Florida Keys

Mercy the terrier was groomed in the sun. The groomer is now in jail


A Florida Keys dog groomer was arrested Thursday and accused of causing a dog’s death in October by working on the pet in the hot sun and placing a muzzle on her while trimming her nails.

Cynthia Hodakowski, 56, remained in jail Thursday afternoon on a $25,000 bond, facing a charge of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

The 6-year-old Airedale Terrier, Mercy, was euthanized on Oct. 12, 2017, three days after her owners dropped her off at Hodakowski’s home on Big Pine Key to get her fur groomed, teeth cleaned, nails clipped, and bathed.

Mercy died of complications from heat stroke, according to Jason Carloni of Marathon Veterinary Hospital. Carloni on Feb. 12 told the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office that Mercy’s being groomed in direct sunlight, and also wearing a muzzle, would have contributed to heat stroke.

June Williams said she brought her dog Mercy and 3-year-old Chihuahua to Hodakowski’s home at 30958 Nathalie Rd. for grooming Oct. 9 after getting a reference for her from someone at Home Depot. Williams had never used the groomer before.

When Williams returned to pick up Mercy about five hours later, the dog could not stand or walk on her own and she immediately took her to the vet.

“What did you do to my dog?” Williams asked Hodakowski, according to the arrest report.

“I don’t know why she is so lethargic,” police said Hodakowski replied.

For the next two days, the dog couldn’t produce urine and “passed terrible amounts of bloody stool and vomited several times,” authorities said. Mercy was having kidney failure due to heat stroke, a veterinarian told deputies.

“Mercy was suffering terribly and the vet recommended euthanasia,” the report states.

Hodakowski, whose dog table and tub were in direct sunlight outside her home, told deputies that during grooming Mercy tried several times to get off the table. She noticed the dog was dehydrated so she gave her a bath and some water and later put her inside her air-conditioned house. She also said the owners had given Mercy a Benadryl before she began grooming her.

Mercy would not get up, Hodakowski said.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen