PALMYRA, Maine — Jennifer Fall said she keeps her dogs chained at all times, but when one slipped past her Monday evening while she was bringing in a load of laundry, she couldn’t stop him.
Hank, a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, bounded out the door and into the woods. A couple of hours later, he was dead.
Fall had food cooking so she asked her children to go outside and retrieve the dog. Then her 8-year-old son, Bryce, came back into the family’s home near the end of Gale Road and said he had just heard gunshots.
“I grabbed Hank’s leash and went walking up the road,” Jennifer Fall told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday. She asked a neighbor, Herbert Brindley, if he had seen the dog.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen your dog and he’s got a bullet in him,’” said Fall, wiping away tears. Her son, who was with her at the time, “immediately started crying,” she added.
“He was playful,” Bryce said of Hank. “He liked to play and run around in the yard. He stays in the yard.”
But this time, Hank didn’t stay in the yard. He went to Brindley’s house and chased the man’s chickens around, according Jennifer Fall and Maine State Police Trooper Christopher Carr, who is investigating the incident. Brindley said he shot the dog while it was in his henhouse to protect his own animals, according to Carr.
The officer said he didn’t know whether any chickens were killed or injured during the incident.
Brindley had little to say Tuesday afternoon to the Bangor Daily News.
“I don’t know anything about it. No comment,” he said before asking a reporter and a photographer to leave his property.
Brindley has been a member of the Palmyra Board of Selectmen as recently as this past March, according the Bangor Daily News archives. According to the town’s website, Brindley is no longer on the board.
After her first confrontation with Brindley, Fall called a family friend to help her find Hank. They went back to talk to Brindley, who said he didn’t know where the dog was. The conversation escalated to a heated argument.
“I told him something’s obviously wrong with your head to think it was OK to shoot someone’s family member,” said Fall. “They’re not just dogs to us. The dogs are part of our family. They get included in holidays and birthdays.” Besides Hank, the Falls have a yellow Lab named Duke, who is Hank’s father, and a long-haired chihuahua named Gizmo.
Fall said the argument turned downright ugly when she mentioned her cousin Amanda Morrill.
“That’s when he said he’d put a bullet in my dog and he’d put a bullet in me, too,” said Fall, who on Tuesday filed for a protection from harassment order against Brindley. Trooper Carr said Fall told him about the alleged threat, which is still under investigation. No charges have been filed in the case, he said.
Morrill, who used to live in the area, told the Bangor Daily News that Brindley shot her Siberian husky dead about two years ago when the dog attacked some of his chickens. Carr said he was aware of another instance when Brindley shot a dog but couldn’t provide details because he didn’t handle that case.
“The police told me he had a right to protect his livestock,” said Morrill.
Fall said she viewed Hank’s transgression as minor compared with the emotional trauma the dog’s death is causing her family.
“We would have gladly replaced his chickens and apologized,” said Fall. “It’s not OK to take away a member of someone’s family.”
Asked about the chain of events as outlined by Fall, Somerset County District Attorney Evert Fowle said it is legal to protect personal property from a dog attack. He said his office is investigating Monday evening’s events to determine if that’s what happened.
“You have the right to defend your property,” he said. “We need to make sure that is what happened. We’ll have to wait and see whether there will be any charges.”
Fowle said his office was scheduled to review the case Wednesday.
Hank still hadn’t been located when police officers responded to Fall’s 911 call. Fall was talking with an officer when the dog appeared around the corner of the house. He was walking slowly and at first Fall couldn’t see his wound. Then she saw blood dripping from his ribcage.
The family rushed the dog to a veterinarian in Brewer. Because of his grim prognosis and in an effort to end his obvious suffering, the Falls opted to have him euthanized. Brent Fall, who is Jennifer Fall’s husband, buried the dog in the woods behind the house late Monday night.
“It’s hard to try to explain to your children about the natural occurrence [of death],” said Jennifer Fall. “It’s harder to explain to them how someone could take that life away and show no sign of remorse.”