Another near-tragedy at Dusty Rhodes Dog Park spurs movement for small dog enclosure.

by on December 4, 2010 · 23 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, Organizing

On Sunday, November 28th, another near-tragedy occurred at Dusty Rhodes Dog Park.  Another small dog was attacked by a larger dog and was almost killed.

During the mid-afternoon on that day, Mary Farrell had taken her three small dogs to the park on the outskirts of Ocean Beach – which she does at least weekly, and for a couple of moments, had left her chorkie “Sophie” while she placed her chihuahua in her car.  When Mary returned for Sophie, she was in the jaws of a Siberian husky.

Long story short, Sophie was saved from the jaws of death, taken to an animal hospital, had expensive surgery, and is now off the critical list and will survive.  Mary is angry though. She never found out – yet – who the owner is, but she is angry that there is no small dog enclosure at Dusty Rhodes. She did post a flier with photos at that dog park at the urging of other dog owners, asking for witnesses.

Before the attack on Sophie, there  have been five small dogs killed at Dusty Rhodes.

Sharon Jackson of the Dusty Rhodes Dog Park Recreation Council fired off an email to Councilman Kevin Faulconer, saying:

We’ve needed a small dog area for a long time and, as you know, have raised the funds with which to do it. Our Park & Rec representative, Monica Honore, worked with us to get this before the City Council for the September meetings after a small dog was killed this summer, but nothing has resulted from our efforts. Five small dogs have lost their lives at this dog park, some because there was not an area that was safe for them. This seems to me, and many others who use the park regularly, to be such a simple thing to ask. PLEASE see that our request to put in the fencing to make this division possible is approved NOW.

Here, in Mary Farrell’s own words, is what happened on Sunday, the 28th:

I have three dogs: a mini-schnauzer, a chihuahua, and a chorkie. I took the dogs to Dusty Rhodes Dog Park this past Sunday afternoon. We were there for about an hour and my dogs had a wonderful time as they always do. About 3 or 3:30, I saw some larger dogs coming in from the other end of the park.  Nothing unusual but, since we had been there quite a while and most of the other smaller dogs were leaving, I decided to take my dogs home.

I took my chihuahua to the car (I was parked in handicapped on the Sunset Cliffs side of the park [Mary has a valid handicap placard]) and came back it to get my chorkie, Sophie. She normally waits for me at the gate, in fact she always waits for me at the gate. She wasn’t there. I heard her scream and saw her several hundred feet down the fence in the jaws of a black husky. People were trying to get to her as was I. By the time I did manage to get to her, other large dogs were into pack animal mode and going after her. I was bitten (I don’t know if it was by one of the other dogs or by my Sophie; it doesn’t matter) but I grabbed Sophie who was bleeding and yelling. …

I’ve been taking my dogs to Dusty Rhodes for over two years (Sophie and my chihuahua Keoki are both three) and have never had a problem with the other dogs to this extent. I try to stay right next to my smaller dogs for exactly this reason. This time, I let my little Sophie down.

Sophie was taken to the animal hospital in Mission Valley, where she had surgery on Monday the 29th, and is now home, off the critical list, and improving. Sophie’s surgery cost Mary $4500.  Mary had originally adopted Sophie right out of Dusty Rhodes park. Mary told me when I called her, that she is a widow and must sell some stocks her late husband left her in order to pay for all of this. She would like some restitution but knows as long as the husky’s owner is unknown, that is impossible.

Mary told me:

I’d like the fence for the small dog park put up right now. I’m so damn mad that the City Council hasn’t put this through.

Her advice to other small dog owners in the meantime:

Keep your small dog out of the dog park.  If you do take them there, make sure your small dog is close to you. If you see larger dogs being aggressive, get your dogs out of the park.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

dog lover December 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

why not just ‘borrow’ the fencing from the World Oil lot and make your own small dog fenced in area in the dog park. just saying….. fencing that keeps loved pet alive serves a far better purpose than fencing that keeps an empty, undeveloped lot, well, empty.


Another small dog owner December 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I have an elderly dachsie and will now avoid this park as a result of the information in this article. My condolences to Mary and Sophie – I’m happy to hear the little love is going to be O.K. I’m also sending an email to Faulconer, and hope that all animal lovers will do the same … maybe we can inundate his inbox and surprise him come Monday morning? Here you go:


Sunshine December 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm

could someone please at least paint a sign for the entrance of this dog park warning small dog owners of the serious, albiet lethal, nature of allowing their small dogs to run freely in this park? this would at least bring awareness to the issue and inform a pet owner of the risks involved.

maybe we could make a sticker that reads, ‘welcome to dusty rhodes park. no need to control your overly aggressive big dogs’ and use the profits to secure a small dog enclosure area.


