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Bigfork family searching for answers in shooting death of pet

by JEREMY WEBER
For the Eagle | November 22, 2023 11:55 AM


When the Harker family let their beloved dog out to go potty Thursday evening, they had no idea it would be the last time they would see Lucy alive.

The 8-year-old German short hair had a history of getting loose and roaming the neighborhood, but was known as a gentle pet that would more likely lick any who approached her as opposed to bite them.

When 17-year-old Aiden Harker saw Lucy lying on the front porch around 9:30 p.m., he thought she was sleeping at first. When she didn’t respond to his calls, he knew something was wrong.

“Right before we went to bed, I told my oldest son to go check the door one more time and that’s when he found her,” Nicole Harker said. “He thought she was just laying there on the porch, but she wasn’t moving. I heard him open the door and call her name, but she still did not move.”

It wasn’t until Lucy’s body was taken to a vet did the family learn their dog had been shot.

According to the vet, the trajectory of the bullet as it moved through Lucy’s body seemed to indicate the dog had been shot from behind while attempting to run away. The bullet pierced the dog’s liver and kidney before tearing through her lungs, which filled with blood.

While the family was shocked that their dog’s body had been left on their porch, they were not exactly surprised, either.

An anonymous hand-writen note left on their car Oct. 1 complained of Lucy getting into neighborhood trash and even accused the dog of attacking the author while trying to get her out of their trash.

The writer went on to state they would “take care of the animal” if it happened again.

“We are not sure where a lot of those statements were coming from. We had never been confronted by any neighbors about our dog,” Nicole Harker said about the note. “There have been lots of dogs running around our neighborhood at different times, but nobody ever complained to us about Lucy.”

Nicole and her family, including 17-year-old Aiden, her 12 and 10-year-old sons and 3-year-old daughter had worked hard to keep Lucy on a leash after the letter was left, but when the dog saw a deer Thursday night, she chased it up the street.

According to Nicole, Flathead County Animal Control informed her, because the dog was at large, there is not a whole lot that can be done. The family was told that owners do have a right to protect themselves, animals and property.

“We had our neighbor’s dog tackle and attack our son when he was eight, and he had to go to the emergency room. We dealt with it, though, and nobody’s dog got shot. We talked it out and each party took their part of the responsibility. To leave a dead pet on the porch to be found by family members is something else entirely. It’s just scary,” Nicole said.

“Even with the note, this person never came to the door and addressed us personally. It was just an anonymous letter. There are lots of other ways to handle these situations,” she continued. “I have had lots of other people’s dogs end up on my porch over the years and shooting them has never been the answer.”

The Flathead County Sheriff’s office was unavailable for comment.