RIP, sweet Maple

Maple, a gentle half-ton long-haired Highland cow belonging to Holly and Tyson Simon of Fort Smith, may have been as loved and spoiled a pet as you'll ever find.

The Simons' two daughters regularly lovingly brushed and braided Maple's long, golden locks that framed her big brown eyes and even placed wreaths of flowers across her broad forehead. If cows had beauty contests, Maple would have easily worn the crown (Google her).

I write in the past tense because on the morning of April 10, an unrestrained pit bull and equally vicious large white mixed-breed dog running free on the Simons' property chased Maple and a second cow into the family's pond, where Maple died and the other cow was badly injured.

The sad story by Robert Medley published in the Southwest Times Record has since become a point of much discussion by residents in and around Fort Smith, including at the city council.

Forwarded to me the other day, the story quotes a police report that said officers had been summoned to the Simons' home in the 6000 block of Steep Hill Road where they discovered Maple in the stock pond.

Holly told police she and her 13- and 14-year-old daughters had fought the dogs off as the cows were attempting to escape the onslaught by trying to hide underwater. But as the cows would come up for air, the dogs would maul them. Finally, Maple drowned.

Holly described in an Instagram post how her daughters initially heard the attack on the cows and their pained cries. "We all three ran through the house to the back and out to the edge of our pool overlooking the lower valley. Mia screamed, 'there's dogs' and took off running, Abigail bolting behind her.

"I started after the girls, screaming, when I saw the two dogs, mauling and drowning a cow on the far side of the bank. By the time I got through the gate and halfway down the hill, Mia was already rounding the pond.

"That's when I saw Maple, lifeless, floating in the middle."

The second cow survived, but was injured.

"We are devastated," Holly wrote in her post. "It's been over 48 hours. We are still living in this nightmare with no relief as of the time I'm posting this. We are still in threat/fear of imminent danger to our personal safety and our animals."

Holly said her traumatized daughters badly wish they could have saved Maple and felt unsafe outside for days afterward.

Maple's monetary value was said to be $12,000. The injured cow, valued at $2,500, had "a chunk of nose that was missing," police reported.

Holly told the newspaper she has lived in the home with acreage in the Riley Farm subdivision for three years with no problems or threats from dogs. She also has 50 chickens and a 35-inch-tall miniature donkey.

She expressed gratitude to the Fort Smith police officers, but said, "We've taken steps to protect our animals, so we just want our questions answered. We want questions answered to the timeline of that day. But this is an unsafe situation for the entire neighborhood."

Medley reported that the dogs' owners, Hannah Boze and Joshua Harmon, were located but refused to surrender the dogs to authorities.

Fort Smith police then arrested them on obstruction of justice complaints. Sebastian County sheriff's deputies issued Boze and Harmon vicious dog notifications, warning them that they could be cited each time their remaining dog gets out. Harmon provided proof the black dog was euthanized afterwards, but not the white one, which remained in their home to the expressed concern of neighbors.

Christina Catsavis, Fort Smith Position 5 city director, said in an email, "It has come to our attention that the black dog was euthanized. They provided proof of that. But there was another white dog that was seen on the video, the security cameras, during the attack that has not been euthanized. And that is what the neighbors are really concerned about, and they have reached out to me personally."

Catsavis said neighbors have complained about the fence not being able to contain the remaining unsurrendered dog, especially considering the small children living in the area, Medley reported.

Just one more example in the endless string of maulings and killings by unrestrained large dogs across our state and others.

No, I'll not stop writing about them until our legislators finally put people's safety above potentially vicious large dogs by passing a truly effective large-dog-restraint law that serves we the people who elect and compensate them.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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