Beloved cocker spaniel killed by neighboring dogs in Turner

TURNER — Sheila Olson is mourning the death of her 14-year-old cocker spaniel, Skittles, which was recently killed by two bulldogs that live up the street.

Skittles, a 14-year-old cocker spaniel who lived in Turner, was killed April 5 by two bulldogs in the neighborhood. Skittles' owner, Sheila Olson, is unhappy that the bulldogs did not have to face punishment, and she wants the state to review its laws. 

Expert: Owners should know how to 'read' dogs

LEWISTON — A Turner dog killed by two dogs while all three were off leash in their neighborhood has raised the question of whether it is safe to let a dog off its leash, even in a dog park.

Dog owners can better protect their pets by paying attention to the animals' postures, said Steven Dostie, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Human Society.

Most owners don't know how to tell whether their pets are being playful or bullying, Dostie said. “There's so much information out there on how to read their dog: expressions, body postures; that's really important.”

If a dog is bullying another dog, you step in and remove the bully, he said.

No dog should be off leash until the owner has voice control. “Being a good dog owner means you have to be a responsible dog owner,” Dostie said.

No consequences came to the two dogs. Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout said he had no history of complaints about them. On the day it happened, all three dogs were off leash and not on their own property, and the bulldogs do not fit the legal definition of dangerous dogs.

“It's unfortunate,” Strout said. “I feel bad for her.” But, he said, the bulldogs are in a responsible home. "I'm not concerned. They're with children every day.”

That doesn't seem right to Olson, who is questioning whether her neighbor's dogs will bite or kill again. She wants to see the law changed.

“I don't feel all dogs should be put down, but there should be a better assessment of domestic dogs who kill other dogs,” she said. “They should be in quarantine until the assessment is done.”

To build support for change, Olson is talking to Rep. Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, who said he would look into it.

“I know I love my dog. I feel bad for her,” Timberlake said. Olson bought a full-page ad in the Sun Journal on April 14, and she has launched a Facebook page, “In memory of Skittles.”

At home now with no dog, there's a heartbreaking void, Olson said. “If this is what it feels like to lose a dog, I can't imagine losing a child.”

Skittles died Friday, April 5, after being bitten on the neck by the bulldogs.

“I'm taking some responsibility for what happened,” Olson said, acknowledging that her dog was off its leash. “If he was on leash, this probably would not have happened.”

Her dog often visited the dog next door and typically stayed close to home, Olson said. On this Friday, Skittles wandered to a nearby field on Upper Street. At the same time, two boys whose family owns the bulldogs were walking with the dogs to a neighbor's land to get sap from a tree, Strout said. They took the walk daily, and have their neighbor's permission to get sap. Strout did not identify the bulldogs' owner, and Olson declined to identify her neighbor.

Olson said Skittles approached and sniffed one of the bulldogs. Skittles barked at them. The boys tried to stop the fight and were bitten in the process, Strout said.

“I felt sorry for the boy,” Olson said of one. “He was hysterical.” He carried Skittles to a neighbor for help. That neighbor and Olson's husband drove the dog to emergency care.

The neighbor who owns the bulldogs told Olson he had never seen his dogs behaving like that, Olson said. And he didn't apologize, she said.

The man, who will not be charged in the incident, said he did apologize. "I felt horrible," he said. "I went down and cried." He spoke on the condition that his name not be used. He said his dogs were protective of his sons. "They're good dogs."

Under Maine law, a dog is deemed dangerous if it attacks a person, or attacks a pet on a leash or on the pet's property, Strout said. He checked with the Androscoggin County District Attorney's office, which agreed with Strout's assessment, he said. “And all three dogs were running at large,” he said.

Maine law says it is unlawful for any dog to be at large except when used for hunting. Cities often mandate that dogs be leashed. More rural towns, including Turner, Leeds and Greene, allow dogs to be under their owners' voice control, Strout said.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Sad all around.

