Town Crier: Death caps prove deadly for Oakland pet

MONTCLARION: December 11, 2009

The loss of a pet can be devastating. For many of us, the family dog or cat is a loved one that can’t easily be replaced. To die of old age is one thing – you have time to prepare for your pet’s passing. But to succumb to something that can be prevented – is crushing.

Andrea Flaherty and her husband were walking their dog on Estates Drive in Piedmont, the evening after Thanksgiving. Their pet stopped to do what pets do – stick its nose in the grass and root around for food.

But in this case, the dog ate a poisonous mushroom that caused, within hours, his liver to shut down. By Monday morning, their beloved friend was dead. “This is a terrible thing to happen in such a nice, residential neighborhood while you are out walking your dog on a leash,” Andrea writes. “His death has left a hole in our hearts.”

But while the Flahertys grieve, they also want to put out a warning. Every winter these death caps spring up and are mistaken for edible mushrooms. Know what they look like and if you see them in your neighborhood – get rid of them. At the very least – avoid them like the plague – because they’re just as deadly. More information can be found at

E-mail bag: Readers keep mentioning the increase in graffiti in Montclair Village. Vandals are tagging street signs, utility boxes, parking meter machines and even the visible tops of buildings. The Montclair Village Association is trying to stay ahead of the problem, but Roger Vickery admits it’s discouraging. He also thinks local youth may be involved, so he’s sending a “heads up e-blast to parents. In the meantime, you can help by reporting graffiti by e-mail to

Speaking of crime, merchant Joe Sullivan says Oakland police think they’ve caught the guy who was breaking into cars in Montclair over a period of several months. They were smash-and-grab crimes of opportunity in broad daylight – something that has plagued every neighborhood in Oakland lately.

Milestone event: A sweet celebration marked the 25th anniversary, last week, of Dr. Joel Parrott’s reign as director of the Oakland Zoo. A more humble man, you’ll never meet – and the party reflected this. It was an intimate gathering of staff and friends, each sharing stories of “Doc’s” many successes. My own relationship with Parrott goes back 25 years, to a radio interview I did with him on the Skyride. By the time the ride landed he’d talked me into being a zoo volunteer, which led to five years on the Board of Directors. His enthusiasm was contagious and remains so today – and that’s pretty remarkable. After a quarter of a century – Doc still sees his job as a calling.

Christmas treats: Some of the best holiday treats can be found for free – at local churches. Consider the delicious Greek cookies and pastries that are offered, each year, to attendees of the wonderful Christmas concert at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral (tonight at 8 pm at 4700 Lincoln Avenue). Not to be outdone are the pancakes and Lingonberry preserves that the international Seafarers Center offers to mariners during their annual holiday breakfast. I haven’t had Lingonberries since I found them at the bottom of my martini glass in Lapland two winters ago. They’re a tart little offering for the season – to be sure.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418, by email at or on the web at


2 thoughts on “Town Crier: Death caps prove deadly for Oakland pet

  1. For what it is worth: I drove down Moraga Ave. towards Piedmont today. Near lower Moraga Canyon under oak trees, I spotted some mushrooms, parked car, and identified a new growth of death cap (Amanita phalloides) mushrooms. Dog walkers be careful!

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