SAN JOSE -- A quiet Almaden neighborhood is reeling after two teen boys reportedly bludgeoned a pet dog to death during a string of home burglaries Tuesday, according to the San Jose Police Department.
Ironically, the killing of Sparky, a Chihuahua mix, came on National Dog Day, meant to honor the helpful roles dogs play in society and increase awareness of the countless dogs in the country who need owners.
Officers got onto the burglary trail about 2:30 p.m. when a resident reported a break-in at his home in the 7000 block of Burnside Drive. Two boys, ages 13 and 14, were caught and arrested, and soon after, police linked them to at least three other home burglaries in the neighborhood, Sgt. Heather Randol said.
Around 8 p.m., police received a call from a homeowner in the 6800 block of Eldridge Drive, which is in the same area. The resident reported that in addition to the home being burglarized, the family dog was badly beaten inside the home. An investigation linked both crimes to the same boys, who were booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of animal cruelty and residential burglary.
Eric McKenzie, Sparky's owner, said he and his daughter returned home Tuesday evening and noticed doors were askew and that two of their dogs were uncharacteristically in the backyard. McKenzie said he also noticed one of his golf clubs out of place by a side gate. Then his daughter found a severely injured Sparky in an upstairs bedroom.
They rushed the 11-year-old animal to an emergency veterinarian.
"Once we found Sparky, he wasn't in good shape," McKenzie said. "He was whimpering in a way I had never heard."
The veterinarian confirmed their worst fears: Sparky very likely sustained brain damage and had a low chance of survival. The family made the painful choice to euthanize and end the suffering of their beloved pet, who McKenzie described as "the leader of the pack" of their three dogs.
"I try to be a good person and understand why somebody would do something like this. But I can't justify this in anyway," he said. "The kid needs to be punished. The one that killed my dog needs to be punished."
Wednesday afternoon, neighbors milled about, and four San Jose police patrol officers visited McKenzie's home to drop off a condolence card and extend their sympathies. The officers, who are all pet owners, declined to be named in this story.
"I'm absolutely blown away kids this age would be that violent against an animal," neighbor Jenny Eisenberg said.
Residents reported on a neighborhood watch website that the boys stole food and soda, jewelry, and personal electronics. They reportedly targeted homes by knocking on the front doors and breaking in if there was no response. At the home where they were caught, residents said, the homeowner simply did not answer the door knock and actually detained one of the teens once they entered.
Police did not comment on the residents' accounts but did say they believe the burglaries were committed between noon and when they were arrested.
The boys, whose names were not released because they are minors, are believed to have forced their way into the homes through side entrances and were caught with some stolen items, Randol said.
Joyce Woodruff, a resident of the area for over two decades, said the news was "unnerving" in light of a host of break-ins this year in the general vicinity, which include a home invasion in which a teen was bound by his burglars.
"It's getting really bad when you have a dozen robberies in the middle of the afternoon," she said. "It's pretty scary."