Last Sunday morning Les Lehotay, a Miami Beach hairdresser, had breakfast at Las Olas Cafe, at Sixth Street and Euclid Avenue, with his friend Lorenzo Ramos, a realtor, and Ramos' dog Rocco, a healthy two and a half-year-old French bulldog.
At one point Ramos took Rocco for a walk around the neighborhood, and somewhere on 5th Street Rocco meandered into some bushes and promptly ate something. Ramos pulled him back, but just a few minutes later, by the time Ramos and Rocco got back to Las Olas, Rocco's body was beset by violent seizures, and he appeared to have trouble breathing.
"It looked like he was getting fried from the inside," said Lehotay, the dog's caretaker.
Ramos and Lehotay rushed Rocco to the Alton Road Animal Hospital, at 18th Street and Alton, where a vet administered valium and seizure medication, but within an hour or so Rocco was dead. His heart had stopped.
Rocco isn't the only South Beach victim. Lela Morales, a manager at the hospital, confirmed to Riptide that the hospital treated four dogs, between last Saturday and Tuesday morning, who had experienced the sudden seizures. Three of the pets, Morales said, were reported sick after walking in the same area -- around Washington and Euclid Avenues at Fifth and Sixth Streets -- and two of the four died.
"None of these pets had a history of seizures," Morales said. "So it was obviously something acute."
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Morales, a longtime worker at the hospital, said she had never seen such a cluster of sudden seizures. "All of the dogs were young," she said, and therefore more likely to be scavenging. "Which kind of leads you to believe that it was something they ate."
Lehotay suspected Rocco had inadvertently eaten some kind of poison, possibly something that had been laid out for rats or other pests.
"He looked like he was in excruciating pain," he said. "I just don't want to see it happen to one more dog."