My condolences to both families in this situation. This is very sad.
I would start by saying that I'm a life-long dog owner. I grew up with a pair of Cocker Spaniels that were absolutely wonderful. I would dress them in my big doll clothes and pose them for pics. The female was an avid Red Sox fan, as she would jump up on the couch and kick back the minute she heard the noise of the game start. Currently I own another pair of wonderful dogs; a boxer and a French Mastiff mix. These dogs fall under the 'bully breeds'. They are each 75 pounds of dopey, fun lovin, attention seeking dog.
All that said, I firmly believe that a Cocker Spaniel falls into the yappy non-trustful little dog group. I think the scenario described in this article paints a pretty vivid picture of two boys walking with their dogs as they've done before when an elderly completely unattended smaller dog approached. I'm sure the yappiness of the spaniel added to the skittishness of an elderly dog put the other dogs on alert, especially with their boys present...and things went from there.
I don't know why people would create stories of anything other than what is in the article, ie. 'the dog could've died on his property and the boys carried it away'. Seriously?? This is a very sad story that doesn't need to be made worse by a creepy made up scenario. As for the boys control over their dogs..it's pretty daunting for a full grown adult to break up a dog fight so I'm not surprised that these boys couldn't do it. Sounds like the dogs were fine until approached by the spaniel.
Overall I feel bad for Skittles & his owner whom I'm sure would give anything to go back and not let him out of her sight. I feel bad for the other dogs that were probably just protecting the kids..and I feel terrible for the boys that will have to live with the sights and sounds of a very scary & sad experience. Just thinking of all involved.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Yes sad all around Veronica Child

Now you making up stories, " I don't know why people would create stories of anything other than what is in the article, “. 'the dog could've died on his property and the boys carried it away'. Seriously" From my comment you better read this over, I never said that the boys carried the dog from his own property. I said that all we know is what they say, and that large dogs could have carried this smaller dog away from his own property. Articles are written from what someone says, this does not make it true. I also said given the boys the benefit of the doubt that it happened the way they said. That being said, I personally feel that their dogs should not have been off leash, clearly not in voice control. Voice control means they could recall them, also clearly these dogs were larger, now they are calling them bull dogs. We're probably talking about pit bulls, they are all in the same class. Raised to defend, and if not properly socialized they can and did kill the small old dog. Your right the boys had no control over the dogs clearly. Therefore the father should have been fined in violation of the State of Maine leash law, and not adhering to the town of Turners voice control ordinance. Problem here is that the town of Turner would have to pay to prosecute the owner of the bull dogs. Because clearly it is a town easement of the State mandate that a dog does not belong off from the owners property without a leash. I also have owned dogs my whole life. And I also know the attitude of the cocker in general. I fail to see how a fourteen year old dog was any threat to the bull dogs or the owners. Problem here is if the boys were being protected by the bull dogs, then they are dangerous and not socialized. A dog off leash should be a dog that is and has the ability to have a smaller dog approach without ganging up and killing the small dog. I truly know how small dogs and cockers can react. Saw this myself when I was a kid, with our cocker cross/lab mutt. I DID NOT SAY THE BOYS CARRIED THE DOG AWAY READ MY EXACT WORDS, maybe if I had said dragged away you would not have read into my comment and created a story that was not said by me. I still feel it is a possibility that the bulls started towards the cocker in the first place. We will never know, however we do know that these bull dogs were off the owners property, and not in voice control. This is a violation of the state leash law. and the Turner law does not protect dogs not under voice control. I do not feel bad for the boys, I feel bad for the dogs that are not properly trained. And or socialized period. HOW MANY OWNERS SAY, OH MY DOGS NEVER HAVE ACTED LIKE THAT BEFORE. Yes, most animals can act different in stressful situation. And with two you got a pack mentality. Good day to you too!

 's picture

I apologize for not correctly reading the 'dogs' carried it..

