She got out of her car and walked 10 paces before a pit bull darted past her and chomped down on her dog's neck.
Tuesday morning's dog attack seemed to go on for several minutes. Cayla Anderson heard her dog crying and reached into the fray in an effort to stop the fight. The lock-jawed pit bull kept shaking his head back and forth. People screamed and threw water on the ferocious dog. Eventually the pit bull let go, but not until blood was drawn.
Anderson has two puncture marks on her right hand. Her black Labrador mix, Chief, suffered a lacerated neck. Both are taking antibiotics, and Anderson will be getting a rabies shot in the next day or two.
Someone called 911, but the pit bull and his owner left the scene before the Hernando County Sheriff's Office arrived.
Anderson doesn't plan to visit Rotary Centennial Park again any time soon.
"I'm really disturbed that someone would just leave after something like that," she said. "I was shocked. I was crying."
After she and some bystanders jumped in to pry the pit bull's teeth off Chief, a detention deputy who was supervising a nearby inmate work detail wrapped Anderson's hand in a towel.
Her dog was put in a time-out crate for his safety.
Amid the confusion, and while a witness was on the phone with a 911 operator, the pit bull owner grabbed his dog and sneaked away. For Anderson, frustration has mounted over the stranger's response to the dog attack.
She has been left to pay hospital and veterinary bills. Her shaken dog, who was suffering from acute pain all day Wednesday, won't let his owner out of his sight.
To compound her frustration, Anderson initially stuck up for the pit bull owner when interviewed by deputies.
A sheriff's report alleges she didn't wish to pursue the matter and was content declaring it an unfortunate accident.
"She said it was her fault for getting between the dogs," wrote deputy Joey Stokes in his report.
Anderson doesn't remember everything she said, but regrets showing leniency for the pit bull owner.
"I don't remember saying it was my fault getting between the dogs, but at the time I didn't want to be responsible for putting that dog down," she said.
She was surprised at the witnesses who turned on the man who called 911. They, too, didn't want to see the pit bull suffer any consequences for the attack, Anderson said.
Only she and the man who called 911 stayed around for the authorities. Everyone else left, she said.
Anderson's hand was wrapped in gauze a day later and she expected to return to the hospital today or Friday to have a doctor look at her wounds again. She will be getting her rabies shot at the Hernando County Health Department.
She had seen the pit bull and its owner at the park before. Each time Chief and the pit bull played together and never seemed to have any issues, Anderson said.
The pit bull is white and brown and a male. It's on the smaller side. The owner is at least 60 years old and stands about 5 feet 6 inches tall. Anderson said she had spoken to him before but didn't get his name.
A witness to the attack emailed Hernando Today and said the same pit bull has attacked other dogs at the park in recent weeks.
Anderson has lived elsewhere in Florida and has visited various public dog parks, but she had never seen anything like what happened Tuesday.
From now on, she plans to walk Chief in her neighborhood. If she wants to give him more exercise, she will take him to her friend's house and let him run around in the backyard.
Chief whimpered throughout the day Wednesday because of the pain from his open neck wound, Anderson said. The veterinarian prescribed the highest recommended dosage of pain medication for a dog his size.
"He is such a loving dog," she said. "For me to watch it get attacked like that was so hard. It was terrible. I just felt helpless."