If this were a video, you’d be hearing “Running with the Pack,” by Bad Company.
In August of 2009, I got a call from my friend and neighbor, Jerry, to warn me there was a pack of pit bulls running wild in the area. They had killed his neighbor’s longtime cat, a beautiful longhair, named Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty’s owner, Ruth, saw these dogs destroy her cat.
She was too terrified of the dogs to attempt a rescue. “There was a big nursing-bitch, just full of milk. She had small puppies with her, and several black-and-white adult dogs, too. They shook my little cat like she was a rag doll!”
Yet another neighbor, an older woman, just made it into her house when these dogs went after her in her yard. Though not bitten, she spent three days in the hospital with a heart condition caused by the trauma.
My neighbor Jerry had a Labrador retriever named Sammy. I watched this dog grow from a puppy, to a teenage terror that got into the trash -- and everything else – carrying his trophies about proudly. He dug up unknown objects, leaving them at the kitchen door, and after swimming in Jerry’s pond, happily rubbed green pond slime and mud on everyone. In the past year, Sammy graduated from all things puppy, and became a large, dignified dog that Jerry and his wife, Pinky, adored.
When I was over there for a drink one time, Pinky said, “Sammy makes me feel safe when I’m outside working the garden. He’s always at my side.”
But this week, the pack came through and left Sammy looking like “a piece of ground meat.” It happened while Jerry and Pinky weren’t home. Jerry found Sammy still alive.
Four thousand bucks worth of vet bills later, Sammy died.
Across the country road from Jerry and Ruth’s homes is our ten-acre farm, which is surrounded by 250 lonely acres of parkland. My dog Rosco, a certified mutt, is about the size of a border collie. My two Thoroughbred colts are only foals, one of them not even weaned yet. Knowing this pack of dogs can show up any time, day or night, left me shaken and fearful. I took to carrying my revolver with me whenever I’d go out to feed the horses or do farm chores. Always listening, I’d sometimes hear dogs barking and yipping in the distance.
Jerry called Prince Georges County Animal Control after Miss Kitty died. He and the animal control officer thought the dogs came from a place on Chew Road, the next road over. Animal control had earlier found a bunch of dogs in a wire pen at a home on that road. The dogs fit Ruth’s description of the pack that killed Miss Kitty. Animal Control said they’d already cited this family, and after Sammy was attacked, they cited these irresponsible people again. But the law states that a dog must be found loose without tags to be taken into the animal control facility. These dogs run home, get locked up, and are not easily touched by the law.
Yesterday morning, Jerry shot and killed two dogs when a pack of nine stormed his yard and went after his chickens. Being a retired Prince Georges County homicide detective, Jerry’s a good shot and always armed. He called me about ten o’clock, and he sounded upset. I put Rosco’s leash on, put him in the car with me, and drove right over.
Pinky was there with the neighbor who’d been chased into her house by the pit bulls, and a Prince Georges County Animal Control van was parked in the driveway. A small black-and-white puppy lay dead on the ground with a bullet hole in its side. The other dog had apparently made it into the woods and down a steep bank to the creek before dying from his gunshot wound. The rest of the pack had fled through the woods toward Chew Road.
Pinky said the animal control officer was down in the creek with Jerry and Ruth, who was looking to see if the dead dog was one of those that killed Miss Kitty.
Rosco and I worked our way down there through the woods, following the sound of voices and avoiding briars and vines as best we could. The mosquitoes were terrible. We found the people on the bank staring at an adult black-and-white dog that lay dead in the creek.
Ruth said it was one of the dogs that killed her cat.
The uniformed animal control officer introduced herself as Kim Montgomery. She had blond hair with pink streaks, pierced ears, and tattoos of dogs on her arms. She told me later they were various dogs she’d owned that had passed from old age.
She took off her boots and socks, and rolled up her jeans, revealing more tattoos on her legs.
She clambered down into the creek, tied a rope around the dog’s head and dragged it up the bank, through the woods and back to her van.
I felt bad that I’d brought Rosco, for when Kim dragged the dog past us, Rosco sat down and started whining. But I’d been afraid to let him out of my sight.
We followed Kim and watched while she put the dogs inside compartments in the van. She said she knew where the dogs came from on Chew Road. She was going to the house to ask the people if the dead dogs belonged to them.
Chew road is a tough, shanty town area and I knew the people down there wouldn’t look kindly on a county officer butting into their lives.
I studied Kim. She appeared about thirty. And though she looked sturdy and tough, she wasn’t a big or tall woman by any means.
“Do you have any backup?” I asked her.
She rolled her eyes. “There’s only three of us working the whole county.”
“Do you want some help?” I asked.
“No. I can take care of it.”
I wanted to go with her, but knew better than to ask.
She left in her van, and I climbed up the steps to Jerry’s deck where we sat and drank coffee. Rosco was very alert about the coffee, thinking maybe he should have some.
After a while, Jerry started talking about Sammy. Though he’s seen more homicide victims than I ever want to think about, he almost broke down.
“I’m upset,” he said, “because they killed my damn dog, and I just shot a puppy.”
I felt terrible for him. “Jerry,” I said. “I’m glad you killed those dogs. Only one bullet each. It was good work. That puppy never knew what hit him. Besides, he’s been running with that pack, killing things. Those little puppies are like a school of piranhas!”
By this time, Rosco was pressing against my leg, wondering what was wrong with the humans. I gave him a hug and said it was time to go home.
Jerry called me this morning and told me that officer Kim Montgomery did go to the home on Chew Road. By herself. The woman who lived there admitted they owned the dogs. She said her two daughters, both in their twenties, were out of control and she couldn’t make them do anything about the dogs. But the daughters weren’t at home, and Kim loaded all the dogs she found into her van. Five new dogs and the two dead ones were taken into animal control.
I’m unsure of how many dogs are still at large, but I am very grateful to Jerry and Kim. Jerry has calmed down, and Pinky, Ruth and I are less afraid.
But that Kim, I don’t think she’s afraid of anything.