Madison Park dog owners still seeking answers after off-leash park attack

Dog walkers hard to track while another company ends up in crosshairs

Madison Park dog owners still seeking answers after off-leash park attack

Madison Park dog owners still seeking answers after off-leash park attack

Max the cockapoo is recovering from the injuries he sustained during a June 29 attack by a St. Bernard while tethered to a bench in the Blue Dog Pond off-leash dog park.

Two weeks later, his owners, Tinsley and Jeff Cobles, are still seeking answers; one in particular being if and when the responsible party will pay for Max’s costly vet bill.

The Cobles had never been to Blue Dog Pond at Sams Park before, and the Madison Park couple say they were there for an hour before a van rolled up and two women unloaded more than 10 dogs.

“We watched them turn loose all of the dogs, and they were not paying close attention,” Tinsley Coble said.

Max was on a leash, lying under a park bench, when the St. Bernard reportedly bit into the cockapoo’s hindquarters and attempted to drag him out, Tinsley said, adding the women were “oblivious.”

“He’s a big dog,” she said of the offending St. Bernard. “He’s about well over 200 pounds, and Max is 16 pounds.”

The Cobles were able to get Max away from the St. Bernard, they said, but not without sustaining injuries of their own. They consider themselves the luckier ones.

“We did ask them to leave,” Tinsley Coble said of the two dog walkers, “because it was quite clear that Max was bleeding and quite seriously injured.”

The cockapoo needed emergency surgery for a perforated abdomen that night at Seattle Veterinary Specialists, after a referral from Madison Park Veterinary Hospital. His sutures came out on July 10.

Nancy Evans, who owns a professional pet care business, goes to Blue Dog Pond a few times a week, she said. She had just arrived there with three dogs on June 29 when she heard a commotion.

“As I entered the park they were just getting the dogs separated,” Evans said. “I had never seen the dog walker before. Apparently they have a number of dog parks that they go to.”

Evans said she went to get a towel and baby wipes from the car. Max was biting at his owners when she got back.

“He was in pain,” Evans said. “He didn’t want to be touched.”

She said the two women with the van and the large number of dogs were rude, and the Cobles were in shock.

“I was there when she came back and said her (business) name was Fetch, and it was not,” Evans said.

The Cobles reported the attack on Nextdoor later that night, posting photos and what information they had about the dog walkers, who reportedly claimed to be with “Fetch,” and provided a gmail address with fetch in the name. Tinsley Coble wrote that one walker said Wendy Salscheider owned the St. Bernard, but declined to identify herself.

Salscheider operates Explorer Dogs of Seattle with her partner, Brenda Blackburn, who used to run Fetch Doggie Daycare in Madrona — it closed three years ago.

While Fetch Doggie Daycare no longer exists, Fetch! Pet Care has a number of local franchises. Cameron Thompson covers the south side of Seattle, plus Kent and Bellevue, while Tamara Bean covers much of the central and north portions of the city.

Some people following the Cobles’ story on Nextdoor assumed the two dog walkers were with Fetch!, and began posting information on how to contact them.

“All I knew was there was Fetch,” Tinsley Coble said, “and when she (Blackburn) stopped responding on text, I decided I better put this on Nextdoor.”

“That they wrote this down on a piece of paper is troubling,” Jeff Coble said.

It was also troubling for Thompson and Bean, who say they were caught up in the matter despite having no connections to the defunct Fetch Doggie Daycare.

“We got a phone call,” Thompson said, “Tamara and I each did, a day after the attack, and the bottom line was, ‘Are you Fetch? Are these your sitters?’”

Tinsley Coble said she reached out to Fetch! Pet Care’s corporate office, and the Madison Park couple was able to determine the company had no affiliation with the two dog walkers they were trying to hold accountable for Max’s and their injuries.

Fetch! Pet Care sitters don’t take dogs to off-leash dog parks for liability reasons, and the dogs handled at one time usually come from the same household, Thompson said. Neither he nor Bean have a van, they said.

Tinsley Coble updated her Nextdoor post, but the original writing still identifies Fetch! as potentially being responsible for Max’s injuries.

“If someone doesn’t take the time to read that comment, they’re going to automatically think it’s us,” Bean said.

The Fetch! franchise owners reached out to Blackburn, and the three parties had at one point planned to clear up the confusion through an interview with the Madison Park Times, but Blackburn decided to cancel.

After attempting to reach Blackburn by email for an interview, MPT was contacted by her attorney, Mark Trivett, with Badgley Mullins Turner, PLLC.

“The confusion arises from Ms. Blackburn’s use of the e-mail address, an address which she has owned for over a decade,” reads an email from Trivett. “As you know, Ms. Blackburn previously owned Fetch Doggie Day Care. On the date of the incident, Ms. Blackburn provided this e-mail address to the Cobles. By doing so, Ms. Blackburn did not intend to suggest any affiliation with Fetch! Pet Care. Rather, it is her personal email address and the best way to reach her. Ms. Blackburn has never represented any association with Fetch! Pet Care.”

Trivett states Blackburn then took a trip during the Fourth of July holiday, which resulted in a lack of communication and confusion about whether she was affiliated with Fetch! Pet Care.

Blackburn’s attorney declined to answer whether the St. Bernard that attacked Max the cockapoo was Blackburn’s personal pet and if she was taking responsibility for the medical costs, stating that would be handled directly with the Cobles or their legal representative.

“I would say it’s far from resolved in terms of who owns the dog,” said Jeff Coble, adding they’ve been communicating with their own attorney due to a lack of communication from Blackburn.

“We would like to be reimbursed for the vet bills and the medical bills,” Tinsley Coble said.

The Cobles also want the city to change regulations regarding the number of canines dog walkers are allowed to have at one time, which is currently 10 per walker.

“These two women, there was no way they could control that many dogs,” Jeff Coble said, “and to go to a dog park and release them was very irresponsible.”

Thompson and Bean say they want Blackburn to stop identifying herself as being with Fetch, which is a defunct business that is easily confused with theirs. The confusion caused on Nextdoor hasn’t affected their business as of yet, Bean said.

“We just don’t know the long-term outcome of people not contacting us after seeing this (post) and thinking this is us,” Bean said.

Bean has owned her Fetch! Pet Care franchise for more than 11 years.

“It’s a good business to be in as long as you make sure to cover all your bases,” she said.

Evans said the June 29 incident was shared on the Walkers are Offleash Friends (WOLF) Facebook page used by Seattle dog walkers, and now folks are on the lookout for Blackburn and Salscheider.

“The reason it makes me so mad is they are the reason dog walkers get a bad name,” Evans said.