That said, you obviously have a soap box to stand on since you've now decided they weren't bulldogs infact they were pitbulls, well I know why you're so long winded. By the way, the characteristics you describe above "Raised to defend, and if not properly socialized they can and did kill..." are the SAME characteristics you can see in numerous other breeds. Anyhoo!
A couple of your sentences speak volumes about your humanity, "I do not feel bad for the boys, I feel bad for the dogs that are not properly trained." Wow...these are boys. And for what it's worth, my money is on the spaniel approaching them. A FULL blooded cocker is a hunting/scent dog and naturally nosey.
Hey, you have a good day Catherine. Sounds like you could use one.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Feel sad not BAD!

You obviously have sand for sense. You make it sound like the boys are scared for life. It was not me that sent them off from their property with two pitbulls, that were clearly to much for them to handle. Maybe if the dad had been with them the dogs would have recalled. It really does not matter if your money is on the cocker, you just may be right. None the less the Cocker was no match for the Pitbulls. . That being said the Turner law says the dogs must be under voice control if the article is right. They clearly were not and they clearly were not running at large because they were with two little boys, daddy sent those kids out with a loaded gun. Oh yes you jumped on me for my I do not feel bad for the boys. YES the are boys, and boys will be boys, so Veronica you seem to know the kids and the dogs since you knew they are Pitbulls. you say you can see the Pits characteristics in numerous other breeds! Very true and any dog any breed needs proper training and socialization. ONLY owners can do that, have the good sense to realize they the dogs can be dangerous and think twice before sending small boys into the woods onto neighboring property alone. Pitbulls are more powerful than most other breeds, clearly if you read the stat's they have the most powerful jaws. More than most others (and maybe all others),. like you say dogs with SAME characteristics THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PITBULL AND MOST OTHER BREEDS IS HUGH, THEY BITE AND DO NOT LET GO. THE GO FOR THE THOAT. gosh they were bred to take down a full grown Bulls that is their legacy. So you think it was OK for the dad to let them run at large, maybe the dad made a mistake. People can do that, if you take a gun out pull the trigger and kill someone without aiming at them,. you still killed them. sending these boys out away from home with the Pits was in error/ wrong. The land owner that gave the permission for them to be there may also give permission to others to walk his land. A couple of my sentences speak volumes about my sense. Guess my idea here is sense the dogs were deemed to be running at large just as the Cocker according the DA. they the boys were not there. Therefore they should not have seen the awful thing, and the fact that their own beloved dogs had the capacity to kill. I guess if they are now scared it is the parents fault to have sent them out with that gun. You see they could not pull them off the cocker because even a full grown man would have trouble with that. Once they bite they do not release, it is in their breeding. Now Veronica since you probably are family to these kids, or know them. Truly I do feel sad for them, but not bad. If you can see a difference. After all to feel bad for them, I would have to believe it was their fault, and I do not. It clearly was the parents/dads fault. He alone has to face what a big mistake it was. Like his comment that the dogs have never acted like that before. Yep! Now lets hope he heeds the warning that they can kill. Respect the breed that he brought into his home. I have nothing against any breed. Like a gun it is the hands that handle it that make the difference. Now you if your humanity is so great do not miss stake meanings bad means they did something wrong. I said I do not feel bad, darn, because they did nothing wrong. I feel sad young kids were put in that position, Period! Now if you choose to send more insults towards me that is your right. I for one feel sorry for you, if you can not point out real facts that matter here. Attack the other person. NOW VERONICA YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY. And thank you, your right I could always use a good day. Thanks for the entertainment.

 's picture

Wow!

