Mike Willcox is running out of lies. It has been five days since the family dog, Shutter, died from what the vet believes was a brain hemorrhage, caused by a random CenterPoint contract worker striking Shutter in the head with a wrench. But Willcox and his wife haven't found a way to break the news to their two- and four-year-old sons, who still believe that Shutter is at the vet recovering. It was four-year-old Mason's birthday on Friday, and it was simply horrible timing.
“He keeps telling us to take the white truck to the vet to pick up Shutter,” Willcox said. “As young parents, we're not really sure what to do. We've never had to deal with anything like this before.”
On the morning of March 23, a contract worker with CenterPoint walked into Willcox's backyard — without knocking or alerting his wife, who was inside with the kids — and was caught on a surveillance camera swatting at both Shutter and Willcox's other dog, Flash. On Willcox's tape, neither dog is seen aggressively attacking the worker, only barking at him. In fact, once the worker, who is still unidentified, raises his hand to swing, the dogs cower in fear. Shutter tried to run past him, but the man turned and hit her anyway. Flash sustained a busted eye and fractured jaw. At the end of the video that Willcox posted to Facebook, he said, “Thanks to CenterPoint, my dogs are lucky to be alive.”
Immediately after it happened, Shutter seemed to be doing a little better than Flash. She was limping, but Flash almost lost his eye and had to have jaw surgery. Both dogs received some pain medication. But while Flash continued to recover, Shutter got worse. She started coughing and vomiting, Willcox said, and losing weight rapidly. Willcox was taking her to the vet every other day, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then Shutter had a seizure — and when they took her in for the last time, the vets knew it was because of the head trauma.
“I'm just so frustrated,” Willcox said. “I don't understand how somebody can just walk into my backyard and kill my dog and not get in trouble for that."
Willcox said he filed a complaint with the Houston Police Department and sent HPD the surveillance tape. He said he emailed to tell an investigator that the dog has now died, but has not yet heard back. As for the unidentified worker, CenterPoint has said that it has severed ties with him. It offered to pay the dogs' vet bills, but Willcox said the company was so quick to make sure he knew that this was not “their” worker, he says the apology didn't necessarily feel sincere.
Willcox said that both Shutter and Flash have been “an extension of the family” for the past eight years. They had never bitten anyone or attacked anyone in the past, and in fact had been so well-behaved that Willcox could leave their gate open in the yard and the dogs would always stay put.
Flash is doing better, Willcox said, but like Mason, he too, keeps looking around for his friend.