DERRY — Pamela Crawford of 7 Humphrey Road let her two miniature pinschers, Spike and Spanky, out into her back yard Saturday just like any other night.
But this time was different.
Crawford watched a violent scene unfold while her two dogs were out in in the back yard.
While she sat on the back steps, watching Spanky and Spike play in the yard equipped with an electric dog fence, a coyote ran across her driveway and into the back yard.
The spunky dogs, ages 10 and 13, chased after the intruder, nipping at its legs.
Ron Crawford saw what was happening, yelled and grabbed his gun.
The coyote ran behind the Crawfords’ shed with some dinner in its jaws. Spanky and Spike chased after it.
“I think the dogs recognized there was an intruder in their territory and tried to stop it,” Crawford said.
The coyote dropped whatever it was carrying and turned on the small dogs.
The Crawfords, distraught, could do nothing to stop the attack. By the time the coyote turned and ran off, Spanky, 10, was dying. Spike, 13, was badly injured.
The couple raced down the street with the dogs to their veterinarian’s house.
Immediately after, Crawford took her two dogs down the street to her veterinarian’s office.
“Thank god for Tim Butterfield,” Crawford said. “If it wasn’t for him, I probably would have lost both dogs.”
Butterfield, a veterinarian at the Windham Animal Hospital, assembled his staff to try to save the dogs.
It was too late for Spanky, who had collapsed lungs and broken ribs.
Spike survived the attack with a punctured lung and is expected to make a full recovery, Butterfield said.
“What really boggles my mind is, I didn’t hear any barking,” Crawford said. “My dogs are usually always barking.”
The Crawfords have four other dogs, all Chihuahuas, which were inside at the time.
Babette Wilson of 77 Franklin St. reported seeing coyotes near her property just two weeks ago. She fears her cat Odin also fell victim to a roving coyote.
“I still look for Odin every night,” she said. “But I’m losing hope.”
It’s rare that coyotes attack house pets, but it has happened before, state Fish and Game conservation Officer Christopher McKee said.
Bird feeders attract chipmunks, birds and other small animals. They, in turn, attract coyotes, he said.
The only real way to protect an animal from a coyote attack is a metal fence or keeping them indoors, McKee said.
Deforestation and recent construction also come into play, Derry Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop said.
“With more people building, there are more coyotes forced out of the wild and into the public,” she said.
There are not necessarily more coyotes, they are just traveling more into residential areas. At this time of year, Bishop said, coyotes are bulking up in preparation for winter and are on the prowl in search of easy meals.
Despite Crawford’s concern for her pets’ well-being, she has received some negative feedback about the attack.
“People have said I did not take proper care of my dogs and I should have been able to stop this,” she said.
But she keeps the dogs within an electric dog fence, to prevent them from escaping the yard. She also keeps a close eye on them when they are outside. A dog should be safe when it is in its own yard, she said.
Crawford did have to get rabies shots because Spike bit her ear after the attack.
“The attack is unfortunate,” state Fish and Game Lt. Robert Bryant said. “However, there are coyotes all over New Hampshire and the attack was expected, considering dogs were chasing after the coyote.”
There are no plans to trap or hunt the coyote, Bryant said.
Crawford plans to put up a metal chain link fence around her back yard, to make sure no more wildlife gets in.