By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter
“It was a horrible, horrible thing. It was a tragedy that didn’t have to happen,” said acting Rosebud tribal chairman William Kindle last week about the death of Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49.
She died in a hospital after an early morning attack, Sat., March 14, by dogs near her home in the Rosebud community of Lower Swift Bear west of White River, S.D. in Mellette County.
“We’ve been with the family. We had a prayer vigil with the family last night (Wed., March 18),” Kindle said. “We assured them that something’s going to be done about these dogs that are running loose.
“We’re trying to assure the rest of the (Rosebud) population here that we want to get control of this so it doesn’t happen again. It was an awful tragedy and we don’t want it to take place again.”
He said tribal police with the help of Game, Fish, and Parks personnel were in the process of addressing the problem.
“They got a schedule to go through all the communities. Right here in Todd County, there are probably 15. Then we have one community there in the Winner area and also out at Ideal, north of Winner.
“There’s another community where the old town of Dixon used to be along Highway 44. And another one is down in the Herrick area. Hopefully we can get through all of them,” he said.
The officials were on the look-out especially for dogs that appeared to be roaming free, owned by no one. Unwanted, mangy ones. Whatever.
Most are captured, Kindle indicated, though some destroyed.
“What we don’t want to do is go out there and do a massive dog kill. That’s not our intent.
We certainly don’t want to come through a community and pick up any pets, family pets. We’ve got to identify those. We’re not after those,” he said.
Dogs being confined to their owners’ homes stand the best chance of not being taken. “We want to get off the streets, those that are loose and running wild,” Kindle explained.
Dogs captured at the various communities are being confined, Kindle continued.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs has a large metal building out here just east of Rosebud, two or three miles out. And they are letting us use that building until we can get a permanent structure up somewhere.
We’re trying to locate some funding to get a permanent structure and get two or three people to man the operation,” he said.
It will be a place to keep the (impounded dogs) for 48 hours or whatever. Give people time to claim their pets. Try to get some collars and tags at that time for them. Unclaimed dogs after a certain time period will be euthanized, he said.
“We don’t want to. We don’t like the fact that we’re going to have to do some of that.”
Two dogs were killed at the site of the attack on Charging Whirlwind, March 14. Emergency personnel were called and one who responded was Mellette County sheriff Mike Blom. He shot the dogs.
According to media reports, other dogs in the area deemed vicious or dangerous were also destroyed that day.
According to Kindle, the dog attack certainly initiated the death of Charging Whirlwind, but possibly the trauma of the event rather than dog bites themselves were the specific cause.
He said autopsy results weren’t available as of mid-week, last week, but speculation among tribe members was that cardiac arrest from the attack may have been reason for the woman’s death.
Charging Whirlwind had five children and three grandchildren.
According to Rosebud tribal law enforcement administrator Marlin Enno, one of the two dogs killed by Sheriff Blom was a pit bull or a mixed breed pit bull.
The pups are valuable and raising them seems to have become popular on the Rosebud reservation, Kindle commented. “We’re seeing more and more of that breed. And you notice a lot of cross-bred dogs with pit bull blood in them. Apparently the breed is pretty popular right now,” he said
While tribal police and GF&P personnel continue to make their rounds of towns in search of dogs that need to be removed or destroyed, Enno cautioned people who may be on foot anyplace on the Rosebud reservation.
If you don’t know a dog, don’t be going up to it.
If you see a pack of dogs, don’t intimidate them or tease them. A pack can be as few as four or five dogs, he assessed.
If confronted by a snarling dog or dogs, Enno advised that people stand still.
“If you stand there and hold your ground, more than likely the dog isn’t going to bother you. It will back away because it sees you’re bigger than them,” he said.
“The biggest thing is don’t run. Because all you do is entice it (a dog or a pack), if you run. Then it turns into a hunt for them.”