Pet husky that killed newborn baby was trained
AIRDRIE, Alta. - A friend of an Alberta couple whose two-day-old baby was killed by the family's pet husky says the dog was probably trying to comfort the crying boy when it delivered one fatal bite to the child's delicate, tiny head.
Dawn Donald says she has spoken with the baby's devastated parents, Rob and Rhonda Fradette, and they seem to have done everything they were supposed to do when they brought their new baby home from the hospital last week.
They had locked the dog in its kennel in the basement and put their sleeping baby in his crib, Donald said. But somehow the dog escaped and went to investigate when the baby woke up crying. It was not a vicious attack, she said, and the same bite wouldn't have killed an older child.
The parents believe the dog may have been trying to care for the child, she said.
"When dogs grab their young, they grab them there to pull them in," said Donald, who came to know the Fradettes through the dog-sledding community in southern Alberta.
She said the nine-year-old female dog, a Siberian husky, had previously delivered four litters of its own puppies.
"It wanted to nurture, care for (the baby)," Donald said. "It felt like it was part of the family. That's what it seemed like to them."
Donald, who runs Mad Dogs & Englishmen Expeditions, a dog-sled touring company in Canmore, Alta., conceded that no one will ever know what was going through the dog's mind. The parents issued a statement through the RCMP on Thursday that described their son's death as an "unthinkable, tragic accident" but did not talk about what happened.
"We will never know what our family pet was thinking nor will we ever know why she did what she did," they said. "We now have to accept what has happened and move forward in our grieving and healing."
The RCMP will only say that their investigation revealed there was no negligence and there will be no criminal charges.
The baby was born on the night of Feb. 13 and was attacked on the morning of Feb. 15 at the couple's house in Airdrie, a bedroom community just north of Calgary. He died 12 hours later at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.
The animal remains in quarantine. The Fradettes said they have been too busy mourning the loss of their child to discuss whether the dog should be destroyed. The animal had not been aggressive before and went through training and obedience classes.
The parents said they also attended seminars by the Calgary Humane Society, including one on how to bring a new baby into a home with pets.
Darryl Poburan, manager of municipal enforcement in Airdrie, said the husky is being assessed by an animal behaviour specialist.
If the family decides it doesn't want the dog destroyed, the matter will be heard by a provincial court judge on March 15, he said.
"It's not the city's choice to destroy the dog," Poburan said. "In this case, we feel that it needs to be heard by a judge, and he needs to make that decision whether this dog should be put back into society or not."
Donald said the Fradettes are taking their time with the decision, "so they can look at it objectively, which is, I think, really big of them."
"Not only have they lost their baby, but now they're going to lose a dog, too, that they desperately love. And it's like their whole family unit has been blown apart in every direction."
For the Fradettes, dogs are their family and also their business. They run a home-based company called Urban Mushers that sells dog-sledding supplies. According to their website, they own four Siberian huskies named Spot, Siku, Ikkuma and Celine.
Rob Fradette is a competitive dog-sled racer. Neighbours said they often saw the family hook their dogs to a sled in front of the house to go for a ride. The couple also has a 2 1/2-year-old son.
"Both of us are very experienced regarding the husky breed and canines in general," said the couple, who added that all their dogs have gone through numerous rally, tricks, agility and pulling-sports classes.
The couple also said in the release that they have been touched by friends, relatives, fellow mushers and "complete strangers who have reached out their arms and shown us love and support during this extremely difficult time."
They have set up a memorial fund in the name of Baby Fradette. Donations will go to the Alberta Children's Hospital.
"It is with broken hearts and many tears that this memorial fund has been created," the family wrote on the hospital's website.
"Although we wish that no other family has to go through having a child in the (hospital), we are asking those that care to support this amazing facility so they can continue to do the work that they do."
The Fradettes have in the past written about their love for the dogs on their business website. Rob Fradette also detailed his sled races on Facebook.
On Feb. 14, he wrote about bringing home his new son, Grayson, and feeling like "the luckiest, most happy guy in the world." He said the dogs welcomed the baby home by singing.
His last entry simply reads: "Hurting."