Roberta Lujan wasn't surprised when she found her dog bringing apparently abandoned newborn kittens to her front door last week.
Akida, her gentle Shar-Pei and German shepherd mix, loves to play with her other dog, Choo Choo, a chihuahua, and has been a constant companion of her son, Margarito. They are the same age, 11.
"She doesn't bark at anybody," the longtime Arroyo Seco resident said. "She's never bitten anyone. She's got a loving, kind-hearted soul."
Lujan was devastated when she found out that a neighbor allegedly shot at her dog when he thought the dog was killing the newborn kittens. One of the bullets might have struck the dog in the ear, slicing it, although sheriff's deputies say the injury could have been caused by something else.
The dog is recovering at home after surgery Monday, thanks to support of a local animal-welfare organization and Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic.
Feral cats and unwanted kittens plague her neighborhood, Lujan said. In May, she found several abandoned kittens that couldn't be saved. But last week, she and her son heard a strange noise while sitting in a backroom.
It was the squeaky meow of a kitten, Lujan said, and both she and her son spotted Akida gently holding a baby gray kitten in its mouth. The dog had brought the kitten to the porch and was cleaning it, she said, licking it as if she were its mother.
Lujan quickly provided for the kitten, getting a towel and a heating pad. As they were caring for the kitten, Akida brought back another one, she said, a white one.
Lujan said she thinks the kittens either came from a neighbor's shed or under a tree. The kittens' mother was nowhere to be found.
Akida went missing the next morning, Friday, while Lujan and her son took the kittens with them to get more formula and bottles.
While searching for Akida, Lujan said her neighbor, Joey Gonzales, accused the dog of killing the kittens and told her that he called animal control. She then told him the story from her perspective.
"He said 'I was going to kill your dog,' " she said. "But I told him she was taking care of the kittens like a mama."
Lujan said she returned the kittens to Gonzales and she and her son spent the day looking for Akida. It was during the search that another neighbor told her Gonzales had taken shots at the dog. Lujan called animal control officers, who brought over a cage to help catch the dog.
Gonzales told sheriff's deputies that he thought the dog was trying to kill the kittens and shot at her, said Corporal Edward Medina. Gonzales, who was cited for negligent use of a firearm, reportedly shot at the dog between three and four times.
Akida eventually came back to the porch, but was skittish and ran off Saturday morning into the mountains. Lujan said she noticed blood on the porch and worried about the dog's health.
Lujan and her son were eventually able to catch the dog and get her veterinary treatment.
The veterinary care was mostly cosmetic, said Debbie Ortiz, the clinic's secretary.
Now Lujan, who was cited for having a loose dog, is working on a fenced run for Akida. She said she normally keeps the dog on a chain, but Akida slipped free the day of the incident.
Medina said the story remains open to interpretation, adding that it wasn't confirmed that Akida was ever hit by a bullet. "She could have gotten the injury trying to get through a fence," he said.
Medina said the proximity of homes in the area and the number of shots fired prompted the weapons citation. Gonzales, who wasn't available for comment, reportedly told deputies that he was simply trying to protect the kittens and that the dog is often running at large on his property.
The kittens, however, are safe, Medina said. And Akida is recovering nicely at home, Lujan said. "She is doing good, but still whines in pain, poor baby."