|Residents of the Old Mountain View neighborhood are up in arms over a large, aggressive dog that roams the area unleashed and is known to attack other animals -- including a small Boston terrier last week.
For at least six years, neighbors say, a large grey husky named Sylas -- but which neighbors call the "wolf dog" -- has frightened people living near the 700 block of Hope Street. When it's spotted, people are known to yell "wolf dog" or "bad dog alert" before grabbing their children and running in the house.
Sierra Avenue residents are especially familiar with it: They say it's cornered people in their yards and approached growling and ready to attack. Even grown men have had to yell and scream to end threatening standoffs, neighbors say.
"This dog is scary, he stalks you," said one View Street resident. "I've got a broomstick I walk with now."
Neighbors say owner Linda Rowles of the 700 block of Hope Street has been ticketed many times for violating the city's leash law, but the problem persists. The dog was even seen roaming the streets a few days after last week's attack on Chloe, the small Boston terrier belonging to Kelly and Sam Rohlfs on Sierra Avenue. Kelly chased the big dog away after hearing what she described as a "scream." Chloe required 14 stitches as a result of the attack.
"It was just the latest -- and bloodiest -- incident with this dog," wrote neighbor Chris Petti in an e-mail.
Members of several households were gathered on the Rohlfs' front yard when police arrived.
"My 4-year-old was in tears and had a difficult time falling to sleep that night," said neighbor Kim Ragnartz in an e-mail. (The Voice has been flooded with e-mails from neighbors concerned about the dog after last week's attack.)
As for the police, neighbor Mark Deem wrote in an e-mail that "the laws on the books by which they have to abide simply don't give them the power to do more than they have, which is to repeatedly fine an owner who has told the police point-blank to just keep writing the tickets, that she doesn't care. There is nothing criminally that they can do until one of us or our children are attacked. That is just outright ridiculous, infuriating and completely unacceptable."
Police said they shared his concerns, but that the law is vague as to what a dangerous dog is. In the end, it's up to city attorney Michael Martello to make the call.
"It looks like this dog is being the scourge of the neighborhood, but it's the first we've heard of it," Martello said. "We've been pretty on top of these things when we get a complaint."
Sam Rohlfs said police initially wouldn't take a report. But City Council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who lives a block away and had heard about the dog before, said she contacted the city manager about the incident, and shortly afterwards the police chief directed officers to take a report.
Front door open
The owner of the dog, Linda Rowles, lives with her grown son on Hope Street, at an address known to police dispatchers who get calls about various domestic disturbances there, neighbors say. Attempts to contact her were not successful.
Reached at home, Rowles' son told the Voice that "Maybe the dog should be put down," and noted that his mom would be around "when you find her."
Although some residents say Rowles has been working at improving communications with her neighbors, others say they have given up trying to talk to the family. Some of the braver residents have started walking Sylas back to the house themselves after it escapes through a front door left open.
Neighbors said they suspect that when complaints about the dog get too hot, Rowles will leave town with it for weeks or months. But it always comes back.
'A real threat'
Pam Walton of Yosemite Avenue said that over a year ago, as she was walking down Hope Street, Sylas "grabbed one of my dogs by the neck and shook her." She called the police but no report is on record, said Tony Lopez of the Mountain View Police Department.
"The dog is a real threat to small animals and even small children," Walton wrote in an e-mail. "It will be a blot on law enforcement in Mountain View if a child or animal is killed, perhaps even grounds for a lawsuit."
The Voice also received an e-mail from Yosemite Drive resident Cheryl Dewey, who found her cat dead on her front lawn Monday morning. She said vets at Adobe Animal Hospital told her the cat "was attacked by another animal, and suffered crushed ribs and internal injuries."
Another man who spoke anonymously said his small puppy was attacked by the dog a year and a half ago, causing minor injuries. He never called the police and said he didn't want to give his name because he doesn't trust the dog's owners.
"I'm not sure who I'm afraid of more, the people who live there or their dog," said neighbor Lisa Reiche, who said the dog once growled threateningly at her daughters.
Sam Rohlfs had to look up Rowles' mailing address at the county assessor's office to have veterinary bills reimbursed for Chloe, and said he found that Rowles also lives at an "intentional community" on Page Mill Road called Struggle Mountain -- a Los Altos Hills commune where folk singer Joan Baez once lived. A resident of Struggle Mountain told Rohlfs that the community has never had any problems with the dog.
But that's not the story from residents of Old Mountain View, where the dog lives in a house backed up to Castro Street storefronts.
"Having this dog in the neighborhood is especially frustrating and upsetting because the children and adults on the block like to gather in the summer evenings in our front yards to socialize and watch the kids play," Ragnartz said in an e-mail.
If city attorney Martello decides to take action, the dog will be picked up pending hearings, at which Rowles will be given a chance to state her case. The dog could be put to sleep or given to a new owner, police said.
"You have no idea what a relief that would be -- to be able to sit outside and not have to keep an eye open," said Sam Rohlfs, who added, "We don't want it euthanized; we just want it out of our neighborhood."
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