POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) —The Perkins family dropped their dogs off at a Winter Haven boarding facility Friday and went away for a weekend at Walt Disney World.
They came home a day early after learning one of their dogs had died.
“It’s kind of like a little memorial for him,” said Giovanna Perkins while pointing to a table inside her family’s Auburndale home.
All she has left of her dog Smokey are her memories and his things.
“We have, like, his leash that they gave us. We have like a little paw thing that the veterinarian technician gave us,” she said.
The teenager says her family got Smokey in 2020 during the pandemic.
“He was my puppy. He was the one that I kind of had for comfort,” she said.
As they have several times in the past, the family dropped Smokey and their other dog, Chewy, off at Ruff & Fluff in Winter Haven for the weekend.
“Sunday, we got a call from them that Smokey had died,” said Perkins.
According to Perkins, her family was given Smokey’s body wrapped in blankets and told he died from either a seizure or heatstroke.
“There was nothing wrong with him. So we were kind of just surprised because it’s like this has never happened before. We have never had an issue with it. When we got told that’s the reason we obviously thought there was more going on,” said Perkins.
The family wonders if Smokey was possibly attacked by another dog.
8 On Your Side’s Staci DaSilva went to Ruff & Fluff Wednesday.
The owner, Amanda Howell, said she was advised not to talk to media on camera by legal counsel.
News Channel 8 reached out to Howell’s lawyer but did not hear back.
Howell said she believed Smokey’s death was heat-related and happened in a matter of minutes.
She said one employee was working at the time of Smokey’s death and her policy is to not allow dogs outside for longer than 10 minutes in the summer heat.
Security cameras did not capture what happened to Smokey.
Howell said she encouraged the Perkins family to get a necropsy performed.
“I leave [my dog] here when I go on vacation. I bring her here to play. It’s a wonderful place,” said customer Wendy Tracey. “They play, they get overheated. These people watch them very well.”
According to the American Kennel Club, flat-faced breeds, including pugs, are especially prone to overheating.
“Unfortunately, it can happen quickly, so it’s important to recognize the warning signs early,” the AKC wrote online.
Signs of a pug overheating include dry mouth, nose and gums; poor skin elasticity; fast, noisy breathing; excessive panting or drooling; sunken eyes; and disorientation or staggering.
The Perkins family said they felt the staff at Ruff & Fluff could have done more to explain what happened.
“It kind of just felt like a stab in the back because we trusted them with our literal fur baby, our child. It’s kind of just a heartbreak for all of us because a sorry would have just sufficed,” said Giovanna Perkins.