Dog loses leg in bear attack

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

TROUTDALE — A family's dog is left with three legs after she was attacked by a bear last week within 500 feet of a popular playground where children were playing.

Scarlett McGrady of Troutdale said it happened last Friday.

McGrady was in Galax around 4 p.m. on Oct. 3 and called her house to tell her children she would be late getting home from work.

“My daughter, Cheyenne answered the phone telling me that something had just happened to Xenia [the family's Siberian Husky] at the playground and she was bleeding,” she said.

The Troutdale Community Playground is a popular place for local children and is directly across the street from McGradys' home.

“I got off the phone and called my best friend, Lishia Blevins, to go check on the situation,” she continued. “Five minutes later, I called back at the house and talked to Lishia.”

Blevins — who works half a mile up the road from the playground — told McGrady that Xenia was bleeding “very bad” and had been fighting with a bear.

Sam Pennington — McGrady's neighbor — heard the commotion Friday afternoon.

McGrady said Pennington saw Xenia fighting with the bear and quickly shot his gun into the air, scaring the bear away.

Blevins and McGrady's children loaded Xenia into a van and met McGrady at the Twin Oaks Veterinary Hospital in Sparta, N.C.

“Xenia's hind leg was completely broken from her ankle down,” McGrady said. “Only skin and ligaments held it together. They told us they would have to amputate the leg.”

The other wounds to her upper body and front legs would have to heal naturally, the vet said. The wounds could not be stitched because they were jagged and caused by another animal. The risk for infection was too great.

“She had lost so much blood,” McGrady said. “We are lucky she did not bleed to death.”

Xenia's leg could not be amputated Friday night due to the blood loss, so the vet waited for the blood to build up so she would not need a transfusion.

McGrady said the children visited Xenia every day while she was in the hospital and couldn't wait for her to come home.

Xenia's surgery was completed earlier this week and McGrady said she was up walking and appeared to be feeling much better as of Tuesday afternoon. She is expected to come home today, Friday.

“We were concerned with the bear [being] so close to the playground,” she added. “We believe this is the same bear that has been seen around our town many times over the last several months.”

McGrady noted that several residents reported their trash being scattered — but not by dogs.

“Us townies jokingly called it the 'trash can bear,'” she said.

Xenia is one of three Siberian Huskies the family has, along with a beagle. The huskies are always tied or inside the house.

“Xenia was tied up in our yard and got loose,” McGrady said of the day of the attack. “She is the least aggressive dog that we have and is not in any way dangerous when loose. We are not sure as to what happened, but a lot of kids are scared to go to the playground and walk through town now.”

Conservation Officer James Harris went by McGrady's house on Sunday to do a report on the incident.

“I expressed my concern of the bear possibly being aggressive to attack a dog in the middle of the day that close to town,” she said.

However, McGrady said Harris felt that the bear was not aggressive or of any danger to the residents. With the abundance of natural foods available this time of year, Harris felt the bear had been baited by someone to come into the town.

“My husband and son walked that field and area looking for Xenia's collar and found bear droppings and markings, but no signs of a human baiting the bear in,” she said. “I think the local trash cans were all the bear needed to hang around. Mr. Harris simply asked that we let them know if anyone saw the bear again.”