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Morris woman mourns loss of dog killed in attack

MORRIS – For almost a month now, Mavis Hughes’ cat Chloe wanders around her house, meowing loudly and pawing at the back door.

Chloe is missing his best friend, a 9-year-old Shih Tzu Poo named Mia.

“He still looks out the patio door for her,” Hughes said with tears in her eyes. “I always tell him, ‘She’s not coming back in.’ ”

A few weeks ago, Mia was attacked and killed by a neighbor’s Stafford Terriers when Hughes let her outside to use the bathroom.

When the neighbor’s two dogs saw Mia on Hughes’ patio, they jumped the fence and one of the dogs, Rocky, began attacking the tiny Shih Tzu Poo. Hughes said she heard her dog’s screams, ran outside to save Mia and was bit on the wrist in the process.

Shortly after, Mia was taken to the animal hospital where she was pronounced dead, Hughes said.

“She was the best dog,” Hughes said. “She was so friendly with everyone and never nipped at the grandkids. I don’t know if I’ll find another one like her.”

Hughes, with the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s office, filed an official complaint against Rocky and Xena’s owner, Rhonda Cook, but said she is still not sure if she will be suing Cook for damages.

Cook could not be reached for this story; attempts to reach her included visits to her residence.

In the official complaint filed Feb. 21, the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s office asked Rocky be deemed a dangerous dog. With that designation, Rocky would have to be spayed or neutered, microchipped, muzzled in public and leashed in public. Rocky also would have to undergo behavioral training, and his owner would need to contain him with at least a 6-foot tall fence while on private property.

The current fence separating Hughes and Cook’s yard is about 4∏ feet tall. At the time of the attack, there was snow on the ground near the fence, which could have helped the dogs clear the height, said June Krull, director of Grundy County Animal Control.

Krull recommended Feb. 20 that Rocky be deemed a dangerous dog after reviewing the reports of the attack.

Krull said a dangerous dog is defined as a canine that leaves its property to aggressively attack a human or a companion animal of which she believed Rocky was guilty.

The state’s attorney’s office also asked Cook to pay a $50 public safety fee to animal control and added that the court may “order any and all relief it deems just and proper.”

With this clause, the judge could potentially have Rocky put down, but Krull said she is not confident the court will go to such an extreme.

“Of all the dogs I’ve deemed dangerous before this, it’s never ended with having the animal euthanized,” Krull said.

But that may not be enough for Hughes. She said she is worried that this could happen again, with someone else’s pet, while the dog is still alive.

Hughes said she would have liked to see the dogs impounded until the dispute is settled since their condos are located on Edgewater Drive, about two blocks from White Oak Elementary School.

“Even if she takes those precautions, I’m afraid,” Hughes said. “What if it’s a child next time?”

Even several weeks after the incident, Hughes said she can’t bring herself to go into the backyard because she is frozen by fear and memories of the attack.

Her weekly visits with her grandchildren also have stopped since the incident as she and her son-in-law are weary of having the children anywhere near the dogs.

“I just have this fear that maybe they remember me,” Hughes said. “Maybe it’s just in my head. But, no, I won’t go out there.”

When making the decision, the judge will most likely consider Cook’s behavior after the attack, which could work in her favor since she is satisfying all the recommended actions thus far.

“So far [Cook] has complied with everything and is going through the behavioral training,” Krull said.

Although Hughes said she has not spoken to Cook since the incident, Cook has left Hughes notes apologizing profusely for the attack and mentioning her plans to move out of the neighboring condo soon.

Hughes said her initial anger at Cook has subsided and she is beginning to empathize with Cook’s difficult situation.

“I feel bad for her, too,” Hughes said. “After I settled down, I thought about how hard this must be for her.”

In the meantime, Hughes said she is unsure when she will get a new dog.

“I miss her, God,” Hughes said. “Maybe this summer, when I’m more ready.”

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