Middlesex County

Search continues for suspect accused of attacking dog while on walk with owner in Burlington

BURLINGTON, Mass. — The Facebook pictures tell a troubling story. They show Gigi, a rescue dog, with facial injuries so extensive they required reconstructive surgery.

Gigi’s trauma came at the hands of a fellow dog walker, said her 69-year-old owner. He reported to police that while on a walk Tuesday morning around the Mill Pond Reservoir, the pair encountered a man on a mountain bike, and two unleashed dogs running by his side.

Gigi, on the other hand, was leashed.

As expected, the dogs interacted. Nips and aggression quickly followed.

Burlington Police Chief Thomas Browne said the man on the mountain bike tried to separate the dogs by riding between them.

Instead, he hit Gigi, causing her owner to fall.

“When he was able to recover, he came up and realized that the person had beaten the dog with the mountain bike and now was beating on the dog with his fists,” said Browne.

Gigi suffered a broken jaw, a broken nose, and the rearrangement of her teeth. Surgeons at the Burlington Animal Clinic stitched Gigi back together and she is now recovering at home.

Some dog walkers at the reservoir Wednesday had heard of the incident — mostly through social media.

“It’s horrible, I saw the pictures online,” said Ryan Essman, who was walking his two Golden Retrievers. “She’s really injured. I come here every day and I’ve never, ever had issues or heard of any issues up here. It’s too bad.”

Essman said it’s likely the guy on the bike first drove a car to the trail entrance — and that perhaps police can get some information from security cameras trained on the parking lot.

“I didn’t recognize the dog that got hurt, its name or picture,” said Jackson Maier, as he walked his mixed-breed, Watson. “We’re all pretty surprised. Everybody here is friendly with each other. It’s kind of a little community here. I hope the dog’s okay. Hopefully, they figure out who did it.”

Dog Trainer Jenny Stieglitz came to the reservoir Wednesday with a one-year-old Standard Poodle she’s training to be a service dog.

“I feel like that was definitely an over-the-top response,” she said. But I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the damage. We’re all animals. We all respond. Some a little bit more aggressive than others. It’s heartbreaking to hear that was his first instinct.”

Stieglitz wished humans understood canine body language better.

“If we don’t allow them to growl and set their own boundaries, we create these incidents where dogs end up exploding,” she said.

But, in this case, it was a human who apparently exploded.

“I think it’s unreasonable, unfair and unfortunate,” said another dog owner. “I don’t know what was going through the head of the guy, the attacker. I’d love to know. Did he think he was defending his dog?”

Burlington Police hope to get the man-on-the-mountain-bike’s side of the story sooner rather than later.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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