WHITECOURT, Alta. – William Gibb didn’t know what was thrashing around in the dark, clawing at his dog, but he was going to save his pet.
The electrical subcontractor from Red Deer, Alta., was driving northwest with his brother Thomas on Boxing Day to get to work in Grande Prairie. About 6:30 p.m., they stopped at a Tim Hortons in Whitecourt to meet a friend for coffee.
Gibb let his two dogs out of his truck for a bathroom break near a wooded area at the back of a parking lot and it wasn’t long before he heard one of them crying in pain.
He quickly ran into the trees, where his five-year-old husky Sasha was on the ground.
“I saw this thing on top of her,” said the 31-year-old. “So I ran over and punched it in the head, thinking maybe it was a coyote or something.”
When the animal jumped off, Gibb said, he realized it was a cougar.
“I backed it up into a tree and was swinging at it some more and screaming for my brother and my buddy, Travis, to come over and get the dogs.”
He saw Sasha bleeding and twitching on the ground and scooped her up but she bit him on the hand, thinking he was the cat, he said. When the dog later recognized her owner, she ran off.
Gibb continued to fight the cat.
“I was still throwing punches toward the cougar. The cougar was kind of pawing back at me.”
Gibb said he wasn’t hurt by the cat – not even scratched – and got his other dog Mungo, an Alaskan malamute, back into the truck.
He then grabbed a big stick to go back after the cougar again. But by that time, his brother and friend had corralled Sasha and were yelling that she was hurt badly.
Gibb said they quickly drove to a veterinarian clinic and, as they waited, called RCMP.
Mounties notified wildlife officers but arrived first at the restaurant, said Sgt. Tom Kalis.
“We had to proceed just to make sure it didn’t attack anyone else,” he said.
The cougar was still in the trees and officers saw it was crouched and ready to pounce, he added, so they shot and killed the animal.
“It continued to be a menace.”
Kalis said wildlife officers checked the area for other cougars but found none. Tests are being done to make sure the dead cougar is the one that attacked the dog, he said.
Sasha suffered two large cuts on her chest, four puncture wounds on her neck and other cuts and scrapes, said Gibb. The veterinarian stitched her up and she’s now resting at home in Red Deer.
Gibb said he adopted the dog a few years ago from a rescue group and would do anything for her.
He was never scared of the cat, he said.
“It was all about protecting her.”