Rapid City Journal
DEADWOOD | A local family is mourning the loss of its beloved dog this week after a mountain lion snatched it from their backyard in broad daylight, killed it in seconds, then dragged its limp body into the forest and disappeared.
Kerry Ruth said she had followed Brodie, her small 10-year-old Lhasa Apso-Maltese mix into the backyard of their home off U.S. Highway 14A on Deadwood’s south side at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday, just as she had done countless times before.
“When I took him out, he was normal, he peed, and then went around the corner of the house,” she recalled on Wednesday. “I was waiting for him and I thought, 'He’s so slow.' Then I heard him barking, which he’ll do at deer or rabbits or other dogs. Then suddenly his barking turned to this terrorized yipping, and my heart just dropped. I knew something bad was happening.”
Ruth watched as her pet raced back around the corner of the house toward her with what she estimated was a 150-pound mountain lion close on his heels. She said the cat came within 15 feet of her.
“I started yelling, 'No, no, no,' and then the mountain lion had him and killed him instantly,” she said. “There was no noise. At that point I knew he was dead, and there was nothing I could do, and I knew not to get in the way of a mountain lion and his next meal. It was a big lion, and he just carried him up the hill like he was nothing.
“In less than a minute, he had disappeared up the hill. I felt so bad. He was trying to get to me, and he just wasn’t fast enough, my little guy.”
Ruth’s husband, Dave, a Deadwood city commissioner, said the family of four was devastated by the loss of their treasured pet. Brodie had been Dave’s father’s and stepmother’s dog, and when they died, the “little guy” was passed along to the Ruth family about four years ago.
“He was part of the family, a smart dog who knew to stay away from the highway,” Dave Ruth said. “But he got ambushed. It’s been tough on our family because he was one of our last connections to my father and stepmother.”
Kerry Ruth echoed her husband’s sentiments and said Brodie was the kind of house dog who loved people.
“He was the sweetest dog ever,” she said sadly. “What I’ll miss most is his happiness every time we walked through the door. He was always happy to see us, and he always did a little dance on his hind feet for a treat.”
Cognizant of the possibilities when living in the highest reaches of the Black Hills, where deer and mountain lions roam, the Ruths said Brodie was equally attuned to the potential dangers.“We almost always went out with him because we knew mountain lions were in the area,” Kerry Ruth said. “At times he would go outside, sniff the air and come right back in, like he knew something was there. There were times when he was scared of something.”
State Game, Fish & Parks Regional Wildlife Manager Trenton Haffley said Wednesday that the Ruths had followed every precaution to ensure the safety of their pet by not leaving it unattended when it was let outside.
Alerted to the mountain lion attack shortly after it occurred, a GF&P “wildlife damage specialist” based in Custer went to the scene Sunday and spent the better part of two days tracking the big cat through the forest with a pack of trained hounds, eventually canvassing areas of nearby Maitland Road near Central City.
When the houndsman encountered the tracks of two mountain lions that had crisscrossed in the forest, “it got to the point they couldn’t be certain which animal was involved,” and the search for the killer cat was called off, Haffley said. He added that when the agency receives calls and documents mountain lions' killing domesticated pets, they do what they can to identify the mountain lion and euthanize it.
Following a flurry of mountain lion sightings last fall, January has witnessed relatively few reports, Haffley said. Besides the Ruths' loss last weekend, one mountain lion was reportedly sighted earlier this month near Miller, and the GF&P had received a belated report of a mountain lion attack on a pet in Rapid Valley, he said.