This is the saga of Buddy the dog and the woman who loved him too much.
Had Dolores Nelson not been so blinded by affection, she would have realized her precious pet had a mean streak in him.
For a piece of rope, a couple of warning signs and a little common sense, her 50-pound Rottweiler mix could have dodged a bloody Wild West ending:
A bullet between the eyes from a deputy sheriff.
“He was my protector. He was my pal,” says the tearful Nelson, who works as a delivery driver.
“I don’t even like to talk about what happened.”
But talk we must. Because Nelson is on a misguided mission to blame the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office for Buddy’s demise.
She billed the department $1,000 for her loss. She has written angry letters and wants to warn the public to beware of Deputy Dave Snipes, the lawman who gunned Buddy down.
But it was Buddy the public should have been warned about.
The dog’s final charge came just after Snipes pulled into the driveway of Nelson’s home, 17 miles south of Newport in the Scotia Valley.
The officer was there to bust Buddy, who earlier that day seriously bit a neighbor woman.
It was the woman’s bad luck to get her car stuck on Scotia Road near Nelson’s place. The nurse walked to the door and knocked, hoping to use the telephone.
There were no locked gates or “beware of dog signs” to put her on guard.
According to police reports, Nelson’s son, Thomas, opened the door. Buddy, who was inside, sprang for the woman’s throat.
The dog’s claws scratched her upper chest. By the time Thomas pulled Buddy off, he had bitten the woman perilously close to her jugular vein. She needed four stitches to close the wound.
Hearing of the attack, Snipes visited the injured woman. He later drove straight to the Nelson home, a block away. His plan was to quarantine Buddy for rabies and write him up as a dangerous dog.
The officer pulled his prowl car into the driveway, seeing Buddy roaming in the distance. Snipes didn’t think the dog looked like much of a threat. But the moment he opened the door, Buddy again went ballistic, becoming a snarling blur of fur and fangs.
It was over quicker than a High Noon showdown.
“There wasn’t time to be afraid,” says Snipes. “I just reacted on instinct. I checked my pants for powder burns. He was that close.”
Buddy forced his head inside the door, aiming his teeth for the officer’s left leg. Snipes pulled his Glock 9mm handgun and fired once. “I’m a dog lover,” he says. “It made me sick to my stomach to have to kill him.”
Undersheriff Dick Arend says Snipes had no choice. “Anybody has the right to protect himself against an animal he’s afraid of.” Nelson is understandably heartbroken to lose her companion in such an awful, violent way. It’s clear, however, that Buddy wasn’t the harmless, lovable buddy she describes.
Nelson claims the dog had a spotless record, but you have to wonder.
Snipes’ report quotes Thomas Nelson telling his mother after the shooting, “I told you this would happen someday, Mom.”
Nelson’s friends say they got along with Buddy because he knew them, but that the dog was overprotective and very suspicious of strangers.
“I think he was an aggressive dog who needed to be tied up,” says Brad Bretthauer, a neighbor.
Arend agrees. “You have an obligation to your community to maintain a dog in an environment that’s safe.”
If ever there was a time for Nelson to keep Buddy on a short leash, it was after he bit the neighbor.
Nelson is unmoved by such wisdom. “I didn’t move to the country to tie up my dog,” she says.
Sounds like a fitting epitaph to carve on ol’ Buddy’s tombstone.