CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Playing with a popular dog toy has ended in tragic loss for a Chula Vista family.
Their five-year-old dog, Max, suffered a fatal injury on his tongue after playing with a Kong toy. About a week ago, the Stumpfs made the difficult decision of putting their beloved Rottweiler down.
“This dog was special,” said owner Jaime Stumpf. “There’s dogs and then there’s the dog, and Max was the dog.”
Max, also known as Maximus Decimus Aurelius, had been playing with the toy when Stumpf's son Tyler noticed something wrong.
“He said ‘Mom, I think Max’s ball is stuck in his mouth,'" Stumpf said.
She checked and found the ball to be positioned fine.
"He was holding it in the proper position, right in the middle of his mouth,” Stumpf said. “So we played, and he played and he had fun.”
At some point the fun ended and they all went to bed.
“Max jumped on top of me at one in the morning. I reached in to take the ball away and I realized that I couldn’t take it away,” Stumpf said.
The ball was stuck on Max’s tongue.
“There’s no hole on top. There’s a hole on the bottom and it just got sucked on his tongue,” Stumpf said. “So, the more he worked on it to try to get it out, the more it clamped down on his mouth.”
Max was rushed to the pet hospital. Veterinarians had to cut the ball off, but it was too late. Ultimately, it came down to a very difficult decision.
“Yeah, I’m not going to let our dog live without a tongue. It’s stupid,” said Stumpf, holding back tears.
FOX 5 contacted Kong. Vice President of Brand Impact Hillary Van Der Zee issued the following statement:
“We were deeply grieved to hear the news about Maximus yesterday. Since we’ve been made aware of this loss from our KONG Friends on social media we have reached out to Maximus’ family. After learning of the incident, we have launched an extensive review. We are taking this matter very seriously and need to have a deeper understanding of the facts prior to determining our next steps. We do know that this product has been sold for over five years and up until yesterday, we have never heard of any dog experiencing this type of health issue. Toy safety is at the heart and soul of what we do and we will be determining the next steps once we have all of the facts in front of us.”
Stumpf said she never heard from Kong. She’s hoping the company is considering a change.
“What I feel is that the model of this toy that he got ahold of needs to be improved. That’s it. Bottom line, that’s all I care about. Just fix it."
Just like the gladiator he was named after, Max stayed true to his name -- perhaps too true.
“It will always haunt me until the day I die that that dog, as noble as he was, laid next to me in my bed and suffered in silence,” Stumpf said. “He didn’t need to die from that, but he did.”
Stumpf told FOX 5 she is considering a lawsuit.