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Coogi, the dog, killed while trying to protect owner from other dogs

Arthur Coogi

Arthur and Coogi

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:40AM

In the blocks between Laramie and Lavergne on the city’s West Side, Coogi will be remembered as a hero.

The 4-year-old Lhasa Apso was killed Monday morning trying to protect her owner who was being attacked by a Rottweiler on the street near Horatio May Elementary School.

While Arthur Sanders battled the Rottweiler, armed only with a cell phone and metal coffee mug, Coogi tried to fight off two other Rottweilers.

“All of a sudden something knocked me down. I thought I was being robbed or something,” Sanders told me.

“Then I saw these were dogs. The big dog was on me and the other two Rottweilers grabbed my little dog. I hit the dog with my steel coffee cup and pushed the cup in his mouth.”

The unleashed dogs belong to Charlette Wortham, a vocalist with the music group Poi Dog Pondering.

Wortham owns four Rottweilers.

She was exercising three of her dogs in a fenced-in area adjacent to a facilities building on the grounds of Horatio May Elementary Community Academy at 512 S. Lavergne Ave.

Wortham was using the space as a dog park despite being warned repeatedly by the school’s principal to keep the dogs off school property.

“We warned her many times to stay off the school grounds because of the danger it poses to the children and staff,” said Roger Lewis, the school’s principal.

“I have personally walked to her house myself and asked her to stay away,” he said. “I have even phoned the police.”

An opening in the gate gave Wortham access to the area and allowed the unleashed Rottweilers to escape.

Wortham, who lives a few blocks from Sanders, said she regrets what happened.

“We were playing ball. As dogs normally do they got a whiff of another dog,” she said.

“Once we freed the dog from Coogi, he ended up being hit by a car.”

Sanders recalls seeing Wortham drag one dog across the street and corralling him behind the fence.

But he claims Wortham watched from that distance while he attempted to get the other two dogs off Coogi.

She denies that allegation.

“I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “I was the one that grabbed hold of the dog.

She wasn’t the only gaper, according to Sanders.

“I was screaming and people were on the street and driving by and didn’t help. The only people that tried to help me were from the nearby fire station.”

Sanders said Coogi could have gotten away, but stayed to help him.

Wortham claims she was warned to stay out of the playground area that is completely fenced in, not the area where the facilities building is located. She pointed out that a small piece of the fence enclosing that area was missing.

When I stopped by the school on Wednesday, a makeshift gate, secured by a chain and lock, had been installed in the area where Wortham had taken her dogs.

She acknowledges that she is currently in court because her dogs previously attacked and killed an unleashed pit bull.

“I take full responsibility. I know that dogs can be like children,” she said.

“But if Mr. Sanders wants me to pay for the dog or any type of compensation for this, that is what I will do. I can’t imagine losing my dog. My mistake was getting [too] comfortable.”

Apparently in the chaos, a driver struck Coogi and Sanders while they were running in the street trying to escape the attack.

The driver stopped briefly and kept going. Sanders had minor injuries.

The assault on this small dog was too much and she was pronounced dead on arrival at the vet.

At the corner of Van Buren and Leamington, on a fence that Coogi passed nearly every day on his morning walk, hangs a simple memorial of photographs framed by a wreath of leaves.

The men on the block who considered Coogi part of their pack put up the memorial.

“Coogi tried to save me,” Sanders said, choking up. “He tried to protect me to the end.”

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