“Today my dog, my partner, was killed at point blank,” the message began.
On Monday, Valley Calderoni and Markie Blackburn, colleagues from an animal rehabilitation centre, had taken Calderoni’s four-year-old dog, Kaoru, and nine other dogs for a walk that ended near Lake Lucille in British Columbia, Canada.
“The hike was amazing; the dogs were so well behaved, training went beautifully,” Calderoni wrote on Facebook.
As they were finishing up, she began to put the dogs back on leashes.
Then the crack of a gunshot turned her day into any dog owner’s nightmare.
“It was so loud, my instinct made me crouch down,” she wrote. Next, she looked up.
“I see my dog, and she was bleeding,” Calderoni told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News. “I turned around and said, ‘Markie, oh my God, my dog has been shot.’”
The white and speckled gray coat of the dog, a Tamaskan breed, was splattered with red blood. While Calderoni held Kaoru, she heard her colleague yell: “Put the gun down.”
The hunter, Calderoni wrote, stood about 10 feet away from her.
Calderoni, who was hiking half an hour north of Squamish, had spent thousands of hours training Kaoru to be a therapy dog, who worked with children with autism and other emotional challenges, according to CBC News.
“I tried to save her,” she wrote. “I held her, I just knew it was not good. I did not want her to suffer.”
With Calderoni holding her, the dog died.
A local resident, the hunter was “completely cooperative” with the investigation, British Columbia conservation officer Kent Popjes told CBC News, which first reported the story.
“It appears to be an error in judgement,” Popjes said. Neither Calderoni nor Popjes could be immediately reached for comment by The Washington Post.
No charges have been filed, though the investigation is ongoing. Popjes said it is legal hunting season for mule deer and black bears. Calderoni said the hunter had mistaken Kaoru for a wolf.
“The only thing that can make this better would be if you never, ever take another life again,” she said she told the hunter.
Calderoni said that her favourite moments with Kaoru, who was given up by her owners to the rehabilitation facility as a puppy traumatised after a flight across Canada, were watching her work with children with autism.
Even when the children were rough with her, she would remain calm, Calderoni wrote.
“She would squint her eyes, lay down, and let out a sigh, the kids then would slowly begin to calm down as their hands crunched tightly on Kaoru’s fur,” she wrote. “I loved my dog so much and watching her give herself so entirely to anyone that let her has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Kaoru – pronounced Kah-oh-roo – also had a mischievous side.
She would steal socks, shoes and even toothbrushes and hide them around the house. Once, she planted a tree in the yard only to see Kaoru take it out, roots and all, and bury it in another part of the yard.
“You see the tree did not match her style,” Calderoni said.
Calderoni has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to extend the no-hunting zone around the area in which Kaoru was shot, where she said she often hikes with children. Funds will also be used to train another service dog.
“I am in pain and I want to use this intense pain to help stop this, we can take a stand, we can change things,” she wrote.
The Washington Post