Baseball Hits Chihuahua on Head at Altisima Park, Killing the Dog

Pet owner calls upon SAMLARC and city leaders to enforce safety regulations that could have prevented the untimely death of Cookie.

Cookie the Chihuahua, killed Thursday night when a baseball at Altisima Park struck her on the head. Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Benavides.
Cookie the Chihuahua, killed Thursday night when a baseball at Altisima Park struck her on the head. Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Benavides.
EDITOR'S NOTE: On Thursday, Rancho Santa Margarita resident Gonzalo Benavides and his wife went to take a walk with their dog, Cookie, at Altisima Park when a baseball struck the Chihuahua on the head. Ultimately, she had to be put down. Benavidas contacted Don Chadd, president of the board of directors at Ranch Santa Margarita Landscape and Recreation Corp., and asked that the letter be made public here. Originally posted 4:32 p.m. March 25, 2014. Edited to add graphic.

I am writing this letter to you with a broken heart.  This past Friday, March 21st, as the result of a horrible incident at Altisima Park, our Chihuahua had to be put down.  While the incident resulted in the loss of our pet, the incident could have resulted in serious injury to my wife, me, a child, or another adult at the park instead. The horrible incident could have been avoided had the other park patrons considered the safety of others as they practiced baseball at the park. I thank you in advance for carefully reading this letter and considering actions that should be taken to ensure the safety of the patrons of SAMLARC parks and other recreational facilities.

This past Thursday, March 20th around 7 p.m., my wife and I were walking along with our pet Chihuahua around Altisima Park. At the same time, there was a father along with his teenager practicing baseball.  The father was hitting the ball with a bat for his son to catch.  The father was hitting the ball from within the field toward his son, whom was standing close to a walkway, outside of the fenced area; please see the enclosed aerial photograph and diagram showing their approximate locations. Well, just as we were passing behind the son, the father hit a ball towards his son, the son didn’t catch it, and the ball hit our little pet on her head.  The hit knocked her out immediately and she began bleeding profusely out of her nose and mouth. The man then walked up to the fence and from there shouted he was sorry. We had no other choice but to immediately rush our pet to the emergency animal hospital, where the veterinarian indicated our dog had a major head injury; attached is a copy of the veterinarian’s evaluation of our pet.  The following day, on Friday, March 21st, 21 hours after the horrible incident, our pet was put down because there was no hope for our little lovely pet according to the veterinarian.  She never came out of the semi-comma state she entered into after being hit by that ball at Altisima Park.

This horrible incident could have easily been prevented had the father and son duo not been hitting and catching the ball near an area designated for people to walk on. Or if the father, at the very least, had stopped hitting the ball toward his son when my wife, our pet, and I approached the area where their ball could land.

I am writing this letter to you not to complain but to let you know that patrons of SAMLARC parks and other recreational facilities should be reminded of existing safety regulations that could have prevented this horrible incident. If such regulations do not already exist, then I urge you to please establish rules for the facilities patrons to follow during the use of the facilities, which are supposed to be for the safe enjoyment of everyone in our neighborhoods. I frequent this park many times a week and I was looking forward to taking my grandson there to play; he is just two months old.  This incident has made me aware of the dangers of the park and has also made me concerned for my grandson’s safety and the safety of others.

I thank you in advance for your careful attention to this matter. I urge you to consider issuing a reminder to the community about existing safety regulations or establishing new ones that could prevent similar incidents in the future.  In addition, it is important that a method of enforcing those rules be set up for the safety of the community. 

I look forward to hearing from you regarding the actions that will be implemented to prevent other incidents in the future.


Gonzalo Benavides

Karen March 26, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Did anyone see the diagram? Obviously, not! Wasn't like he was walking on the field. Yes it wasn't intentional, but not responsible either. His point was, what if he had been walking with your child and the child hit, would you say HE shouldn't be walking. So sorry for your loss. The love and loss of a pet acknowledged by many, unfortunately, not all.
dottiej1676 March 26, 2014 at 05:19 PM
Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings! A very unfortunate accident.
Julie Mennealy March 26, 2014 at 05:48 PM
I feel bad for everyone involved...the family who lost Cookie and the family that was playing ball. I can't imagine how everyone must feel. Such a sad story. With that being said....we have to remember, as like when you're a pedestrian walking through an intersection and you have the green light, you can't assume people will stop just because you have the right of way. Like others have said, we have to be aware of our surroundings at all times. Rest in peace Cookie.
Sophia Stein Labate March 28, 2014 at 12:28 AM
So sad my heart breaks for the family. We have to always be looking around your surrounding areas. 💔
Flores March 28, 2014 at 02:44 PM
Such an unfortunate accident.


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