Marilyn Northcott usually bathed Cherie, her 5-year-old apricot-colored poodle, at home in a washtub. But this week she decided to take the dog to the pet store for a flea bath "because it's that time of year and she deserved really good treatment."
But the tiny dog never got the special treatment Northcott had planned. Instead, the outing proved fatal for the miniature poodle.
On Tuesday, the five-pound dog was viciously kicked by a passing pedestrian, and on Friday morning she slipped into a coma and died. Northcott said Cherie had suffered a broken back, punctured lung and several fractured ribs.
"She said she wished he had kicked her instead of her dog," said Norma Sandler, a friend and business associate of Northcott. "She just loved that dog."
Northcott said she was walking on San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood on Tuesday. She was about four doors away from the pet shop, she said, when "a frightening-looking man" in dark boots approached her and asked for a cigarette. She ignored his request and tried to dodge him.
"He got so furious, evidently when I wouldn't give him a cigarette," said Northcott, 54. "The next thing I knew he had kicked my dog."
The poodle, which was on a leash, was hurled into the air and landed on the sidewalk. Passers-by who saw what happened, including an aide to West Hollywood Mayor Alan Viterbi, grabbed the man, later identified as Christopher Michael, 30, of Beverly Hills. They held him until deputies arrived minutes later, said a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman.
Michael was arrested and is in custody at West Hollywood Sheriff's Station in lieu of $5,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on a felony charge of cruelty to animals, Sheriff's Lt. Ed Baker said.
"It's so unbelievable that a big, strapping guy would ever dream of kicking anything this tiny," said Northcott, a free-lance prop designer for television and films.
"I thought he was after my purse. I never dreamed he'd even think of my dog," Northcott said.
She had reason to think about her purse, having been mugged two months earlier outside a restaurant just a few blocks from where her dog was kicked.
After the attack, Northcott rushed Cherie to a nearby animal hospital where the lifeless dog, whose heart had stopped beating, was revived. Cherie also underwent back surgery, but Northcott was told that even if the dog recovered, it probably would not walk again.
Northcott said she will probably get another dog and plans to work with Actors and Others for Animals to educate people about the treatment of animals.
"If they don't own them and love them, they should at least respect them," she said.
Northcott said she is still saddled with veterinary bills totaling more than $1,500 for the dog's injuries.
"She doesn't have the money to pay for all this," Sandler said. "She ran up all these bills and lost the dog."
Northcott said she had the poodle since it was 6 weeks old and had seen the dog through two litters and a broken hip.
"I loved that dog so much," Northcott said. "I have three children, all grown, and she was like my fourth baby."