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Woman finds support, new puppy after dog poisoning

Mon., Dec. 27, 2010

Kathleen Callahan holds her newly adopted dog, Aussie, at her home in Athol on Dec. 10. She lost her dog Paddee to  poisoning in April.  (Kathy Plonka)
Kathleen Callahan holds her newly adopted dog, Aussie, at her home in Athol on Dec. 10. She lost her dog Paddee to poisoning in April. (Kathy Plonka)

An Athol woman whose dog died in April after a suspected poisoning has found a new puppy.

Kathleen Callahan turned 58 on Dec. 4. The day before, she brought Aussie, a 6-month-old Shih Tzu-terrier mix, home from the Kootenai Humane Society.

“You were my birthday present,” she said, snuggling the small orange-and-white dog in her lap. “I’ve never had a small dog. I’m not used to a dog sitting in my lap.”

Aussie has brought Callahan and her older two dogs a measure of peace and joy this holiday season, following the horror of losing Paddee on April 27. Paddee was 10 when he died of injuries her veterinarian told Callahan were consistent with consuming rat poison.

Five days before Paddee died, Callahan said, a stranger drove up to the home where she lives alone with her dogs, jumped out of his red pickup and began beating Paddee with his fists over the waist-high fence. He yelled repeatedly that he was going to kill Callahan’s dogs.

She wrote down the man’s license plate number and police identified him as a neighbor who lives half a mile away. Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he anticipates deciding after Jan. 1 whether he’ll charge the man with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor in Idaho.

When readers learned about Callahan’s ordeal, and her $1,600 veterinary bill, they showered her with letters and financial support that covered her debt. Callahan recently had lost her mother to Alzheimer’s disease following five years of caring for her in her home. She was left disabled and on Social Security, needing hip and knee replacements from lifting.

Callahan sent everyone a thank-you card with a picture of Paddee and eventually began returning checks to people, she said, after all her bills were covered.

“Because, you know, they can help somebody else,” Callahan said.

One Veradale woman, after learning of Callahan’s desire to change Idaho law to make animal cruelty a felony, sent a list of people who could help organize. Callahan was laid up for about four months, beginning in June, after having a right knee replacement. But she still intends to pursue a change in the law.

Meanwhile, her older two dogs, Gracie, 11, and Charlee, 6, are fascinated with the new puppy. They watch Aussie constantly and chase him around the house, Callahan said.

“They were kind of depressed” after Paddee died, she said. But now, “they have a new family member to take care of. It’s surprising how good they get along.

“He’s perfect,” she said. “He’s perfect for our little family.”

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