Marilyn Steber December 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I’m not certain of my status in the Papillon Picnic Club of Southern California since my 13 year, 1 month Papillon died this summer of congestive heart disease, but I am still on their very active yahoogroup. A member’s beautiful showdog was attacked last week by a coyote. That was in her double fenced yard. They live in Santa Maria, CA. It was after closing time for their veterinarian’s office but they have the home phone number of their vet, and called her, got her out of bed, and met her and the surgery nurse at the office. It took a hundred plus stitches to put Musette’s face together again.
Dusty Rhodes dog park is less than 5 minutes away from the VCA emergency hospital in Mission Valley, but how many people know that? Mary knew it, and took quick action to save her dog’s life.
If Kevin Faulconer asked the VCA Emergency hospital to help sponsor a new fence, do you think they might do it if they can post their address on it?


cahlo December 5, 2010 at 7:21 am

there is a sign there not to leave your dogs unattended……but i have seen aggressive dogs there, most of the time they are not fixed…..


Charley December 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I stopped taking my dog to public dog parks years ago because of the indifference shown by many owners of aggressive dogs – they just don’t care. Perhaps Dusty Rhodes could be designated a “Small Dog Park” with restriction by weight and/or breed ? Let the Big Dogs play at Dog Beach where the real predators (owners and dogs) run without supervision.


OB Dude December 5, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Ms. Farrell, I hope you and Sophie are recovering from the attack.

I support the park and the idea of a leash free dog park however, I no longer go to Dusty Rhodes after experiencing a personal encounter of an aggressive boxer whose owner could not restrain him, seeing people park on the lawn, watching people talk on the phone being to busy or pretending to be busy so they don’t have to pick up their dog’s poop, irresponsible dog owners and the presence of leash free dogs outside the park and in the parking lot. On my last visit, half the park was dirt (little maintenance is done on the lawn) and there was an overwhelming smell of dog pee….Yuck!

But for those that still enjoy this environment, I encourage you to get involved in the maintenance of the park, make an occassional monetar….y donation to keep it maintained and contact Mr. F and get some rules posted and enforced, not to mention a fence that should have happened when the park expanded. Too many dogs have already died and it’s just a matter of time before the park will be shut down or ???? It’s always just a few that spoil it for the rest…….the reason for the alcohol ban.

Don’t make me tell you I told you so. Get involved!


Mary Farrell December 5, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I want to thank all of you for your comments and for your good wishes. Sophie was removed from the critical list yesterday. Her survival is nothing short of a miracle. The doctors and staff at VCA were wonderful. I do energy work on people and animals. At VCA I was allowed to offer Reiki to Sophie several times a day, before surgery, and as soon as she was in recovery. Any of you who ever saw her at the park know how spunky she is! Her will to live and the love and prayers she and I received as well as the skill of the staff at VCA blended together to save her little life.
To be sure, I did leave Sophie “unattended” when I took my chihuahua to the car. But, this is how quickly it happened: I was parked in the handicapped space only 10 steps from the gate. Sophie was actually sitting at the gate and waiting for me when I looked back at her as I put Keoki in the car. I turned back to my car to make sure Keoki went to his seat (my car’s a Honda Fit. It only takes a couple of seconds to make sure he’s seated). When I turned back to go get Sophie, she was gone and I heard her scream a good 100 feet from the gate.
When we’re at the park, I never sit down. I always walk and make sure my two little ones are right near me. My third dog, Toby, is a mini schnauzer and is more able to take care of situations; most larger dogs don’t bother with him because he doesn’t look like a squeaky toy.
The funds for the fence has been there since September. Indeed, when the park was expanded, I don’t understand why they took out the original fence: they had two separate areas ready-made! If the new area was considered more than what should be allowed for small dogs, they could have adjusted one small section. I’m lucky: Sophie survived. Isn’t it sad that, if they’d just left the original fence in place when they expanded the park, there would be five other small dogs still alive? This type of thing should never be allowed to happen again. Some people with aggressive dogs truly don’t realize what their dog can do to a small dog. Sophie is only 12 inches long and 8 inches tall. Nobody wants to believe that their dog could kill another dog. Sadly, it happens all too often.
I’m wondering if we could get the Humane Society involved and, if necessary, file a class-action suit to get that fence put in before the end of the year and the demise of another small dog.


Marisag December 6, 2010 at 6:54 am

I’ve had my small dog attacked by large dogs at dog beach. On at least three occasions I have pulled 2 pitbulls and a german shepherd off my dog. Thank goodness all of them had harnesses on, though their owners just stood there with a shocked look on their faces, while I physically restrained their dogs (the worst one I’ll call “Barbie”, who stood there in her hot pink bikini and 4inch heels while her dog pinned mine to the ground – her hot pink-harnessed pit bull learned how to fly that afternoon). If you’re scared of your own dog, you probably shouldn’t have a dog….but that’s just me. Also, other dog owners are NOT dog-sitters! Your dog wants to play with YOU at the beach or park. Bring a ball for your dog to chase, so it leaves my dog and her ball alone. There’s nothing more than my mutt loves than to swim through the surf to chase her ball, it’s surprising how many other dogs go after it, then you see their owners standing there dumfounded…with no ball. Oddly, my dogs wouldn’t dream of chasing a ball someone she didn’t know had thrown…. or maybe they would, but haven’t had a chance because I pay attention to them while we’re out together. It all comes down to responsible dog ownership. Especially if you have a larger dog.


