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Utah family urges caution after cougar bites dog

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Posted at 10:24 AM, Jan 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-01 10:49:55-05

LEHI, Utah – A Lehi family is thankful their dog is alive after they say it was attacked by a cougar just feet from their home.

Right now, the Cooks are clenching their two dogs' leashes tightly.

"We're very cautious about bringing the dogs out now," Mikey Cook said.

On the other end of a bright turquoise blue leash, you'll find Mila, the Cooks' 3-year-old black Aussie-Lab mix – with her tail tucked and nerves on end.

Mila typically runs free in the wide-open space. But now, just a few feet from her home, she's staying close.

"She has a hard time coming out of the kennel when we say we're going to go outside, so I think it's safe to say it really scared her as well," Mikey Cook said.

On the night of Nov. 11, the Cooks let the dogs out to use the bathroom.

"We usually let them out without their leashes on so they can just run out here, out the door, and come back in," Cook said.

That night, the routine had taken an unexpected turn when Mila ran off.

"We just thought she was chasing after the deer," Cook said.

Little did they know, something else had its eye on the rescue dog.

"She shrieked and came hobbling back to us," Cook said. "She immediately came running back; we can only imagine what would have happened if she didn't come running back."

A cougar had been hiding in the nearest bush to their home.

"We didn't really know what to do; it's never happened before," Cook said.

Mila got away, but not before the cougar left its mark – an open wound, a few inches long, that included part of her tail.

The Cooks took her to the vet as soon as they found the wound through inches of thick black fur.

"[The veterinarian] said they'd never seen anything like this. He said it's pretty scary and said we're lucky that it was only her tail and not another body part," Cook said.

Cook said their veterinarian was concerned the flesh wound wouldn't heal, and the tail would need to be amputated to prevent the spread of infection.

"They put her under so they could start trimming up the tail, and then they prescribed the medications and the antibiotics for her," Cook said. "We're lucky to say that it actually worked, and it's healed."

After nearly a month of treatment, Mila is still anxious, and her tail looks a little different – but she's healthy and alive.

"Just be careful," Cook said. "As a dog parent, I mean it's something where they're family, so we do anything we can to protect them. Just in your backyard, you never know."

If you encounter a cougar, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says, you should never run. Maintain eye contact, and keep children or pets very close. Click here for more information on cougars and encounters.

This story was originally published by Elle Thomas on KSTU in Salt Lake City.