SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A Santa Rosa couple is heartbroken after losing their puppy, poisoned by blue green algae.
"I really want people to know the signs, because I had no idea," said Danielle Hruby, at Rincon Valley Community Park where her chocolate Labrador retriever Konah was stricken.
Warnings are now posted steps from a busy dog park and creek.
Konah, an energetic pup almost one year old, became strangely tired during a game of fetch.
"Pretty soon signs were happening, she was falling down, laying down, panting," said Hruby, who thought Konah had pulled a muscle.
Unbeknownst to Hruby, when Konah had chased her ball into the creek, and swam in it too, she swallowed water and microscopic toxins.
At home later, Konah became lethargic, then diarrhea and vomiting set in.
The next morning, the alarmed couple rushed her to a veterinarian.
"They said there was nothing they could do, her liver was gone," said Brent Hruby.
They made the painful decision to put Konah to sleep.
"She had toxins throughout her body, and her blood couldn't clot," said Danielle Hruby.
They were stunned to lose their beloved pet, not even 24 hours after exposure.
"We need to get the word out, that this happens," said Brent Hruby.
After reporting Konah's death, the Hrubys were relieved to see official warning signs posted at the dog park, in addition to homemade cardboard signs that read "RIP Konah".
Santa Rosa and Sonoma County already had warnings visible at popular parks nearby where blue green algae was detected earlier this summer.
"It's very thick and the color is very neon," said dog owner Barbara Smith, preparing to walk her dog around Spring Lake Park.
Smith spotted and reported algae in a Spring Lake cove, especially alarmed because of her experience working for a veterinarian.
"There was a dog that was at the Russian River, drank some water, and came in and was dead in 48 hours," said Smith. "It's kind of brutal how it takes them out very quickly."
The naturally occurring bacteria blooms in any stagnant water during warm weather and it is especially widespread this year.
Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks Department has now posted signs at all four city parks that have water.
Without continuous testing, the risk is difficult to detect, as the algae moves both above, and below the surface.
"Our hearts go out to the family that lost their beloved pet," said Rec and Parks spokeswoman Christy Bouffo. "We should assume that bodies of water that don't have flow, and where there's heat, that algae can grow, so assume it's present."
For the Hrubys, there is regret.
"I wish I had just taken her right away to the vet," said Danielle sadly.
Konah, part of their family since she was seven weeks old, slept on their bed every night.
"You expect to see her when you get home, and when you don't, it's tough," said Brent.
The couple is sharing their ordeal to create awareness and prevention among other dog-owners.
"We do wish there were warnings, and that this park was tested weekly," said Brent, "but if your dog is sick and has been in water, take them to the vet. I wish we knew then what we know now."