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Old September 23rd, 2004, 12:33 PM
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heidiho heidiho is offline
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Dog shot 3 times while trapped in river; survives

A dog stranded during floods this week in Cottonwood is recovering after he was shot three times while trapped on flotsam.

Authorities speculate that someone shot Dakota, a 96-pound yellow Labrador retriever, with a high-caliber weapon on Monday after he fell into the brimming Verde River.

Neighbors told Yavapai County sheriff's deputies that they heard loud, constant barking for about an hour but couldn't find the dog. Then they heard three shots.

"And we never heard him bark again," said Margie Sikes, 65, of Cornville.

Dakota spent Monday night silent and clinging to downed trees floating in the water. Neighbors spotted him Tuesday morning.

Sikes called fire departments, police agencies and the Sheriff's Office to find out if a dog had been reported missing.

"I called everybody and his brother," she said. "I couldn't get anybody to do anything."

Another woman risked her life by swimming through the flooded river to check on him.

Swift-water rescue teams from Sedona and Verde Valley saved the woman and the dog with an inflatable raft, said Susan Quayle, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office.

Dakota, who was "right in the middle of the water and couldn't get up to get a drink," was dehydrated and in shock, Sikes said.

Still, he stood and walked a few steps on land.

Then rescuers saw the puncture wounds.

No one knew the extent of his injuries until he was taken to Verde Veterinary Hospital.

"I was elated to see him," said Ryan Gildehaus, 37, Dakota's owner and a Cottonwood police sergeant. "We didn't realize he was in horrible shape for about an hour later."

Bullets hit Dakota's hindquarters and the front part of his body.

Another pierced his lungs and remained lodged between his liver and stomach Wednesday.

He had massive internal bleeding but was in stable condition, said Dr. Celeste Flannery, who operated on Dakota.

She called his survival "amazing" and said the cold water may have helped slow the bleeding.

Dakota's adventure began Monday, when he and a puppy jumped the fence at Gildehaus' home.

Buster, the puppy, a black-and-white hound with a clipped tail, still is missing.

He is wearing a collar but no tags.

Buster is about 5 months old.

Gildehaus worries about the river sweeping Buster away, and neighbors worry about the coyotes in the area.

Gildehaus rescued Buster only weeks ago, when he found the dog wandering the woods south of Flagstaff.

"I'm not holding out a lot of hope," Gildehaus said. "He deserved better. I saved him once."

Neighbors are helping in the search for Buster but are left wondering why someone in their midst shot at a defenseless dog.

Gildehaus thinks that someone may have been intimidated with his dog's size.

"I don't want to think that someone would shoot him out of spite," Gildehaus said. "He's harmless."

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