FRYEBURG — The pet groomer who was stabbed and robbed Tuesday at her business said that before the attack, she sensed the man at her door was dangerous and hid her 2-year-old daughter in a dog kennel to protect her.

“I told her, ‘Hide, baby, there’s a bad man here,’ ” Paulette Tuunanen said in an interview Wednesday at her home.

The man, who has not been identified or found, showed up at the door of Tuunanen’s grooming salon about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday holding a pregnant dog in distress, seeking help to deliver the puppies.

But Tuunanen, a former animal control officer who owns Creature Comforts on Lovewell Pond Road, said she knew something wasn’t right about the man. He smelled of gasoline and pig manure, she said, and he seemed nervous and had dilated pupils. His teeth were rotting and he spoke as if he was missing a few.

Thinking quickly, she ushered her daughter into a dog kennel in a back room, closed the wire door and draped a towel over it. Her daughter thought it was a game.

“She climbed right in,” Tuunanen said.

The pregnant dog, wrapped in a dirty blue blanket, was crying in pain.

Tuunanen said she saw a puppy lodged in the dog’s birth canal, and when the man tried to extract the puppy, he accidentally severed its head.

Tuunanen then called a veterinarian for help. Seeing her on the phone and perhaps believing she was calling police, the man panicked.

“He said that I made the wrong decision … that he’s not going back (to jail) again,” she said.

He punched her and forced his way inside the home-based grooming salon. The man then grabbed a resin statue of a bulldog from a shelf and clubbed Tuunanen on the head with it until it shattered.

The attack then spilled into an adjacent bathroom, where a glass picture frame and a cabinet door were shattered. The man grabbed a piece of broken glass and stabbed Tuunanen’s forearm with it. She fell to the floor and noticed a pair of grooming shears in her pocket. She tried to retaliate against the man, but he disarmed her and stabbed her in the thigh.

She momentarily lost consciousness, she said.

Finally, Tuunanen lied and told the man she had called police, scaring the man off. Before he fled, he took a few hundred dollars in cash from her business, and took the pregnant dog with him. Her lie was plausible – the Fryeburg police station is less than a mile away, on the same street as Tuunanen’s home.

Fryeburg police Sgt. Joshua Potvin said some evidence was collected from the scene and is being processed by the Maine State Police crime lab.

Little is known about how the man got to the grooming salon or if he was alone. Because Tuunanen’s shop is behind a garage at her home, she said it is difficult to hear cars that come and go. She didn’t see whether the man drove or walked to her business.

Potvin said, “We’re going to work this case until we bring the person responsible to justice.”

In all, Tuunanen needed about 10 stitches. She feared the spontaneous attack could have been much worse.

“I was terrified of sexual assault,” she said. “I was terrified most of all for the baby,” her daughter.

As word of the attack spread, Tuunanen said, people including other dog groomers sent her messages of support. Tuunanen, who has no health insurance, said she is optimistic that she will get back to business soon. And she hopes the pregnant dog gets the care it needs.

“I’m fine, the baby’s fine,” she said. “I’ll work my ass off to get back to where I was.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

Twitter: MattByrnePPH