It was near dusk in the rural town of Wenatchee, Wash., when homeowner Jennie O'Neill was alerted to trouble by her springer spaniel, Cara. The dog had come to a skidding halt on the wraparound porch where O'Neill, her three children and a neighbor girl were standing when it turned tail and ran indoors. After O'Neill whisked the youngsters inside, she noticed through a window that her other dog, a German shepherd-husky mix named Balto, was fighting with another animal. Just then, O'Neill's 13-year-old son went to break up the fight. Unfortunately, it wasn't until after he kicked the attacking animal that he realized it was an enraged cougar. "It had huge eyes," said the boy. "They looked right at me." By this time, O'Neill had retrieved a .38-cal. revolver and had taken up a position by a window in the kitchen door. With her son safely back inside, and Balto's life fading, she aimed and fired. The shots proved fatal to the cat, which turned out to be a malnourished, 79-lb. male. "When it came up on my porch, it was starving," said O'Neill. "A kid, a dog, it didn't care, it just wanted to eat." Local authorities had reported a rash of such incidents involving cougars that appeared increasingly fearless.
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