Dog recovering after it was attacked by mountain lion
June 29, 2012
BASALT – A Fryingpan Valley family’s dog is recovering from a mountain lion attack Saturday that has given the pet’s owners a greater appreciation for the wild.
Heidi, an 11-year-old beagle-foxhound mix, was hiking with owner Lu Krueger-Andersen and her friend Saturday in the upper Fryingpan Valley, east of Basalt. The dog was leashed, said husband Paul Andersen, a columnist for The Aspen Times who was hiking up Mount Sopris that day. But when the women stopped for lunch along Last Chance Creek in the Holy Cross Wilderness, Heidi was allowed off her leash. When they got up to leave, the dog dashed down the trail before she was releashed and was soon attacked, he said.
“Lu watched her go around the bend and then heard an awful sound,” Andersen said.
Andersen said he suspects the big cat had been stealthily watching the hiking party and made its move when the opportunity presented itself.
Lu, he said, spied the mountain lion dragging the dog off the trail and toward a ravine. Heidi, who weighs about 50 pounds, was digging in her feet and resisting her attacker, though the lion had the dog’s head in its jaws.
“Lu, without thinking, just reacted like a tiger mom, as I call it,” Andersen said. She ran toward the lion, clanging her hiking poles above her head and screaming. The startled lion let go of Heidi and the frightened dog ran all the way back to the trailhead – several miles away – with the women in pursuit.
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The dog, “a bloody mess,” was waiting in the shade of the car, according to Andersen. She was taken to the emergency veterinary clinic in Basalt, where she was diagnosed with a fractured skull and treated for her injuries, including two puncture wounds atop her head and one beneath her jaw.
Andersen said he suspects the attack may have caused some brain damage and left Heidi blind in her right eye, but her condition appears to be improving. The family is hoping she recovers.
She has, however, refused to eat, so son Tait has been force-feeding her a slurry-like mixture of canned dog food, honey and medication, including antibiotics, with a syringe.
On Thursday morning, Heidi was resting comfortably in a favorite, sunny perch outside the family’s home in the Seven Castles area of the Fryingpan Valley, Andersen reported.
The lion attack was reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but Andersen considers the incident one of the risks of living in a wild environment.
“This could have happened in our back yard,” he said. “A cat could have taken her any time.”
“This doesn’t diminish the value of wild places to me, it enhances it,” he said. “In addition to the aesthetic of living near wilderness, there’s also the tooth and claw.”
The attack does, however, drive home the importance of keeping a pet on a leash, whether it’s required because the trail is within a wilderness area, or simply because predators roam the backcountry, Andersen added. Had Heidi been a smaller dog, he suspects she would not have survived.
“The leash thing is not only a courtesy and a regulation in some places, it’s a life saver for any pet that could be prey,” he said.