Yuri was an alert and loving little assistance dog who helped Mia Johnson’s daughter live a normal life despite the fact that she suffers from autism and severe anxiety. The tiny Miniature Pinscher dearly loved his master and the family’s second dog, Mary.
Yuri held a very special place in the family, because he and Mary helped 27-year-old Laurel Owen navigate her daily life. The two little Min-Pins, helped Laurel overcome depression and gain the confidence she needed to learn to use the bus and begin work at a volunteer job, Mia told the Vancouver Sun.
Like most dogs, Yuri also loved taking walks with his family. But that all ended on Saturday afternoon, October 1, according to Canada Standard, when Yuri—who had just turned eight years old--was eviscerated by a Pit Bull right before his family’s eyes, in what Yuri’s owner describes as a totally unprovoked attack.
Mia Johnson and her daughter were walking with Yuri and Mary, both on leash, to a post office in Kitsilano, when they saw a woman struggling to control her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which was also on a leash. As they were approaching 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street in Vancouver, “The dog was straining on its leash and it went right for our dog,” Mia said.
Johnson said the dog was muzzled but seemed intent on attacking, and eventually managed to slip out of its muzzle and clamp its jaws onto Yuri’s stomach, CTV reports.
People who were passing by hit, kicked and poked the eyes of the Pit Bull, she said, but the big dog would not release its tiny victim. Mia told the Vancouver Sun that, by the time the Pit Bull finally loosened its grip, he was barely alive.
“My dog was disemboweled. I picked him up and I looked down and I realized everything inside him was out of him. It fell out in my hands, and then I started screaming,” she said.
She also described that her daughter was screaming and trying to run after the woman and the Pit Bull, calling the woman a murderer.
The family’s veterinarian was just five blocks away, and someone offered to drive Johnson and Yuri there immediately. After ensuring someone could comfort and care for her distraught daughter, Johnson accepted.
The idea of saving the dog’s life already seemed futile, she told CTV News, but she hoped to relieve Yuri's suffering as quickly as possible. “I didn’t want him to have to wait any longer,” she said.
“He was in agony. He bit right through my purse strap. It’s about an inch thick, he just chewed right through it.”
Mia had no real choice but to humanely have Yuri put to sleep. There was nothing that could be done to save him, because Yuri was only five pounds. Mia John describes that, after the attack, there seemed to be more of him outside his body than inside, she said.
Mia Johnson was bitten on the hand during the attack, and the other dog’s owner was bitten on the hand and face.
Yuri wasn’t the kind of dog that would have tried to make a dog attack him. He doesn’t growl. He’s just tiny, she said.
"He was a good little boy," Laurel told CTV News.
“This is a terrible loss. It’s like losing a family member, Johnson said.
Yuri was a certified therapy dog with St. John Ambulance and spent two years visiting patients in palliative care at Blenheim Lodge, a Vancouver care home, according to the report.
Mia Johnson told the Vancouver Sun she is still in shock after the attack. She’s also living with a brain tumor. She said the dogs have helped her feel she can manage life as a single parent to an adult with autism.
The Pit Bull has been seized and, according to John Gray, Assistant Manager of Animal Control for the City of Vancouver, a report has also been made with the police. He added that the Pit Bull can be held for 21 days, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Mia said she just wanted to warn owners of small dogs that if they are walking a little dog and you see an aggressive one coming, just pick it up.”