Lady, you obviously have problems...aside from this story.
I said NOTHING about those dogs being pitbulls...YOU changed them from bulldogs to pitbulls. And as for the ignorant 'facts' you spew about pitbulls vs other breed, well it makes it obvious you've got a problem with pits. That is not my problem.
YOU'RE the one that said you don't feel bad for the boys in your first awkwardly obnoxious reply to MY post. As a Mom, and decent human being, my first thoughts were what those boys witnessed..a dog fight is not an enjoyable occurence. No. I don't know this family or anyone else involved or even the area that this happened...phew!
AS for the rest of your freakish ranting, I just don't want to waste my time reading it.
And, I'm having a great day!! Thanks.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Yes sad all around Veronica Child

Now you making up stories, " I don't know why people would create stories of anything other than what is in the article, “. 'the dog could've died on his property and the boys carried it away'. Seriously" From my comment you better read this over, I never said that the boys carried the dog from his own property. I said that all we know is what they say, and that large dogs could have carried this smaller dog away from his own property. Articles are written from what someone says, this does not make it true. I also said given the boys the benefit of the doubt that it happened the way they said. That being said, I personally feel that their dogs should not have been off leash, clearly not in voice control. Voice control means they could recall them, also clearly these dogs were larger, now they are calling them bull dogs. We're probably talking about pit bulls, they are all in the same class. Raised to defend, and if not properly socialized they can and did kill the small old dog. Your right the boys had no control over the dogs clearly. Therefore the father should have been fined in violation of the State of Maine leash law, and not adhering to the town of Turners voice control ordinance. Problem here is that the town of Turner would have to pay to prosecute the owner of the bull dogs. Because clearly it is a town easement of the State mandate that a dog does not belong off from the owners property without a leash. I also have owned dogs my whole life. And I also know the attitude of the cocker in general. I fail to see how a fourteen year old dog was any threat to the bull dogs or the owners. Problem here is if the boys were being protected by the bull dogs, then they are dangerous and not socialized. A dog off leash should be a dog that is and has the ability to have a smaller dog approach without ganging up and killing the small dog. I truly know how small dogs and cockers can react. Saw this myself when I was a kid, with our cocker cross/lab mutt. I DID NOT SAY THE BOYS CARRIED THE DOG AWAY READ MY EXACT WORDS, maybe if I had said dragged away you would not have read into my comment and created a story that was not said by me. I still feel it is a possibility that the bulls started towards the cocker in the first place. We will never know, however we do know that these bull dogs were off the owners property, and not in voice control. This is a violation of the state leash law. and the Turner law does not protect dogs not under voice control. I do not feel bad for the boys, I feel bad for the dogs that are not properly trained. And or socialized period. HOW MANY OWNERS SAY, OH MY DOGS NEVER HAVE ACTED LIKE THAT BEFORE. Yes, most animals can act different in stressful situation. And with two you got a pack mentality. Good day to you too!

Catherine Pressey's picture

I agree with Mr. Dostie

Steven Dostie, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Human Society.
No dog should be off leash until the owner has voice control. “Being a good dog owner means you have to be a responsible dog owner,” Dostie said.
I personally once bought a nice German Shepherd pup, as she grew, it became clear that I needed to socialize her. Thus, she was taken to obedience school, where she became socialized with both cats and other dogs. A wonderful dog that new her property line and would not cross into the neighbors yard, with proper training. She loved kids and when a big pup she went into the yard of the neighbor. Wanted to play with the kids. I went over and chased her back home, scolded her. The neighbor said they did not mind. I said, I do. And I would very much appreciate it if she comes over here tell her to go home. You may not mind, however if you were to sell your home, the next neighbor may be afraid of dogs period. So I clearly worked with her and took her to obedience, she was the best dog anyone could have asked for. Right by my side, however I would not ever take her off my property without being on a leash. To many factors to many other dogs not so well socialized. Sad that owners do not understand that their dogs can, and do act different in certain situations. Better to be safe than sorry.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Excuse me

