Dog recovering from surgery after suspected Summit County shooting
A dog wounded on Monday in Blue River is recovering from surgery after owners suspect it was shot while roaming their secluded, snow-bound property.
The 4-year-old Australian cattle dog mix, Sydney, was taken to Park County Animal Hospital in Fairplay on Wednesday morning when owners Carolina and Lee Sky were worried for the dog’s wellbeing.
On Monday, Carolina Sky returned from work at around 4 p.m. and let the dog out to play on the couple’s unfenced, 1.8-acre property about a mile south of Goose Pasture Tarn. She was talking on the phone inside their home when her husband pulled into the driveway about five minutes later. He found the dog lying motionless in the snow behind the home and brought it inside.
Soon after coming inside, Sydney began shaking and convulsing. The owners believed the dog was in shock and noticed a small wound on its back near the ribcage. The dog’s shivering subsided, but it refused to drink or eat.
When Sydney’s condition didn’t improve late Monday night, the owners called Park County Animal Hospital to report the symptoms. On Wednesday, they took the animal to the veterinary hospital and reported the incident to the Blue River marshal, who referred them to the Breckenridge Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident is currently under investigation by the sheriff’s office and animal control division.
Sydney is the Sky family’s only pet and has lived with its owners since they moved to Blue River in 2011. Carolina Sky said the dog occasionally barks when it goes outside, but she didn’t hear barking or other noises before her husband found the animal in the snow.
The owners had one previous encounter with a neighbor several months ago when the dog was barking. The neighbor made an off-hand remark about shooting the dog and animal control officers were eventually called. Carolina Sky does not believe the same neighbor is responsible for Sydney’s injuries.
“The neighbors are all shocked to think their dog could be shot by someone, just because they are barking or don’t have a leash,” said Carolina Sky, who noted she lives in a neighborhood where pet dogs often play outside. “That’s something that’s very upsetting.”
After three days under observation in Fairplay, and having several x-rays and ultrasound scans, Sydney underwent surgery to uncover the root of his health issues. The owners initially suspected poisoning, but veterinarian Jeremy Ickes found a metallic foreign object on several x-rays. When paired with a visible puncture wound on the dog’s backside, he suspected the animal was shot with a gun, though he couldn’t guess at the type of weapon. The foreign object did not hit any vital organs or break any bones.
An hour and a half into the operation, Ickes’ findings were inconclusive. He could not remove the foreign object due to an abscess lodged deep in the soft tissue between the dog’s ribs.
“Thinking about that and putting two and two together told us it might have been a gunshot wound, but I couldn’t prove the object in the belly was causing the symptoms,” Ickes said following the Saturday operation. “It (the foreign object) is in a location that is too dangerous to try and remove. It could be in the center of that abscess, so it is really inoperable at this time. For now, he’ll just have to be on strong antibiotics.”
Given the injuries, Ickes and the Skys still suspect that a human, not a wild animal, wounded Sydney.
“Malicious or not, I can’t say, but it does look like he was shot,” Ickes says. “This is out of the ordinary. I’m not sure if it happens and dogs don’t survive because they’re never brought to the vet, but I can’t remember a similar situation.”
AN UNCOMMON OCCURRENCE
The Blue River incident marks the first time a pet dog presumably has been shot without showing aggression. During the 2013 USA Pro Challenge bike race, a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a pit bull on Hoosier Pass when it viciously attacked a beagle. The animal was not on a leash and the owner, former Soul Shine dispensary co-owner Christopher Crumbliss, was cited with $150 in fines.
The penalty for violating the Blue River animal regulations, which include a provision for any pet “determined to be a public nuisance,” is set at $50 per violation for the first offense, according to the town code. Apart from the sole barking incident, animal control has not received complaints about Sydney’s barking or any aggressive behavior.
On the other end of the spectrum, the penalty for discharging a firearm within town limits is a misdemeanor. Law enforcement officials could not comment on exact penalties until the investigation is complete.
While Ickes can’t confirm what happened to Sydney, he says pets must always be kept under control in rural areas.
“He was allowed to roam a bit and it’s unfortunate that anyone would do this, but the safest thing to do is not let your dogs roam free,” Ickes said. “They can get hit by a car or tangle with wildlife, and we see both of those often. Keeping tabs on your dog no matter what is the best way to keep them safe.”
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