FENTON – It’s yet another reminder of man’s inhumanity to man’s best friend.
Like other dogs, Duke and Max liked to put their noses to the ground and tails in the air, which is just what they did earlier this month when they snuck out of their owners’ kennel and set off exploring.
A few weeks later, their bodies were found in a ditch, where they were tossed after being shot to death.
Now, Illinois conservation police are investigating the dogs’ death after they were were found Friday, 3 miles from their home, and 2 weeks after they went missing.
The 2-year-old boxer, Duke, and 3-year-old American bulldog-boxer mix, Max, slipped their kennel Dec. 8 after owners Jeremy and Cerissa Chenoweth left for work.
The Chenoweths’ friend, Monty Gusse of Fenton, was raccoon hunting and found the bodies, tossed alongside a desolate dirt road. It looks like they were shot shortly after they ran off, he said, and not where they were found.
Both dogs had been shot in the chest. Duke also was shot twice in the head.
Max’s GPS collar, found about 7 yards away from his body, was destroyed shortly after 3 p.m. the day the dogs took off; Duke wasn’t wearing a collar. Both dogs were microchipped.
They suspect a deer hunter or hunters, because the chest wounds were made with a large caliber gun. The shots to the head came from a pistol.
It’s not uncommon for angry hunters to shoot dogs that interrupt their hunt, said Gusse, who owns, trains and hunts with hounds.
“The whole thing hit home,” Gusse said. “Every time you send out a dog, you’re worried someone might shoot him.”
Illinois Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Ron Palumbo is interviewing area hunters, and evidence, including the ammunition used, has been sent to the State Police crime lab.
If found, the shooter could face felony animal cruelty charges.
The Chenoweths are dealing with both rage and sorrow.
“We’ve had them since they were puppies,” said Jeremy Chenoweth, 40, owner of Chenoweth Equine Dentistry in Fenton.
He and Cerissa, 42, are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the killer or killers; a GoFundMe campaign started by Gusse has raised about $2,000, and another person has donated $1,000, bringing the total to about $8,000.
If the shooter isn’t found, the money raised will be donated to charity.
Go to gofundme.com/lets-add-to-the-chenoweths-reward to donate.
Call Palumbo, 815-440-0981, Chenoweth, 309-738-4474, or the anonymous reward tipline, Whiteside County Crime Stoppers, 815-625-7867, with information on the shootings.