Opinion Columns & Blogs

Give this Los Osos dog owner her due

Norman’s a squirt of a pooch. Long of body and standing no taller than shin-high, his genetics may include dachshund, terrier and Chihuahua.

His owner, Patti Toews of Los Osos, picked him out of all the other deservingly adoptable animals at the pound about a year and a half ago “because he was the ugliest guy there.” Fair enough. But for those who know Norman, he’s as sweet and personable — if not a little shy — as he is homely.

I bring Norman to light with regard to an incident that occurred on Jan.7 while Patti was taking Norman for a walk on a trail in the Highland area of Los Osos.

Patti walks as therapy for leg, back and hip problems and takes Norman with her because, well, that’s what dogs love to do: go walking with their masters. That was probably the reason a young couple were also taking their two dogs for a walk on the same trail as Patti and Norman that day.

The two dogs in question happened to be pit bulls, one pure black, the other solid silver, and they were running leash-free toward Norman and Patti.

Patti had just enough time to swoop Norman into her arms before the pit bulls hit her with full force in the chest, knocking her flat and Norman out of her arms.

“Norman went flying, and they were on him in a heartbeat,” says Patti, “ripping him to shreds. A young couple came running up the trail, screaming at the dogs. They were hitting, kicking and punching their dogs.” Norman was shrieking.

Through their efforts, they got the silver dog off Norman. Patti tried to open the jaws of the black dog and actually had the dog’s ear in her mouth at one time in the struggle.

With Norman gripped by the chest and front leg, “the dog released for some reason, I don’t know why,” she says. “The owners were sobbing and crying, the girl was hysterical. ‘Everyone needs to calm down,’ I told them, ‘give me space and time to get Norman to the vet.’ I could feel his blood running down my hands and chest.”

Now here’s something I find remarkable about this story: Patti feels no ill will toward the dogs.

“When they’re running like that, a pack instinct takes over,” she says (with a heckuva lot more understanding than I ever mustered under similar circumstances when the late, great Buster the Wonder Dog was similarly attacked).

In all the drama and trauma, Patti didn’t get the couple’s names. She would like to contact them, not to have the dogs punished, but to hopefully help her with the $1,900 in vet bills the attack generated.

Chances of that happening appear slim, however. Friends have canvassed hikers of the trail, asking if they’ve seen such distinctively colored pit bulls. Signs have been put up on the trail seeking information. So far, nothing; the couple may have been from out of town.

On the off chance that the pit bull owners live in the county, and may see this column, please call Patti at 801-7869.

As for Norman, the drainage tubes have been taken out and he seems to be on the mend, although he rarely leaves his chair and blankets since the attack.

As for Patti, she says she’ll “obviously stick to the streets and not that trail for our walks — hopefully it will be more safe for the little guy.

“There was no way I could protect Norman. I just beat myself up over it.”