Woman punched at dog park says she's scared to return

Woman says she was punched in the face after a disagreement over a dog's ball turned violent.

RCMP are looking for suspects

Darby says Lola is doing fine after she was allegedly kicked in the stomach by a man at the Marlboro Dog Park last week. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

A woman who told police she was punched in the face by a fellow dog walker last week says she is still afraid to return to the off-leash area where she was attacked.

Darby, who asked that only her first name be used, took her dog Lola a 9-month-old Rottweiler Husky cross to the off-leash Marlboro Dog Park off-leash area in Spruce Grove on May 9.

Darby says she had only been to that particular park a handful of times. She’s a regular at other off-leash areas in the city.

“We were there by ourselves and it was really nice,” she said. “So we were just sitting in the park and then more people showed up so I thought, ‘oh fun, friends.’”

Darby says she started walking towards a man and woman, and watched as Lola started chasing a ball with their yellow Labrador and two Wiener dogs.

Darby, who asked only to be identified by her first name, says she was punched in the face by a fellow dog owner last week after her dog, Lola, started playing with his dogs' ball. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

She said she could tell the other dog owners didn’t want company so she kept a distance.

“[Lola] would steal [the ball] and then drop it she was just playing with the other dogs,” said Darby. “Then the people seemed to be getting quite agitated.

“They were just telling her to shoo and trying to chase her away, kind of, and getting really angry,” she said.

The other owners yelled at Lola, telling her to drop the ball.

“I understand it was their ball, but I don't know,” said Darby. “At an off-leash park, everyone knows if you have a ball it’s kind of a free-for-all. Everyone’s going to play with it.”

‘If you don’t get the eff out of here, I’m going to punt your dog.’

Darby said she got Lola to drop the ball and called her back which is when she says things got worse.

“The one guy’s dog barked and he freaked out and started swearing at me. And then he’s like ‘if you don’t get the eff out of here, I’m going to punt your dog.’”

At this point, Darby said she was getting really upset. She yelled at the man not to go near her dog.

“I kind of ran towards him because he was running at my dog and then he kicked her [in the stomach],” she recalled.

The man then started coming towards her, she said.

“He was swearing at me and calling me terrible names and I was terrified at this point,” she remembered, tearing up.

“I knew this guy was violent now and I knew something could potentially happen, and I was by myself so it was really scary. He was in my face and swearing at me and wouldn’t back down, and he was a big guy so as self defence … I guess I slapped him,” she admitted.

Darby says the trouble started when Lola picked up another dog's ball at the off-leash area. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

“I didn’t think about it, it was just the first thing I did. Then he just wound up and punched me in the eye.”

Darby said she fell to the ground and lay there for a little while after being hit.

When she looked up, she saw the man running away with his dogs. His girlfriend stayed by Darby long enough to apologize.

“She’s like ‘I’m so sorry, he shouldn't have done that.’ Then she just followed him and they ran away and I called the cops.”

RCMP investigating

Although her eye is now recovering and Lola is doing fine, Darby says she’s scared to visit the dog park again.

“When you go through something like that, it’s quite traumatizing. I’ll probably have to go talk to someone,” she said. “I replay it over and over in my head, which is the worst part. I don’t want to think about it anymore.

“It’s never even crossed my mind that somebody would do something like that,” she added.

The RCMP sent out a news release asking for the public’s help in locating the couple.

The male suspect is described as 6’2” tall, very muscular with a shaved head. He is thought to be in his mid- to late-30s and was wearing blue jeans and a sweater at the time of the incident.

His girlfriend has bleached blond hair, is about 5’2” tall and was wearing a grey cardigan and tank top.

Police are asking anyone with information about the pair, or who might have seen the assault, to call  RCMP or Crime Stoppers.