Steamboat Springs A 10-year-old dog owned by a Steamboat Springs family died Sunday morning of a bullet wound suffered a day earlier in a residential neighborhood on the city’s west side.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident.
“As far as what we know now, someone shot the dog with a .22 (-caliber gun),” Steamboat Springs Police Department Officer Evan Driscoll said Sunday.
Conestoga Circle resident Leah Arnone said she let Duke, a black Labrador retriever, outside at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. She said her husband, Pat Arnone, usually walks Duke in the morning but was volunteering Saturday with ski events at Howelsen Hill. Leah said because she was still in pajamas, she decided to simply let Duke out, a situation she called a “fluke.”
She said Duke wandered down the street and through an opening in a fence into the Indian Trails neighborhood, where he apparently was shot.
Duke made his way back home with a bullet in his rear end.
“About 10 minutes after I let him out, my daughter found him on our deck in a pool of blood,” Leah said.
The Arnones’ daughter, Tess, is 7 years old.
Leah said the family rushed Duke to a local veterinarian’s office, where he underwent three hours of surgery and lived through Saturday night.
Duke died Sunday morning.
“He’s an old, slow-moving, easy-going black Lab. He’s a family dog. We’ve had him since he was a baby,” Leah said. “We were there when he died, we held him.”
Leah said the vet gave the bullet to police. Driscoll said police had no definitive information Sunday about who fired the gun.
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” he said.
Driscoll speculated that, pending the investigation’s outcome, charges including felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment could be levied.
A reckless endangerment charge can be filed for discharging a firearm in public. Disorderly conduct laws prohibit anyone but peace officers from discharging firearms in public unless they are lawfully engaging in target practice or hunting.
“It certainly is a serious crime and it’s still being investigated,” Driscoll said.
Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Del Herman owns the Indian Trails subdivision and lives in the area where Duke apparently was shot. Herman’s shop is on the other side of the fence near where Duke is thought to have crossed from Conestoga Circle into Indian Trails.
Duke reportedly left a trail of blood on his way back home. Herman said he was working in his shop at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with the doors and windows open, and didn’t hear or see a thing.
“I have no idea where the dog was shot,” Herman said Sunday. “I didn’t even know a dog had been shot until police came and showed me the blood trail. It did look like it stopped in my yard. But there’s a lot of traffic (in the area).”
Dogs aren’t allowed in the Indian Trails subdivision. Herman said he made that decision years ago, rather than install expensive fencing around the property. He said he sees dogs in the neighborhood now and then.
“Every once in a while I pick up one and take it to the pound,” Herman said.
He expressed disbelief at the shooting.
“I don’t like to see animals shot, of any kind,” he said. “I don’t even hunt.”
Driscoll said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident.
“There certainly is no reason for anyone to be worried,” Driscoll said. “Just keep your dogs on a leash when you’re outside and keep your eyes on them.”
Residents of the Conestoga neighborhood were shaken Sunday. Next to the Arnones’ home, between it and the Hermans’ property, is a small public playground where Leah Arnone said children often gather.
Eric Edelstein said his 3-year-old daughter plays there.
“I think it’s terrible — somebody discharged a gun near our playground,” Edelstein said Sunday while throwing a tennis ball to his dog on the street.
While dogs aren’t allowed in Indian Trails, conditions are different on the other side of the fence.
“This is Conestoga,” Edelstein said. “There’s more dogs here than people.”
Standing outside her family’s home, Tess held the Arnones’ other dog, Bistro, tightly on a leash Sunday afternoon. Her spirits were cheery, despite the weekend’s trauma. Leah said in addition to the loss of a cherished pet — she referred to “Duke Arnone” in an e-mail — the family also is facing surgery costs of about $3,000. She said the Arnones had not had any previous problems with their dogs walking onto other people’s property.
She couldn’t stifle her anger.
“This can’t happen in our town,” she said. “If anyone just thinks that they can start shooting their neighbor’s dog for no good reason, it could get ugly.”
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com