On Highland Park’s day of horror, a small act of kindness for a little dog hurt in the chaos
As people fled the Fourth of July parade shooting, a tiny terrier named Lola was running down a street, bleeding, after a family member was grazed by a bullet. Lucky for Lola, Katie Gillman saw her.
Katie Gillman was racing south down Second Street in Highland Park, a few steps behind her husband Max, who’d grabbed their daughters’ double stroller and yelled “Run!” after the shooting began at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade.
Just before Walnut Street, she looked back and saw a mass of people, all running for their lives.
“And leading the pack was this little dog,” Katie Gillman says.
It was a Yorkshire terrier, 6½ pounds, in a pink harness and trailing a leash. Gillman says she ran back and scooped up the terrified animal “football-style” under one arm.
She caught up with her husband and daughters, 4½ years old and 16 months old. And she looked down and saw the blood all over her arm, oozing onto her from the dog’s right eye.
On a day of horror, the family focused on one small thing they could do: help this dog.
They got home, and Max wrapped the little dog in a bath towel. He placed the bundle on the passenger seat of their Honda CR-V and sped toward BluePearl Pet Hospital in Northfield, figuring it would be one of the few places open on the Fourth of July.
Dr. Todd Horowitz, the veterinarian on duty, had just heard about the shooting when Max Gillman ran in. Horowitz started an IV and saw the dog hadn’t been shot or hit with shrapnel. But it did have “significant trauma” to its right cornea and eyelid.
“She was actually really sweet,” Horowitz says of the tiny dog. “She was really scared, but you could tell she was a nice dog. She was used to people.”
The vet doesn’t know what caused the injury but guesses someone running to escape the gunfire might accidentally have kicked the dog.
Meanwhile, Max Gillman texted his neighbor Megan O’Meara, who posted a photo of the bleeding dog on Nextdoor.com, naming the animal hospital and asking: Does anyone know this dog’s owner?
Around the same time, a woman posted a message looking for her sister’s dog Lola, which had disappeared in the chaos of the shooting.
The dog, owned by Reina Conner and her family, had taken part earlier that morning in Highland Park’s kiddie parade, riding in a wagon with Conner’s 4-year-old grand-niece.
When the shooting started, family members grabbed the little girl and ran to a nearby Walker Bros. pancake restaurant. One relative, Lilli Carrasco-Martini, 18, was grazed on her cheek by a bullet and treated at a hospital, according to Conner, who was home when it happened.
“Everybody kind of ran in different directions,” Conner says. “It was horrific what they went through.”
When the family spotted O’Meara’s post, an aunt headed straight to the veterinary clinic. After six hours, Lola was well enough to go home.
“Our pets are family & during this difficult time we are lucky to have Lola back with us. Wishing all of you [love] & healing,” a member of Conner’s family wrote in a post thanking all who helped.
Conner says Carrasco-Martini needed stitches in her cheek and that her family is getting counseling for trauma.
But she says: “We’re just so lucky that they’re all alive. Some people were not as fortunate as us.”
They’re planning to go to an animal eye specialist soon, hoping to hear that Lola might regain her vision in the injured eye.
The Gillmans, who plucked Lola from the chaos, say their older daughter, not yet 5, doesn’t understand what happened. She only knows there was noise and people running and a little dog who was injured and lost.
“She talks about the ‘firecrackers’ at the parade that day, but she also talks about Lola,” Max Gillman says. “Getting the dog back with its family, that’s her memory of the day. That’s our silver lining.”