A tale of an out-of-shape journalist, a senseless attack, and a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix named Sam.

It all began with my decision to start exercising. Ever since I started working a 9-6 office job, I’ve avoided most physical exertion as strongly as I do Muni during rush hour, but I was working from home on August 10th, and thought a lunch-break uphill “hike” around Noe Valley would be the perfect way to start my new exercise regime.

An hour later, I stood at the top of one of the steepest streets in all of San Francisco (22nd and Collingsworth, to be exact), feeling rather pleased with myself for being so active when a small dog suddenly shot up the hill, a thin brown leash banging the concrete behind him. I could barely tell that the creature was even a dog at all until it finally slowed down and scrambled behind a bush in someone’s front yard, panting heavily.

I was surprised when I was able to grab hold of the leash before the dog ran away again. Getting the dog to come out of the bush was another story, since I didn’t want to drag him out but I also didn’t want to spend my entire afternoon on someone’s front lawn. After a few rounds of tug-o-war I climbed into the bush and scooped the shivering dog up in my arms. His collar proclaimed him “Sam.” I assumed someone would come for Sam soon, so I sat with him on the curb. No one came. I called the number on his collar. No one answered.

Hmm. Sam and I looked at each other. We were bonding. I decided to take him with me back to my house – only Sam refused to walk. “Seriously?” I said to him. “If I can do it, you certainly can! I saw how you barreled up here!” But no. Sam wasn’t moving. So, we sat together for awhile, until I got a phone call that went something like this.

Man: Hi, I think you found my dog.
Me: Oh, yes! Where did you lose him?
Man: In Duboce Park.
Me: Wow, that’s so far!
Man: Yeah, I know.
Me: Well… do you want to come meet me and get him?
Man: The police have to meet you.
Me: Um, why?
Man: Because I was just attacked by a homeless man.
Me: WHAT? Are you okay?
Man: Actually, no… I have to go to the hospital.
Me: !!!!!!

Clearly, the man was in shock. He handed the phone over to the police and I told them where to find me.

Sam still wasn’t moving. So I picked him up, and carried him down the street like a baby as I ran to meet the police. On my way, I passed a few people who noted, “Oh, you caught him! He was running up the hill too fast for me to catch him!”

Even the police – when I finally found them — had tried to catch him and couldn’t succeed. So, in summary, I should clearly exercise all of the time because when I do I RESCUE ANIMALS.

A few days passed without any word from Sam’s owner. I thought about calling him, but when I finally decided to do so his number was no longer stored in my call log. Then, a few days ago, the Appeal got an email from a man named Michael Harkin looking for witnesses to his attack in Duboce Park on Tuesday, the 10th.

I contacted Michael, who told me that when we talked he was in “agonizing pain and waiting for the EMTs to arrive.” He also told me that this week marks the one year anniversary of bringing Sam home from a rescue organization!

When I remarked that the distance was quite a long way for a small dog to travel, he wrote, “It is interesting (and scary) that he made his way all the way over there. He is pretty active, but not a big fan of hills. He does have a good memory for direction, so I suspect that he may have been going to his last foster home, which is around Church & 30th.”

What a smart dog!

Michael’s detailed report (Haighteration has a report, too) on his attack is below: key points are that it that took place around 2 PM on August 10, and his attacker is described as in his late 20s or early 30s, around 6’3″, slender with somewhat broad shoulders. His hair is chestnut/brown, medium to long in length. Michael believes he had a goatee or mustache. If you think you might know who his attacker is, please contact the police via their tip line at (415) 575-4444.

On Tuesday, August 10th around 2:00 pm, I was eating lunch at an outside table at Duboce Park Cafe. I was alone with my dog Sam, a small Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. I noticed a man walking down Duboce Street towards Market Street. He looked towards the seating area of the cafe and approached the first person to make eye contact with him, which happened to be a single male in his mid-forties with medium-long, straight white hair and eyeglasses. I did not hear the conversation, but the soon-to-be assailant shoved some things of this guy’s table or a table nearby and started walking down Sanchez Street. After the person passed the seating area of the cafe, I looked at the other cafe patron. We sort of shrugged our shoulders, rolled our eyes and gave each other the ‘there goes another crazy person look.’

The crazy person may have turned around to see this exchange, because he then approached me and made angrily commented that he had “heard what I said” and that I should “watch my f-ing mouth”. I didn’t actually say a word. He started walking down Sanchez Street.

A couple minutes later, I was tying my dog up so I could bring my dirty dishes into the cafe when I noticed the person standing right next to me. I started untying my dog and he threatened that ‘If I left my dog there he was going to kick him across the street.’ A bit shaken at this point, I started walking up Duboce Street towards the Muni tunnel. I was halfway up the block when I realized that he was staring at me and slowly following me. I walked into the park and was in the middle of the open, grassy area watching my dog play with another dog in the park. I avoided making eye contact with this person, but noticed that he walked to the upper path, across the park, and down the other walkway, essentially circling me. He yelled at me something akin to “give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now.” At this point I was starting to feel threatened, so I started walking away, towards the Muni stop.

The last time that I noticed, this guy was 30-40 yards behind me. Without saying a word, he ran up and tackled me from behind, wrapping his arms around my upper body, sending me flying several feet through the air. I landed on my side, with him on top of me.

There were five to eight people in the park at that moment. I heard people running towards us. I don’t recall if he ran off or if he was pulled off me. By the time I raised my head, he was gone. So was my dog. Witnesses immediately offered to call 911. I think I initially shook my head “no,” but when I rolled over onto my back and realized that I couldn’t move my right leg and that I was in excruciating pain, I tried to call 911 from my own phone, which I could not. A guy offered to call for me. While he was doing so I told him that I couldn’t see my dog. He handed me his phone and told me that he would look for my dog.

The cops had arrived while I was still on the phone with 911. I told them that my dog had ran off. They took notes about my dog, which actually calmed me down before they started asking me about the attack. A couple people approached the police officers and offered to be witnesses, others approached us to offer to look for my dog. A resident who witnessed it told the police officers that she may have kicked that person off her front stoop earlier that day, and that the person may have left a beer can behind that might provide some evidence (finger prints).

As the officers were taking my information down, I received a message from the person who found my dog. [Editors Note: GUESS WHO?] Unable to call from my phone, one of the officers dialed the number on his. After establishing that the person did have my dog, I gave the phone to the officer so he could arrange meeting up with this person. The officer took my house keys and my address and told me that he would return the dog to my home. The officer did so and returned to the park even before the EMT’s arrived.

While the EMT’s were treating me, the officer informed me that other patrol cars in the area had not managed to find my attacker. I am hoping to find other people who witnessed this attack or who may have encountered this person. Given his highly agitated state, it seems quite likely that he had harassed or attacked other people on that day.

I was diagnosed with a broken hip socket, had my leg put in traction, and underwent quite extensive orthopedic surgery to fix it. I was in the hospital for over a week, and I am now just beginning to heal and get my life back in order.

The attacker was in his late 20s or early 30s, around 6’3″, slender with somewhat broad shoulders. His hair is chestnut/brown, medium to long in length. I believe he had a goatee or mustache. He looked like he had been living on the streets, but was well-groomed. Witnesses say he was carrying a large blue backpack or duffel bag, though I don’t recall this.

I do hope that this person is taken off our streets and brought to justice. But failing that, I would like an opportunity to personally thank all of the witnesses that came forward, the people who looked for my dog, and the hero that found him [Aw, thanks].”

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