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Sad end for a trusted friend

I would love to be able to write something fun and festive and seasonal for this column. But there is another matter I cannot get off my mind.

I keep thinking of a big, handsome yellow dog named Ranger, a black-mouthed cur, who was the 13-year-old friend of his owner, Dusty Castleman, who lives between McKenzie and Georgiana.

I say “was” because a week or so ago, someone put a bullet through Ranger and killed him.

Castleman described Ranger as a gentle giant he had owned ever since he was a puppy.

The dog, who lived indoors, had a daily path he followed each morning to do his personal business before promptly returning to his south Butler County home.

Maybe he veered off the path. Maybe a hunter mistook him for something other than a pet.

Castleman may never know. He does know he is heartsick about the loss of a much-loved family member who just happened to walk on four legs instead of two.

“That morning my girlfriend told me Ranger hadn’t come back . . . I found him dead, dumped on a dirt road nearby,” Castleman said.

“I’m a hunter and a former Marine. I have put animals to sleep before who were too old and too sick to let go on. But just to shoot a dog like that-I have never done that,” Castleman said, shaking his head.

He filed a report with the Sheriff’s office, but was told without any witnesses to the actual shooting, there was little they could do. The bullet passed cleanly through the dog, so there is no evidence to yield from that.

It’s a dead end for Ranger and for his owner.

Having an animal control officer in place in the county would help in cases of possible animal abuse, neglect and cruelty, but there is currently no funding for such an officer, said Sheriff Kenny Harden.

“Sometimes we get calls every day about situations with animals, and sometimes just a few a week. Please understand people do have a right to protect themselves against an aggressive animal that is threatening them, but shooting from roadways is illegal, and if this was an accidental shooting of the dog, someone should have come forward and admitted it,” Harden said.

The question begs to be asked: what can we as a community do to protect animals? Support spaying and neutering to prevent unwanted animals. Make sure any animals we own are properly vaccinated, fed and watered. If we suspect an actual case of abuse or neglect (i.e., an animal being beaten, starved or used in fighting-not a horse who is a little thin or a dog who doesn’t have a dog house), we need to report it. We can be responsible, respectful individuals when we use weapons of any kind for hunting and be certain just what and who we are aiming that.

Because we just might be taking someone else’s best buddy away when we pull that trigger.