Shooter kills therapy service dog of boy grieving father’s death

The dog who helped a Carver County boy get through the grief of losing his father was shot and killed this weekend, leaving both family and neighbors around Norwood Young America worried it wasn’t a one-off crime.

Gus, the dog, was just Gus.

"Gus was very well-trained, and he was a great companion and family member," Arielle Brandenburg told FOX 9. "We called him the puppy brother."

The cattle dog and red healer mix spent five years doing his best to heal the Brandenburg boys. Their father was an Iraq War veteran who suffered from PTSD and died by suicide about a year and a half ago.

Gus trained as a therapy service dog and was especially bonded with Jeremy Brandenburg’s younger son, Reece.

"Whenever he was anxious and scared and was grieving, [Gus] came on top of him and was this weighted blanket, and truly was his best friend, and was there through the intense grief process of losing a parent," Arielle Brandenburg said.

But the grief multiplied this Saturday around noon. Gus ran from the front yard to the house, bleeding from gunshot wounds to his back leg. Reece had to apply pressure for the 40-minute drive to an emergency veterinarian, but X-rays revealed a .22-caliber bullet had traveled all the way into Gus’ lung.

He couldn’t be healed.

"There was comfort care enough for the boys to say 'goodbye' and get a paw print, and love on him one last time," Arielle Brandenburg said.

She filed a report with the Carver County Sheriff’s office – they confirmed they're investigating – and vented about the crime on Facebook.

Along with comments from people who shared her anger, Arielle Brandenburg got a message from a neighbor not far away whose horse was recently shot by what also seemed to be a .22.

It’s an unsettling thought for her and her neighbors.

"I'm terrified to put my horses near the road, or have my kids even drive their dirt bikes alone," Arielle Brandenburg said. "It's too scary at this point."

Most animal abuse cases in Minnesota are considered misdemeanors, but killing a service animal can be a felony with a punishment of up to four years in prison.

Reece did get to say goodbye to Gus, telling the dog to go find his Dad and keep him company.