Mary Padres flung open the sliding door of her La Verne property Friday evening and saw a mountain lion staring back at her.
It was "literally right there in front of me, looking at me," Padres recalled.
Rocky, the smaller and older of her two rescue dogs, immediately sprung into action.
The roughly 30-pound, 7-year-old shepherd mix charged at the large cat 'to drive him off our property, basically," Padres said.
The creatures, mismatched in size and power, disappeared into the cloak of night.
When Rocky returned more than half an hour later, he was in bad shape.
"He had injuries all over his body," Padres, 44, said of the pup she thinks has some pit bull in him.
A tooth puncture on his head extended all the way down to the skull, indicating that the lion may have clutched the dog's head in its jaws, Padres said. Bite marks and scratches covered the dog's body.
While looking for Rocky during that harrowing night, Padres said she heard heavy footsteps and breaking branches — and what sounded like the mountain lion dragging the pooch. Finally, she heard lighter footsteps approach.
"He kind of collapsed in our hands," said Padres, who was home with her husband and three children.
The family rushed Rocky to the vet, where he received at least 30 stitches. The treatment racked up a $2,500 bill, and the family is raising funds to cover the cost.
Though Rocky is on the mend, Padres said she's still concerned about him.
On Wednesday morning, he wasn't eating his dog food. His medicine may have been upsetting his stomach, so she cooked him fresh meat.
Local police arrived the same morning to discuss the possibility of posting signs along trails in the area.
A mountain lion, possibly the one that attacked Rocky, was spotted Tuesday morning, and there have been previous lion sightings in the foothill neighborhood.
Wildlife officials determined that the dog provoked the contact, said Tim Daly, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in an email.
Typically, mountain lions don't attack dogs, but conflicts happen occasionally when dogs are left out at night unprotected, according to Rebecca Barboza, a Fish and Wildlife biologist in the region.
"If a dog is aggressive toward a mountain lion, it is normal and expected behavior for the mountain lion to defend itself," Barboza said in an email.
State wildlife officials are not planning to track down the puma or take additional action, which they said is typical in these cases.
Barboza explained, "Instead, we focus on educating the residents on how to prevent future incidents from occurring."
Pets, along with their food and water, should be kept indoors, particularly at night when mountain lions are on the hunt.
Deer are the lions' primary prey, so if deer are sighted frequently, they should be kept off properties as well, she said.
More than half of California is mountain lion stomping grounds, according to state wildlife officials.
In their backyard wedged against a hillside, Padres and her family have encountered bears, deer, coyotes and bobcats during the roughly seven years they've lived in the area.
Rocky and Zoey, the other family dog, are quick to sound the alarm, as are canines in neighboring yards.
"When there is something in the backyard, you can hear the dogs," said Padres. "They have a different bark, like the sound is different and the urgency is different — you know that there's something wrong going on."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.