Friday, September 19, 2008

Dog recuperating from cougar attack

13-year-old Maltese survives assault in Elkhorn foothills

Express Staff Writer

Piglet, a 13-year-old Maltese, is recovering at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum after being mauled Monday evening by a mountain lion in the foothills of Elkhorn. Pigletís overall prognosis is favorable, but veterinarian Karsten Fostvedt fears the dog may not recover her eyesight. Photo by David N. Seelig

A small white dog named Piglet is recovering at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum after being grabbed by the head by a mountain lion Monday in the foothills of Elkhorn.

"She's probably going to lose her vision, and there might be some brain damage, but Karsten said she's probably past the point of dying," said Tracey Brightman, one of Piglet's owners. "But we may have to put her down if she has brain damage."

Brightman, sitting on the floor at the pet clinic, holding Piglet in her lap and gently stroking her, was referring to veterinarian Karsten Fostvedt, who treated Piglet Monday evening.

"He said to meet at the clinic," Brightman said. "Karsten's the only reason she's alive."

Piglet is a 13-year-old Maltese that Tom and Tracey Brightman have owned since she was a puppy.

"We've had Piglet her whole life," Tracey said. "Her name's Piglet because she was only a pound and a half when we got her."

Piglet was in the Brightman's back yard in Parker Gulch when the cougar attacked at about 7:15 p.m. Tracey said the mountain lion most likely jumped a 4-foot fence into the back yard, grabbed Piglet by the head and jumped back over the fence.

Tracey heard the commotion and she and her border collie, Daisy, confronted the cat.

"He had her on the other side of the fence," Tracey said. "He grabbed her head—I guess that's what they do—and he shook her. Why he didn't run away with her, I don't know. We were making a lot of noise."

Tom heard the commotion and joined Tracey and Daisy.

"I think it was when I came outside that the cat saw it was up against three large animals and may have decided this is not such a good idea," Tom said.

Piglet suffered tooth bites on her head and neck. One of her eyes was pulled from its socket.

"The biggest thing I'm worried about is are we going to get her eyesight back," Fostvedt said Wednesday. "She's out of shock. She started eating today and so far she's held it down.

"I think she's going to be fine in every other way," Fostvedt said. "Right now she's a little dazed from the whole thing. She's been through a horrible ordeal, so it's going to take her some time."

Fostvedt said Piglet's age, almost 80 in dog years, will make her recovery more difficult.

"It just takes them a lot longer to recuperate because of the age factor," he said.

He's uncertain if Piglet suffered brain damage.

"At this point in time, that's difficult to say, but it's a possibility," Fostvedt said. "The only way to know for sure is to get an MRI. But it's my expectation that we can get everything back but her eyesight."

Tracey Brightman said encountering the mountain lion was "traumatizing" for her as well.

"When I went to go get Piglet it didn't occur to me that I was putting myself in danger," she said. "I just did it.

"We talked to Fish and Game yesterday and they said we don't live on the border of cougar country, we live in it. If these animals are around, that's a scary thing. Children wait for school buses alone in the dark when they need to be with a parent or a dog. That's why I think people need to know."

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