Karen Sherif was walking her 12-year-old Yorkie, Pooh, on Tuesday morning on their usual route near her home in Laguna Woods.
Pooh, a slow mover, stopped to smell a bench on Via Alhambra, and Sherif walked a few steps ahead. All of the sudden, she heard a yelp and turned around, only to find a coyote with her dog latched in its mouth.
“I just started screaming at the top of my lungs,” said Sherif, 64.
The coyote took off, dragging Sherif into the road by Pooh’s leash. Sherif let go of the leash as she fell, and neighbors rushed out of their homes to help. One called the police, and another ran after the coyote.
But it was too late. Pooh’s body was found about 100 feet away, her neck broken.
Neighbors said the coyote continued to linger, though it eventually left. Paramedics treated Sherif for cuts and scrapes.
The attack is the second in recent months in the small Orange County city in which a dog has been killed and its owner injured by coyotes that live in the nearby brush. In May, a woman was bit on the hand as she tried to save her dog from an attack in the 700 block of Avenida Majorca.
But officials said the traps haven’t caught any of the animals, and Sherif said although she had heeded many of the precautions, there wasn’t anything she could have done to save her dog.
“It was during the day, and it was so quick — so terribly quick,” Sherif said. “The coyote was five to seven feet away from me when I turned around and saw [Pooh] in its mouth. I couldn’t have hit it with a stick — it was too late.”
Lt. Jason Kravetz of the Laguna Beach Police Department said authorities asked neighboring areas for help in combating the coyote problem and are still looking for the coyote involved in Tuesday’s attack.
Any resident who comes across a coyote shouldn’t confront it, he said, and should raise their arms and yell to scare it off.
Sherif is also doing her part to warn neighbors so they can protect their own pets. She doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, but said it seems as though the coyotes are becoming more brazen.
She said she has seen coyotes walk down the middle of the street in the early evening, and they’ve been known to jump the 5-foot walls surrounding the neighborhood’s patios to snatch an animal.
But Sherif said although residents know the coyotes are becoming more aggressive, they can’t predict how close the animals will get. In her case, she had no idea the coyote would take her dog during a 10 a.m. walk.
“I don’t know what would have happened if she had been three feet in front of me. I don’t want to get involved with the coyote myself, but lagging behind me made her vulnerable,” Sherif said of Pooh. “And for that I have to take blame, but she was being a dog, just smelling the bench. I had no way of knowing that the animal was even in the area.”