A Simi Valley woman who tried to save her miniature schnauzer from a mountain lion attack is speaking out Friday to warn other residents a day after her dog was killed.
Ilene Dondlinger told KTLA that around 2 a.m. Thursday, she went to let 10-year-old Pumbaa out into her home's backyard because he was barking and she thought he had to go to the bathroom.
When Dondlinger opened the door, she was unaware there was a cougar the yard. The dog charged the big cat, which attacked.
Dondlinger said she grabbed a broom and tried to rescue the dog from the mountain lion, even using her bare hands in an attempt to pry its jaws open.
“I was trying to get his mouth open to get him out because he had him by the head ... but their jaws just lock down ," she told KTLA. “I had a broom, but I just — I couldn’t get him out.”
By the time the cougar went after Dondlinger, it was clear her beloved pet was dead.
"That’s when I went in the house because then I knew he was — it was probably not going to be good," she said. "That he was protecting, his dinner.”
The mountain lion was still in the yard when Dondlinger called the police. Simi Valley officers and California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel responded, but the cat got away.
Dondlinger described Pumbaa as being like a son to her, but she still doesn't want the animal that killed her pet to meet the same fate.
“I don’t want the animal killed, because he’s just trying to survive," she said. "They were here first, you know. We’re moving in on them, so I don’t want it destroyed."
And despite the terror of watching her dog die, she spent time warning her neighbors.
"I don’t want anybody else to lose a pet or a child," she said. "There’s kids."
A mountain lion, likely the same one who killed her pet, has been spotted roaming the same Simi Valley community for three consecutive days.
On Wednesday night, an 8-year-old Havanese named Sammy was attacked by a cougar while out for a walk in the 5400 block of Evening Sky Drive, according to the Simi Valley Police Department. The dog suffered puncture wounds but survived.
Then, early the following morning, Simi Valley police said they believe the same large cat was responsible for another attack on the same block where Pumbaa died.
The latest sighting was about 1 a.m. Friday, when a cougar was captured on video strolling down the 3200 block of Bluebird Circle.
The mountain lion appeared emaciated, its rib cage and other bones visibly outlined in the animal's scrawny frame. A tracking collar can be seen around the neck, but officials said it no longer works.
The cat may be P-35, a 9-year-old female whose movements were once being recorded as part of the National Park Service's study of the species living in and around the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Presumed alive, P-35 was just one of a handful of cougars in the study known to reside in the Santa Susana Mountains.
However, the device in her GPS collar no longer works, so her current whereabouts are unknown — and there's no immediate way to confirm she's in Simi Valley, according to Ana Beatriz Cholo, a spokeswoman for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
While officials continue searching for the cougar, residents are being advised to keep dogs and other pets inside and to be extremely careful when leaving their homes — a message Dondlinger is sharing with her neighbors.
“I was the most protective parent there was, and it still happened to me," she said.