It’s hard for Josh Avila to think about what may have happened had it not been for his niece.
Avila’s Alaskan Malamute, Akela, usually runs in the Cumbest Bluff area off of the Pascagoula River with two other pups. Sunday evening, after the two other dogs returned home following a wet romp through the woods, Akela was nowhere to be found.
Rayla Schiewe, 7, grew worried and called from the balcony for Akela. The 7-month-old puppy finally trudged up to the house around twilight before laying down motionless on the deck.
Avila raced outside after hearing Rayla’s screams. That’s when found Akela — his white and gray coat was drenched in blood.
Avila rushed Akela to a 24-hour animal hospital where his fears turned to anger; his dog had been shot in the snout with a high-caliber bullet.
“(The veterinarian) said it was definitely a shot to kill,” Avila said Monday afternoon as he transported his dog for surgery. “He said if he’d aimed a little higher, he’d be dead.”
Avila said Akela suffered a broken bottom jaw, a fractured upper jaw and had “most” of his teeth knocked out as a result of the blow to his face.
Why shoot a dog?
Avila, who recently graduated from East Central High School after starring on the Hornets’ baseball team, said he can’t wrap his head around why someone would shoot his dog.
Akela is a puppy, so he’s active and easily excitable, but Avila said the 40-pound dog has never been aggressive to anyone or even snapped at a stranger.
“This really scared me. Akela is kind of like my kid. It really shook me up,” he said. “I can’t think what would have been happening if my niece hadn’t been calling. He got up to the porch, laid down and wouldn’t move. Had she not of been calling for him, he may have just laid down in the woods and bled out.”
Another hurdle awaits Akela — and it’s an expensive one.
The dog requires reconstructive surgery that’s estimated to cost about $1,200 and will possibly have to eat out of a tube for the foreseeable future.
Avila said he’d do anything for his dog, but as a recent high school graduate he has financial limitations. As a result, Avila set up a GoFundMe.com account to help cover the costs of Akela’s surgery and recovery.
As of 2:30 p.m., people had already donated about $900.
“It means a lot that my friends and other people in this community care about a dog,” Avila said of the outpouring of support, “and how they don’t like to see this kind of thing happen.”
As for who shot Akela, Avila said he hasn’t yet reported the shooting to authorities. He said he’s heard from several people on social media who claim to have heard gunshots around the likely time Akela was shot. He added a family friend who’s also a detective is looking into the incident.
“Whoever would shoot him, it just makes me sick,” Avila said.