By Jim Shilander
A 10-year-old Shetland sheepdog was attacked Tuesday night by a large animal, which veterinarians said may have been a mountain lion or a coyote.
Marion Shurtleff said she let “Sam” out of the home on Via Floritas—east of Interstate-5 and north of Camino de los Mares, near the Shorecliffs Golf Club—to urinate, when she heard an animal crying out.
“I went out the door hollering his name,” Shurtleff said. Her cries scared off whatever animal was attacking Sam, because she saw an animal figure across the street drop the dog and run up into the hills. She ran right over to Sam. “I thought he was dead,” she recalled. “We couldn’t feel him breathing and his eyes were wide open.” The dog didn’t resist when she rolled him over, she said. She and her husband quickly transported Sam to a veterinary hospital.
Veterinarian James Bridge treated the animal. He said the dog required three hours of surgery and approximately 100 stitches. Shurtleff said Sam was having some trouble swallowing due to soreness due to the number of puncture injuries. She also reported that the dog had suffered heavy bruising.
Shurtleff said the animal was light in color and had small legs. She reported that the two veterinarians who had treated the dog said the injuries were closer in line with a young mountain lion than a coyote. Shurtleff said she had seen coyotes in the area before, but the fact that there was only one animal, as opposed to a pack, made her think the attacker was a mountain lion. A young mountain lion was also more likely to have not killed the dog, she said, due to inexperience hunting.
Bridge noted that the assumption that the attack was done by a mountain lion was just that, since there were no eyewitnesses to the attack.
Kim Cholodenko, director of the San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter, said it might be possible for other animals, such as coyotes, to inflict similar injuries.