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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Attacked dog recovers slowly

Assailant spent four months in jail and must pay vet bills

Cocoa Butter is recovering from extensive injuries she suffered last June after being snatched out of a parked car and slammed against the outside of Spokane City Hall. Her owner, Tom Tuffin, said he wants to help the attacker stay out of trouble following the assailant’s conviction for first-degree animal cruelty. (Colin Mulvany)

Cocoa Butter, a tiny Shih Tzu, has not been the same since a stranger snatched her from a parked car last June, swung her by her leash and slammed her into a wall outside Spokane City Hall.

The 5-pound dog suffered extensive injuries during the attack. She’s healing, but she has brain damage and nerve damage in her neck. Cocoa Butter’s bark has diminished to a peep because her vocal cords were nicked during treatment for her injuries. The 5-year-old has given up chasing cats. And the days of showing up her brother have passed.

“It’s been real interesting to take an animal from death’s door to recovering,” said Tom Tuffin, the dog’s co-owner.

Cocoa Butter’s attack drew national attention after authorities released surveillance footage from City Hall cameras that showed her assailant kicking in the car window and attacking the dog. Tuffin and his wife, Louise, found Cocoa Butter limp on a downtown sidewalk after returning to their car from a movie.

Two weeks ago, Michael J. Jones, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree animal cruelty for the beating. He was released from jail after serving about four months. State law doesn’t allow for Jones to be on probation. “In this case, it would be wise to supervise him because people often progress from harming small animals” to other crimes, said Tom Tuffin, adding he’ll do his part to help Jones stay out of trouble. “It’s like building a positive community. … If he’s making positive steps, I want to be the first one to step across the aisle and support him. If he’s making negative steps, I want to help.”

Jones was ordered to pay about $1,400 for medical expenses and replacement of the car window. Jones’ attorney has said that Jones attacked the barking dog during an argument with his girlfriend as they walked past the car.

Donations to SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.’s Lucky to be Alive – about $5,000 – paid for Cocoa Butter’s veterinarian bills.

“The community came forward like crazy for this dog,” said Gail Mackie, SpokAnimal’s executive director. “We got donations and calls from all over the country.”

Cocoa Butter’s medical care is ongoing. “The little princess is getting acupuncture,” Louise Tuffin said.

The fund will pay for four or five more months of acupuncture. Any leftover money will help another animal.

“I see progress every time she comes in here,” Mackie said. “Last time she came in, she ran around on the top of my desk, typed a few things on my keyboard and lied down to go to sleep.”

Tom Tuffin, a self-employed breadmaker, has provided a lot of the dog’s care himself.

“She’s still remapping brain function,” Tuffin said. “She has most of her instincts back. But every once in a while she has some aphasia, where she doesn’t know what’s happening for about a minute.”

Because her vocal cord was nicked, “she squeaks like a squeak toy. But I don’t miss the nasty little Rottweiler-like bark. She used to sound like three times the dog.”

Cocoa Butter has better control of her neck, but there are certain things she still can’t do. “After she pees, she can’t scratch at the ground with her back paws,” Tuffin said. “She can’t eat snow as she’s walking along, and she can’t lick dew off the grass as she’s walking along.”

And she’s made other certain adjustments, he said. “She doesn’t run after cats because she knows they are too fast for her.”