DEATH OF A DOG


The horrifying accident described here happened some years ago. I present it here as a cautionary tale and a tribute to poor Henry, a dog who died needlessly because of carelessness.


My friends Kay and Skip owned a small farm in Botetourt County that I often hunted.  One Saturday I'd shot a nice fat butterball buck there, and as I was coming out of the pasture, a man was standing in the driveway; he introduced himself as "Dan," a friend of Kay and Skip's who'd come down to visit and perhaps do some hunting.

I felt a little bad when I heard this, as it seemed he'd been planning to go out that morning but didn't want to spoil my set-up, so he stayed in.  That was nice of him;  if I'd known he was going to be there I'd not have gone out, but I have a standing invitation and had told Kay I might be there on Saturday, so that was that.

The following Monday, was a "doe day" but I hunted elsewhere since I assumed Dan wanted to hunt the place.  I called Kay that Monday evening to ask if Dan would be hunting on Tuesday; if he were not, I'd come out.  She said that was fine, I could come out, but she sounded a little funny as she said so. Tuesday I found out why.

When I came back in from my morning sit, Kay was there and told me "There was an accident." It seems that Dan had indeed gone hunting on Monday, and had no luck.  When he came back to the house, he was unloading his gun and it went off.  The bullet passed through the window and killed one of Kay's dogs, a Jack Russell Terrier named Henry.  Kay was five feet away at the time. Henry was hit in the head and killed instantly.

I spoke with Kay and Skip later, after Dan and his wife had done so.  According to what I know, Dan had been "...removing the magazine" and "...the gun had never done this before."

I have to hold Dan at fault, because he failed to observe Rule #1: "Always point the muzzle in a safe direction." He should never have  had his rifle pointed at the house in the first place, and had the angle at which he held the gun been slightly different, he might easily have killed Kay instead of Henry.  It was an "accident" that was really the result of a combination of bad judgement and (perhaps) faulty equipment.

Skip later told me the rifle was a bolt action .270.  I don't know what model it was.  He mentioned it had "two triggers" but I don't know of any production bolt action rifle with a set trigger.  Perhaps it's some sort of custom job, or a Mauser sporter.  A set trigger could explain the discharge of course.  I deeply dislike them and would never own or use a gun with one myself: the whole point of a set trigger is to provide an extremely light trigger pull, so that the gun will fire at the merest touch. On a target range set triggers have their place, but in the hunting field they create a very dangerous situation. If Dan really had a rifle with a set trigger and let it remain set after he came out of the field, he's twice wrong in my book.

Probably the most common hunting rifle around here is the Model 700 Remington.  I mentioned to Skip that some runs of the 700 are known to have a fault that causes them to discharge when the safety is flipped off.  And I think that on the Model 700 the safety has to be off to work the bolt to get the cartridges out of a blind box magazine.  This is certainly true of my Savage.  If Dan had a Model 700 with a bad safety and it had been fitted with a set trigger, and he was careless enough to point it towards the house instead of the ground that explains it all.

And Henry died as a result.  Henry was a "special needs" dog.  Kay has a soft spot for JRT's:  she'd taken in Henry from a breed rescue shelter after telling them "I want a dog no one else will take," and Henry fit the bill.  He had been placed and returned to the rescue shelter several times; no one could deal with him.  He was incorrigible: a fear biter and a victim of abuse who trusted no human.  No doubt had Kay not taken him in he'd have been put down as un-adoptable. 

They had him for 20 months and worked with him, day in and day out; while he still had a long way to go, he'd made a great deal of progress towards being a "normal" dog thanks to them.  They were devastated at his stupid and needless death at the hands of a man who killed him through careless gun handling. 

Dan was torn up, too, but in his case, the guilt was well deserved.  Henry wasn't the easiest dog to like but he deserved a better fate.


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