April 30, 2010 in City

Suspected poisoning kills Athol woman’s dog days after beating

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Kathleen Callahan with her dog Charlee at her home in Athol. She worries for the safety of her two other dogs after the apparent poisoning of her dog Paddee.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

An Athol woman’s dog died of suspected poisoning Tuesday after suffering a beating from an unknown man who threatened repeatedly to kill her beloved pets.

Police believe they know who did it, but can’t prove it. And even if they could, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Idaho, one of only four states where that’s still the case.

Two of Kathleen Callahan’s three dogs were playing in her fenced front yard Friday when a man in a red pickup truck screeched to a halt in her driveway, jumped out, leaned over the fence and began punching the dogs, she said.

The terrified 57-year-old woman, who lives alone, yelled at him that she was calling the police. He left but not before unleashing an obscenity-laced tirade, saying he was going to kill the dogs.

“He kept saying that over and over and over,” Callahan said. “I said, ‘Who are you?’ He just kept beating on the dogs.”

On Monday, her 10-year-old mutt, Paddee, fell ill, dying the next day from internal injuries the veterinarian told her were consistent with consuming rat poison, Callahan said. “This guy came and said he was going to kill my dogs, and one day later he did.”

Before the man sped from her home Friday, Callahan wrote down his license plate number, which she gave to sheriff’s deputies. Police identified him as a neighbor who lives about a half-mile away.

The man, who Callahan said was “built like a wrestler,” has not been charged with a crime. The police report recommends animal cruelty charges be filed for the beating, but police have no evidence tying the man to Paddee’s death, said Karen Williams, Kootenai County’s lead Animal Control Officer.

“I cannot prove he did that,” Williams said of the poisoning, adding that it’s difficult to prove, shy of a witness catching someone in the act. But, “I can’t understand for the life of me why it was done. Her dogs are indoor dogs. I’ve never had any complaints up there. It’s not like they’re left outside alone all the time. They’re her babies.”

Callahan recently lost her mother to Alzheimer’s after five years of in-home care. Strain from repeated lifting has left the former interior decorator disabled and on Social Security , awaiting knee and hip replacements.

The woman’s dogs are like her children; they go everywhere with her and sleep in her room. Three large, fluffy dog beds sit on the floor near the front picture window and three elevated dog bowls sit on the living room floor.

The ordeal has left Callahan frightened and in debt, with more than $1,000 in vet bills from trying to save Paddee’s life and tests to ensure her other two dogs’ health. Those tests revealed Thursday that Charlee and Gracie are fine, but Callahan can’t let them out into the fenced yard or dog run because she fears they’ll eat poison, too.

Gracie, who came from the same litter as Paddee, has been dragging his dog bed around the house and wouldn’t eat for two days after he died, Callahan said. She burst into tears when she spoke of having Paddee cremated.

“He was a good boy. He didn’t deserve to be treated like that,” Callahan said. “I don’t know why this happened. I’m not bothering anybody. I’m just here minding my own business.”

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