BillRayDrums December 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Dog owners who run away when their dogs do a bad thing need to be held accountable. Why was the owner of said aggressive dog allowed to leave?


BillRayDrums December 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

And for the record, as sad as it may turn out, the only thing that will create change is the threat of litigation.

Using this logic the seal activists in LJ could take down the rope, wait 5 minutes for some lucky Darwin Award hopeful to get an ass full of sea lion teeth, and watch the litigation spin. In 3 months they will have a fortress down there.

Sorry about your little dog. Maybe the owner is one of those “Sea Lion curious” types. :D


BillRayDrums December 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

The other dog owner. Coffee, Billy!


Cheyenne December 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm


YOUR COMMENT HAD ME LOLING SO MUCH. Thanks for the laughs! If you don’t want your dog to play and interact with other dogs, don’t take it to dog beach! You don’t realize how silly you sound. “Oddly, my dogs wouldn’t dream of chasing a ball someone she didn’t know had thrown”…..HAHAHAHAHAHA. So, you’re one of those uppity women who yells at my dog? I don’t let her take off with any one’s ball…but, she’s a dog. She sees a ball; she’s going to chase it. There’s really not much I can do about that. BTW, I always bring a ball or toy to the beach.


Frank Gormlie December 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Here is Channel 10News report by Michael Chen (who always knows where to get OB news):


Mary Farrell December 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

If you always bring a ball, then I don’t think Marisag was referring to you, Cheyenne. And, really, that’s not so much the point as is the idea of people not being aware of their dog’s aggressiveness and the sad fact that there has been so much effort put into separating the small and large dogs only to have the city dragging their feet. They could have saved a lot of money for themselves and a lot of heartache for those whose dogs didn’t survive if they had just left the original fence in place when they expanded. If they had felt that the small dog area would be too large, they could have adjusted one small part of the original fence and those other people may still be enjoying the companionship of their little dogs. I was very fortunate not to lose Sophie.
A lot of people responding to the Channel 10 report have been very nasty about the whole thing. Please, let’s not make this a pissing match. I’m not saying I’m totally blame free on this nor is the person who owned the husky totally to blame. It happened and, thankfully, Sophie survived. Let’s try to pull together as dog lovers — as animal lovers — to make sure the fence gets placed and this doesn’t happen to anyone else.


Marilyn Steber December 8, 2010 at 9:45 am

If the idea of going to the dog park is to socialize a dog and let her run off leash, we must remember that other dogs are going for the same reason. That would mean they are NOT QUITE ready to play with others. Running off leash is the same as handing your kid the car keys the first time. They have freedom and get a little giddy.


Citizen Cane December 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

Perhaps an alternative site for a small dog park….the grassy triangle bordered by Voltaire, Nimitz, and Famosa. Currently undeveloped City land that would be difficult to develop wuth housing. It’s ripe for something….a frisbee golf course…a small dog park? The squeekiest wheel will get the oil.


Carrie December 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Im the owner of the most recent fatality. Zeus. I have bombarded th city about that park and other parks. I pestered animal control. And im dealing with the owners of the dog that killed mine. This makes me sick that it has only been 5 months and another fatality almost happened. How many need to die or be mauled? Im willing to go the distance to help get that small area in. Im happy you get to still hold yours. My heart reaches out to you. I hope good things haooeb from tragedy.


Marilyn Steber December 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Oh, Carrie, I think of your dear Pom often. I was not aware you had located the owners of the dog that attacked Zeus. If you need company at a City Council meeting, I’ll go with you, and I think many anti-violent dogs on this blog will go, too. People showing up seems to go farther than letters.


bcsy December 9, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I don’t and won’t think twice about quickly dispatching any dog that would like to kill mine. Interesting how the owners of these killer dogs run off without description and local government is victimized. Hmmm… this is our neighborhood, shouldn’t we make it what we want? 10 people could easily foot the bill for the fence material and construct it in one day. also, one person with any reasonable sort of observation skills could I.D. the owner(s) of these aggro dogs, but they don’t. they wait for someone else to do it. way to go OB


Barbara Humm August 23, 2015 at 7:46 pm

I have been going to small dog park for about 3 with a dog I care for. Due to lack of any watering AT ALL it has turned into a filthy dust bowl. The home less have taken over the area next to park making it dangerous at times. I won’t go in if no one else is there. It is a shame as it is a great idea. Come on guys. Give it some water.


OB Dude August 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Dusty Rhodes has meetings open to the public which you can attend and voice your suggestions and concerns….I believe this is the meeting you can attend or make inquiry:

Ocean Beach Recreation Council, 4726 Santa Monica Ave., 92107
Phone Number: (619) 531-1527
Meetings are held at 6:00 pm. on the second Tuesday of every even month.


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