How can you kill a loveable dog and not violate the law?
Hoover was just a big, lovable dog – a gregarious golden retriever, so what else could he be but loveable?There is a lasting image of Hoover in the tiny camera I have in my brain. It’s a snapshot taken on a rainy night last summer. Boone, our black lab, is off to the side looking rather sheepish. Hoover, our neighbor’s son’s dog, is right in front of me.Boone and Hoover had spent the last hour romping in the rain.Both dogs are a mess. Boone’s no doubt happy but obviously senses Becky, the queen of our castle, is not going to be happy about the caked-on mixture of mud, pine needles and driveway dirt that covers him from head to toe.Mud-splattered Hoover, on the other hand, is right in front of me ready to spring up and lick my face and tell me all about their adventure. He’s shaking he’s so excited. His tail is slinging water back and forth and his eyes are brighter than the light over the back door. This is one happy mutt.And now he’s dead.
He’s dead because he was shot to death.It happened last week in Rio Grande County. That’s where Hoover lived with his new best buddy, Otter, a husky mix. Their owners, Kent and Pepper, let Hoover and Otter out about 7 a.m. last Wednesday. Kent headed to work. About 30 minutes later, Pepper called the dogs. Otter, bleeding and hurt, limped back home. Hoover never made it. Pepper went searching, stopping at the homes of neighbors. Now keep in mind that Rio Grande County is wide open country. The next- door neighbor might live a quarter-mile or more down the road. Pepper stopped at houses to ask, but no one had seen Hoover.That changed at the last house. In a flat voice that betrayed no remorse that neighbor said the dogs had been on his property and he shoots dogs that come on his property. Doesn’t matter whose dog. Doesn’t matter if it’s a pet. If it’s up to him a dog on his property is a dead dog. He had shot Hoover and Otter and made no apologies for it.This wasn’t a case of the dogs chasing wildlife or harassing cattle. And the fact is, Mr. Smith does have a few head of cattle. But the dogs weren’t bothering the cattle. Nope. This was simply a case of a man murdering someone’s pet, apparently only because he can. He knew these were his neighbor’s dogs. It simply didn’t matter to him.
It gets worse.When Kent came home and found out what happened he went looking for Hoover. Inadvertently, he ended up on Smith’s property.Smith accosted Kent and demanded he get off his property. Kent said he wanted only to find his dog. And I’m sure his language was forceful. Smith pushed, then punched Kent. Trembling with rage, Kent backed away. I suspect it may have been the hardest thing Kent’s ever done in his life.He said later that it took every ounce of self control not to beat the man senseless. Something I’ve no doubt he easily could have done. “I know I took the high road and did the right thing, but it’s not easy to live with,” he said.Otter, who’s really still a pup, will recover. The bullet tore through his spleen and intestines but surgery saved him. The bullet is still in him.Kent said the fact he and Pepper can’t locate Hoover torments them. In no uncertain terms, Smith has said he better not find Kent on his property again.
“We need to … at least have his collar and tags before we’ll be able to put him to rest in our minds,” Kent said.I’ve never met Mr. Smith. Frankly I hope not too. Ever. It would be hard for me not to take the walking stick I keep in my truck to the side of his head. He deserves a good beating. And I doubt I have the self control that Kent exhibited.Kent and Pepper are seeking legal advice.It may prove to be an uphill trek. Apparently there are archaic laws in Colorado that allow a man to kill a dog simply because it crossed a property line. A similar case in Weld County caused public outcry. The dog was killed in front of the children that loved it. The judge said he had no choice but to rule the dog murderer had not violated the law. Such laws need to be expunged. They have no place in today’s world.I’m reminded there are the laws of man and then there are the laws of God. If, as the movie title suggests, all dogs will go to heaven, I do hope there is a special place up there for Hoover. As for Mr. Smith, I hope there is a special place for him in hell. Publisher Jim Morgan writes a Tuesday column.
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