GOULDSBORO, Maine — A family, with the help of police, is trying to figure out why someone fatally shot their dog.

The 9-year-old cocker spaniel named Max was shot sometime Sunday after it ran out of the door of its owners’ home on East Schoodic Drive, according to police Sgt. Jim Malloy. The animal returned several hours later after having been shot in its back end, he said Thursday.

The owners immediately took the dog to a veterinarian in Sullivan and then to another in Brewer, but its wounds were too significant, Malloy said. The dog had to be euthanized.

“The vet said it was definitely shot at very close range,” the officer said.

Vicki Gerrish, whose family owned Max, said the dog managed to get out of the house sometime Sunday afternoon while her son was watching a movie.

When Gerrish’s family realized the dog was missing, they went out looking for him but did not find him until shortly before 9 p.m. when they returned from their search and found him injured in the yard.

Gerrish said she at first thought that Max had been hit by a car but that her husband and son, both experienced hunters, could tell right away he had been shot. It turned out Max had been shot with a pellet gun.

“I was stunned,” Gerrish said. “He was bleeding and obviously in shock. It was horrible.”

After taking Max first to their vet in Sullivan and then to Eastern Maine Emergency Veterinarian Clinic in Brewer, the Gerrishes thought Max would recover, she said. The clinic staff performed surgery on the dog, removing the pellet and sewing up his wounds.

“They were the most compassionate people, and they gave everything they had to save this dog,” Gerrish said of the clinic staff.

The family thought Max was going to be OK, but he never woke up from the surgery, she said. The pellet, it had turned out, caused extensive damage to the dog’s organs.

“He wouldn’t wake up,” she said. “Everything was too traumatic.”

Gerrish said she believes someone shot Max after he wandered into someone else’s yard. Whether the shooting was an accident or on purpose, she said, whoever did it needs to know they did the wrong thing.

“This did some severe damage,” Gerrish said. “They need to know what [a pellet gun] can do.”

Max only weighed 30 pounds and was less than two feet tall, she said, and could not have been a threat. Max has gotten out before, but the family has never received a complaint about Max being a nuisance.

She said Max’s death has been tough on her 15-year-old son Gabe Gerrish, who has known Max since he was 6 years old.

“All he did was wag his tail,” she said of Max. “This wasn’t just a nuisance on someone’s lawn. This was a child to us and a brother to Gabe.”

According to Sgt. Malloy, it is unknown how far the dog may have traveled when he briefly ran away. He said police have a few suspects and are pursuing leads.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call police at the town office at 963-5589.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....