Julie McDonald Commentary: Family Shocked, Saddened After Dog Kills Beloved Pet in Backyard

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As she’s done every morning for years, Aime Silvestre cracked open the back door of her King Road home March 29 to let out her fluffy, white Yorkie Pomeranian. On that cold Monday morning, 11-year-old Seline trotted outside, followed faithfully by the family’s year-old Pomeranian Chihuahua, Missy.

Aime and her husband, Oscar Silvestre, needed to drive their son to a specialist to check out his ACL, torn during a Winlock Middle School football game.

Minutes later, as their youngest daughter logged onto the internet for her Zoom class, Aime opened the back door for their house pets. Only Missy ran through.

“Normally they go out, do the business, and then they turn back around,” Aime said.

She hollered for Seline, who was always eager to come back in. After checking on her kids, Aime put on her slippers to go outside. As she hollered again for Seline, the door slammed shut behind her. A large beige Lab mix turned at the noise, looked at her, and ran.

“Then I see Seline.” Aime cried as she recalled spotting their precious little pooch lying on the ground, unmoving, splotches of red blood matting her white fur. “I knew something was not right.”

She screamed and cursed the big dog. “What did you do?” she cried. “What did you do?”

As she started after it, she hollered to her eldest daughter, Yaretsi. “Get Daddy.”

Aime lost sight of the dog, ran back to her yard, and picked up their treasured family pet, cradling the ripped and torn lifeless body. She saw her 13-year-old son, Oscar, hobbling on crutches, a bat in hand. Fourteen-year-old Yaretsi ran outside, but fortunately Jazlyn, 10, was in her Zoom class.

Aime handed her husband the bloodied dog, begging him to help, to tell her Seline would be OK.

“What happened?” he asked.

“It’s a big dog,” she said. “It went that way.”

They couldn’t find the dog and needed to leave for their appointment. Oscar wrapped Seline’s body in a tarp and set it in a trailer. Everyone wept.

On the way home from the appointment, Oscar called the sheriff’s office to report what had happened. Later, the family buried Seline under rocks in their front yard flower bed.

They grieved, and so did little Missy, the puppy mothered by Seline since joining the family. The two played together by day and snuggled together at night.

I learned of the family’s heartache through a Winlock Community Facebook post by their neighbor, Joanne Cobbs, accompanied by a photo of Seline.

“To the owner of the large beige dog that roams King Rd from time to time, if you are wondering why it came home with blood on its face, it’s because it killed this beautiful little girl in her own yard in front of her family,” Cobbs wrote. “The children are devastated.”

The next afternoon, the large beige dog wandered back into the Silvestres’ yard, sniffing at the spot where Seline had died. Yaretsi chased it off with the bat. Oscar rushed home from a rental he and Aime were showing to a potential tenant and photographed the dog, which it turned out had been reported in the past.

Unfortunately, what happened to the Silvestres is fairly common.

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said their office — and Smokey Padgett, a code enforcement officer with the county Health Department — receive reports of dogs killing other dogs perhaps once every three weeks.

The sheriff’s office fields complaints daily about barking dogs, animals running loose, neglected horses, puppy mills or canines killing chickens and family pets. That’s why three years ago he asked Lewis County commissioners for a code enforcement officer to investigate animal complaints.

“We spent a lot of money on deputy sheriff’s responding to animal calls,” Snaza said. “He has done an awesome job working with us. It’s been a huge benefit since we’ve had him.”

If a dog kills a neighbor’s pet in its backyard, the owner of the aggressive dog could be cited. The animal is often put in quarantine to determine whether it’s a dangerous dog. If it is, the owner must carry insurance on the animal to cover any damages it may cause.

A dog wouldn’t be euthanized immediately for killing another animal, Snaza said. Before that could happen, it must be declared dangerous and the case must go before a judge.

“Please do be aware of your pets and be respectful of your neighbors because these things happen more often than we'd like,” Snaza said. “And my biggest fear, as I’ve said, is that those dogs could go after people, attack young kids.”

When I spoke with Snaza, he mentioned that a Vader woman visiting a Winlock home on Military Road had been attacked by a German shepherd, which tore away part of her scalp. The first shepherd had greeted her in a friendly manner, and then the second dog attacked her, ripping her scalp. She survived after treatment at the hospital.

“When a dog attacks a person, they definitely have to be quarantined,” Snaza said. “We have to make sure they’ve had all their shots.”

Then a determination would need to be made about citing the owner.

Snaza recommended that the owners of dogs protective of private property post warning signs so people know to take care. He said reports of dog bites increase during the summer with people camping and kids visiting friends or family members.

The Silvestres are waiting to hear from Padgett. They worry about what will happen if the dog attacks again — perhaps this time a child, maybe even one of their children.

And now, when Oscar Silvestre leaves early each morning for his job with the Lewis County Road Department, Aime slips on her coat and shoes, latches Missy to a leash, and walks the petite puppy outside … even in her own yard.

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Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.

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