But I was always told that if my dog was not on a leash, and off from his or our own property then I would be in violation of the State of Maine Leash Law. That is from what I understand the Law in this state. Towns do not have that right to change state laws. "Maine law says it is unlawful for any dog to be at large except when used for hunting. Cities often mandate that dogs be leashed. More rural towns, including Turner, Leeds and Greene, allow dogs to be under their owners' voice control, Strout said." So if I live right next to rural town line of Turner, Leeds and Greene. Someone’s dog can be off leash period. That makes no sense, State law always said can be in voice command on the owners property only. Not the neighboring properties. Open season to what voice control. Some may , it is clear these dogs were not in control when their owners, kids, could not recall them. The owner should be held responsible. And as far as killing the other dog, oh the old boy wandered off now he is dead. Due to the voice control attitude. Two of the dogs were not running at large if with the owners that were allowing the dogs to be off their property, owners were responsible for their dogs, actions. The poor dog that was killed just wandered off, yes his owner has some part in this however the bull dogs were clearly accompanied by the " two boys whose family owns the bulldogs, were walking with the dogs to a neighbor's land to get sap from a tree, Strout said." How is that the same thing when the owner is present. Clearly they, the dogs are dangerous, it would seem the kids had no control over these dogs and therefore the owner should be charged. Period.

 's picture

My daughters yellow lab was

My daughters yellow lab was attacked while we were ice fishing and Wendell told me that the owner of that other dog was responsible in his offering to pay the vet bills and that the law of the state of Maine says a dog is to be leashed at ALL times,even on the ice!!! He also said they don't do much if a dog attacks another dog but if it was a human,that would be a total different story or if the dogs have a "history" of attacking or killing others.This is a sad incident for sure but the law is the law when it comes to keeping your dog on a leash.

 's picture

So sad

I own 2 cockers myself, and have lost 2. They were both 14 years old. They should not have been off leash, but the neighbor could have at least had some compassion in his pea brain mind. He could have at least offered to pay the vet, and offered them at least 1/2 the price of a throughbred cocker. And an apology as well.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It is sad what happened to

It is sad what happened to Skittles. But the ugly truth of the matter is that had Skittles been properly leashed on his own property in accordance with local ordinances, he may well be alive today. That he approached the other two dogs who were walking with their master(s) and barked at them (challenged?) is probably what prompted them to attack in their effort to protect the two boys. Dogs are dogs. Why do we as owners and dog lovers expect them to behave any differently?
Sad story with a lousy ending.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Paul St. Jean,

The ugly truth is that this was a very old dog, and the dog is dead, even if it could tell his side of the story, he has only the sons of the owner of the dogs that did the killing. How do you know that this dog was not killed on his own property and carried down the road. Or at least attacked by the other dogs without, as you say barking or challenging them. The boys told the story to protect their dogs, now let them keep them on a leash at all times it is clear that they had no voice control on the two dogs. They should be charged under what ever law Turner says voice control, NOT IN CONTROL AND CLEARLY KILLED THE OLD DOG.

Catherine Pressey's picture

To clear up any misunderstandings

I said how do you know that this dog was not killed on his own property and carried down the road. I surely ment carried by the larger dogs, in the pack most packing dogs will play with the small animal like a toy. Call it dragging or otherwise, Also yes cockers have in general a reputation, for being a bit forward, still no match for the larger dogs that are not under control period. Proof here is fisty cocker is the dead one. Due to dogs not under voice control or trained properly and socialized. I do hope that the owner of the bull dogs now understands the power of two dogs not on leash. And not socialized!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Thank you for the

Thank you for the clarification, but I had no misunderstandings. We disagree and I'm o.k. with that.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The article was very clear in

The article was very clear in that NONE of the three dogs was on its own property; all three were in neutral territory, and all were UNLEASHED.
In the event you choose to be persistent in being argumentative, what proof do YOU have that the dog was killed on his own property and carried down the road?

