really left up to the dog owner (to police himself or herself) and, unfortunately, this gal should definitely not have had that large dog in the small-dog area,” Wieland said.
Schoeber said city officials will increase supervision at the dog park if they see an increase in dog attacks.
“To this point, it has been very well managed,” he said.
Joe Frank said he wants the incident to serve as a lesson to other dog owners.
“People with large and aggressive dogs really need to be aware of their dogs’ capabilities,” he said. “Coming up to a little kid or a little dog, try to be cognizant of that and don’t get in those situations if you can help it.”