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Pit Bulls’ Preferred Prey: Small Dogs

Stoley was a 6-pound bundle of button-nosed affection - as most Yorkshire terriers are - when he died more than a week ago in Virginia Beach.

What am I saying? He didn't just die. Not like a normal dog, of old age or illness. He wasn't put to sleep or hit by a car, either.

No, this 4-1/2 year old dog was crushed to death on Chic's Beach, in the jaws of a pit bull.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 23, retired first-grade teacher Kathy Dowdy, 71, who lives near Shore Drive, took her little dog for his afternoon walk on the beach.

Stoley, named after a popular Great Neck restaurant, was wearing a blue jacket. As always, the little guy was on a leash.

Oh wait. I forgot something. Before setting out, Dowdy asked her daughter, Kristen, if she wanted to come.

Too cold, Kristen said. I'm staying home.

That turned out to be a blessing.

"When we first got to the beach, there was no one in sight," Dowdy told me last week. But suddenly, "out of nowhere" a black and white muscular dog appeared. He didn't look friendly. His eyes were fixed on Stoley.

"I started yelling 'get out of here' and he turned around and ran away," Dowdy said.

In the distance, she saw a man and a child. The dog dashed toward them.

"I decided we should go back," she said.

But when Dowdy turned around, the big dog made a second, silent run at Stoley. And before she could react, it had the little Yorkie in his mouth.

Stoley never had a chance.

"He shook him and then he pounded him into the sand," Dowdy recalled. "I was just screaming and screaming. There wasn't anything I could do."

The dog dropped Stoley only after his owner and a little girl of about eight appeared.

As Dowdy scooped up the tiny limp body of her pet, she said the man apologized, explaining that his dog was a "Staffordshire terrier," a rescue he'd gotten a month earlier.

The dog was gentle, he told her.

Yes, we know. These animals are all sweet - until they're not. Cue the chorus of owners who will say that pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers are not precise terms and accuse me of canine prejudice.

As Dowdy ran toward her car, keys in hand, the man got her name, address and phone number. He promised to buy her another dog.

Dowdy raced Stoley to the vet, but it was too late.

The scene on the beach was so ghastly that a man who witnessed it wrote a letter to the editor last week urging the city to tighten its leash laws to prevent more acts of savagery.

Pity if one irresponsible owner ruins it for hundreds of others who keep their friendly dogs under control on the beach.

As awful as the mauling was, the most dreadful part of Dowdy's day came later, when she had to tell 32-year-old Kristen, who has Down syndrome, that Stoley was gone.

"I told her he was up in heaven," Dowdy said. "She's so upset. She cried for three days... That was her very best friend in the world."

Kristen has a photo of the little dog on her night stand with a frame that says "Best Dog Ever."

A week after the mauling, Dowdy wonders why the other dog's owner has not contacted her.

"I don't want revenge," she said. "I just want to make sure he promises to keep his dog on a leash.

"And I want to know that his poor little girl is all right," said the former Trantwood Elementary school teacher. "That was a terrible thing for her to see."

If it was your dog that killed Stoley, do the right thing. Get rid of it. And once that's done, call Kathy Dowdy.

A version of this column appeared in the Virginian-Pilot on Feb 2, 2014.

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