Catherine Pressey's picture

Paul St. Jean it is clear that the boys

Were with the dogs unleashed not on their own property. It is clear they live in Turner that apparently has a relaxed leash law ordinance that says under owners control. Now the two boys said clearly that they tried to stop their dogs but were unable do to. The clear fact that these dogs with owners or charges of the dogs. The children of the owner period. They could not with voice or otherwise stop their dogs from killing the old dog.. They said they tried, so therefore they are in violation first they had the dogs unleashed and were with them. The words at large is not defined here. my knowledge of at large means meandering with out any control. True the old dog had no one to tell him to stop or go home. Clearly roaming at large. Sadly to his death, mostly due to the other dogs not being in control from the persons they were with. As for my comment that how do we know that these dogs did not drag this dog off from his own property. Only the words of the owners children, still this does not make it so. But given the benefit of the doubt that they are telling the truth. Than they are still in violation of the Turner no leash law, they have to be voice controlled. Clearly they were not. Or they could have stopped them from fighting with the old dog. As for me being argumentative , clearly you do not agree with me and I do not agree with you, you make a comment and I let you know I disagree. Clearly a difference of opinion and we all have them, you now know mine. I fail to see how that makes me argumentative. Two sides to a story and the old dog did not get his day, no one to speak for him. And he is blamed for his own death, because the boys said he became the aggressor. Who will speak for him, I will. We do not know who is the more social dog. Seems to me if he plays with the next door dog he is the social one. The others need to go to school or be socialized. Surely kept on a leash from here on. IN MY OPINION.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Paul St. Jean,

The ugly truth is that this was a very old dog, and the dog is dead, even if it could tell his side of the story, he has only the sons of the owner of the dogs that did the killing. How do you know that this dog was not killed on his own property and carried down the road. Or at least attacked by the other dogs without, as you say barking or challenging them. The boys told the story to protect their dogs, now let them keep them on a leash at all times it is clear that they had no voice control on the two dogs. They should be charged under what ever law Turner says voice control, NOT IN CONTROL AND CLEARLY KILLED THE OLD DOG.

MIKE PIERCE's picture

Carl, read the atricle again please.

Carl, did you miss the part where Mr. Strout checked with the D.A.'s office to confirm his assessment was correct? Or the part where it is not required in all areas to be tied up at all times? Or the fact that it happend on a 3rd partys land, not the Olsons? Or the fact that the poor dog that died was "at large" (unattended), while the other dogs were not leashed, but were walking with thier owners on land they had permission to be on?
This is a sad thing to happen, I do not know any of the people involved, so do not take this as I am trying to justify one side or the other, i am not. As a pet owner I feel for the Olsons and their loss.
I have personally had interactions with Mr. Strout a couple of times with finding lost/untagged animals, and sick/wounded animals wandering in around our home, and have always found him to be professional, capable, and friendly in his duties.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Mike Pierce

Did you fail to read the state law, and the exceptions in certain towns Clearly it says the dogs have to be in voice control clearly the boys did not have voice control of their dogs. So the owner should have to pay a fine for not property having those dogs trained, to the meaning of voice control. Means you call them back to you and they are to listen to the owners voice. So if the state of Maine says on the owners land only and that the town states voice control I think there is a violation here. NO VOICE CONTROL, OWNER GETS A FINE AND IS TOLD NOT TO HAVE HIS DOGS OFF LEASH AGAIN. Until they can be trained to proper voice RECALL PERIOD.

Carl Kimball's picture

WHAT..?!

When my son got bit by a stray dog that showed up on our property, very friendly, as he tried to remove the dogs food bowl that we used to feed him, they came out and took the dog and put it to sleep. (It was a minor bite, barely broke the skin) These three dogs, we're talking about, was not tied up or secure on their owners property, which is the law, came and killed another dog on another property . And nothing is to be done, not even a fine?! Strout it's time for you to step down and put someone in that isn't afraid to do the job. Because if your not willing to do your job and follow the law on this, then your telling people it's okay to let your dogs run free, which is against the law.

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