A three-year-old German shepherd from Lake Cowichan is dead after mysteriously falling ill, and its owner suspects foul play. The animal was ultimately euthanized after more than three weeks of declining health.
The problem began on Jan. 20 when Jeremy Crossman noticed his dog, Kayona, was acting strangely.
“Her appetite was going. She’d sit by her food but she wouldn’t eat it,” he said. “Her energy wasn’t there. You could just tell there was something wrong with her.”
Crossman took the dog to a veterinarian in Duncan but the doctor attributed the change in behaviour to a bone the dog had eaten and said it would pass. But four days later, the dog’s condition had not improved.
“It was getting worse.”
According to Crossman, he took the dog to a veterinary clinic in Mill Bay and urged them to do a blood test on Kayona. That was when he learned the dog had ingested some kind of poisonous substance although the vet could not determine through the tests exactly what kind of toxin was present in the dog’s system.
“They can’t tell what kind it was, but they said what is most likely to poison animals is antifreeze. The dogs love the taste of it,” said Crossman.
He and his family searched their home and their property for anywhere the dog might have come into contact with antifreeze but found nothing.
Kayona’s food was always inside the house and although the dog would sometimes go out into the backyard, it was prevented from roaming by a six-foot fence with a locked gate.
“I have a feeling someone threw something over the fence — we can’t tell how she got it, but these are the possibilities,” said Crossman, who reported his suspicions to the RCMP in case they had received similar reports.
Sergeant Wes Olsen, the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment commander, told the Gazette the incident was reported to his officers but at this time there is not enough evidence to pursue an investigation.
“The nature of that poison is undetermined. The dog could have gotten into some antifreeze, possibly it had eaten grapes [which can be toxic to dogs] or eaten mushrooms,” said Olsen.
He added that he was not suggesting the dog in question been running loose but simply that there are a number of potential causes.
“If we had evidence to suggest that someone is purposely poisoning animals in the Greendale Road area or anywhere in Lake Cowichan, we’d certainly investigate it to the fullest to determine if that’s the case and who’s responsible,” he said. “There’s an offence in the criminal code for cruelty to animals.”
However, in the case of Kayona — whose owner is unaware of anyone who would have wanted to hurt the dog or his family — more evidence of deliberate poisoning would be needed in order for the RCMP to open an investigation.
John Harrison, another dog owner who lives on Greendale Road, said he once came outside to find his dog chewing on a beef knuckle it had ripped from a package. Harrison, who hasn’t bought his dog any bones in a long time, said he has no idea where it came from.
“The only thing I can suspect is that someone passing by probably heaved it over the fence. And it may have been something totally harmless — they were giving my dog a treat — but it’s always best to notify the owner,” Harrison said.
“I don’t know if the thing’s been poisoned or not. He hasn’t shown any illness whatsoever, but it made me very suspicious once I heard that another dog in the neighbourhood had been poisoned.”
Michael Bedard, director of the Lake Cowichan Animal Rescue Society, said he was disappointed to learn about the death
“These situations with possible antifreeze poisonings have surfaced around here before with kitty cats. But there’s never been anything that could tie anyone [to the crime] or prove it,” he said. “But there definitely have been some peculiar circumstances that have arisen around here over the years. Not a lot, but even once is too much.”
Crossman, who is still grieving the loss of Kayona, urges other pet owners to be vigilant.
“I want to find out what’s going on,” he said. “Y’know she’s part of our family…We loved her a huge amount. And even though she was only with us three years — still, three years is a long time to have someone in your life. And then someone takes her out.”