Russell to the rescue

awileman@sierrastar.comFebruary 11, 2014 

For Lynda Allen, 61, of North Fork Tuesday, Feb. 5, started out like any other day, fixing odds and ends around the house and sending two of her four dogs — Rufus and Russell — off for their daily run around the property. But by mid-afternoon, things had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Around 1:30 p.m. Allen says she heard an unrecognizable howling sound coming from Russell, one of her terriers, who Allen adopted after he was abandoned by the neighbors who moved out of the area. She says she noticed a clear sense of stress in her dog's bark. As Allen rushed to the aid of her beloved dog, she realized Russell had in fact been protecting and warding off an animal that had attacked Allen's Chihuahua, Rufus.

Upon arriving to Rufus' side, Allen realized the severity of the situation and noticed he was suffering from shock and extreme blood loss. Allen quickly responded by rushing him to the Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, where Rufus was diagnosed with two broken ribs, a bite mark, and serious blood loss.

Allen suspects a mountain lion, spotted in the area, is to blame and has contacted Fish and Game in hopes of trapping and releasing the animal far enough away to avoid future conflicts.

"We are in their territory and I don't want to harm the cat, but I would like Fish and Wildlife to come and try to track the animal and remove it from the area," Allen said.

Fish and Game, who noted the difficulty of tracking the animal following rainy days, says most likely it was not a mountain lion due to the time of the attack and the fact that the small dog was not taken from the property.

Allen went on to explain how, within the last year, her neighbor Steve Mitchell has lost several sheep on a property near Allen's house. Other neighbors have reported large-sized canines who have been badly injured by something in the area.

Mitchell, who lives caddy-corner to Allen's property said he was recently given a permit by the California Fish and Wildlife to hunt the cat who was killing his sheep.

"I had five sheep and a goat in my pasture and they started getting killed. I had no idea what was killing them, but soon enough figured out it was a mountain lion and it only took two weeks to take out my whole herd," Mitchell said. "It was coming back until all my livestock were gone."

Since then Mitchell has placed all his animals inside an enclosed pen for their safety and says he has not had a problem since.

Veterinarian Mark Nagel, who tended to Rufus' wounds following the attack, said after diagnosing the injuries that it was his personal belief, based on the whereabouts of the wounds, that the attacker was likely not a mountain lion. Nagel believes the dog was attacked by another larger dog in the area. Either way, if it were not for Russell's act of sheer bravery, Rufus would not have lived another day.

Despite what she is being told by the Department of Fish and Wildlife Allen, who lives on Wild Rose Lane in North Fork, wants people to be aware of the possibility that a cat is roaming the area.

"I feel blessed that Rufus is still alive and I want people in the area to be aware of the cat's presence. We have to understand times are tough and these animals don't have much to eat and this brings them closer to our lower areas in search of food," said Allen.

Regardless of the attacker, Allen has labeled Russell a hero and always felt he was adopted for a purpose. Some might say he more than served his purpose on Tuesday by saving Rufus, a fellow dog, from the jaws of whatever animal attacked.

According to defenders.org, an organization adopted in 1947 to protect the country's wildlife, mountain lions are extremely territorial and once they have established a residence in an area, they tend to stay. These areas can range anywhere from 70 to 300 square miles according to various reports.

To avoid possible mountain lion attacks, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends the following safety tips:

Do not hike, bike, or jog alone, avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night, keep a close watch on small children, and do not ever approach a mountain lion.

If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects, pick up small children; if attacked, fight back, and if a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.

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