A group of local dog lovers have organized to try and save the three dogs who were with Grant Kuenzli when he was shot and killed by a Valley hiker in the Coconino National Forest May 11.
Harold Fish of Phoenix told investigators that he was responding to an attack, first by the three dogs and then by Kuenzli. Fish responded to the perceived threat by firing three rounds from his 10mm handgun into Kuenzli's chest.
The dogs were taken from the scene by a Coconino County animal control officer and are currently housed in a Flagstaff animal shelter, each in a separate concrete enclosure approximately 4 by 6 feet in size. They are being held as "prospective evidentiary items," according to Coconino County Sheriff's Det. Scott Feagan.
Maggie, a yellow Lab mix, was Kuenzli's own dog, while Sheba, a German shepherd mix, and Hank, a chow mix, were Payson Humane Society dogs that Kuenzli had taken to his campsite for an overnight visit. While Hank allegedly has a history of aggressiveness, those who know Maggie and Sheba say the two were gentle and friendly.
"Some of the stories are painting them as three big, vicious dogs," Jan Hannah, a shelter volunteer, said. Hannah, who was the first to visit the dogs in Flagstaff, noted that the shelter dogs are not very big, and that Maggie is a therapy dog who visits nursing homes."
A quiet dog that never barks, according to Hannah, Maggie initially wouldn't eat. But when Hannah called her name she barked and eagerly devoured the dog treats she brought.
"The other two are used to a kennel, but she's been traumatized," Hannah said. "She's lost her daddy."
Lisa Boyle, a PHS board member and volunteer, emphasized Maggie's plight.
"She's wasting away and dying of a broken heart," Boyle said. "With Grant's death, Maggie lost everything -- she lost her life partner, she lost her place to sleep, she lost everything -- and it's so sad. She witnessed her owner's death and then got arrested."
Those who know Maggie said she is a wonderful dog.
"She was very quiet, minded well, and always had a tail wag for anyone who came through the door," shelter volunteer Janet Ostrum said.
Sheba also was considered kind, gentle and non-threatening.
"She probably weighed about 30 pounds," Falicia D'Addabbo, shelter supervisor of dogs, said. "She was really shy and never aggressive toward any other dog or people. She never showed her teeth or anything."
Despite the allegations of aggressiveness, Hank has gotten glowing reviews since arriving at the Flagstaff shelter, according to Cindy Bartholomew, a Paws in the Park member who has also visited the dogs.
"The people taking care of them love all three," Bartholomew said. "They've written out their recommendations, and even Hank, the one who is supposed to be the culprit, is described as ‘friendly, lovable and almost adoptable.'"
Ultimately, the fate of the dogs is up to the Coconino County judge who will be assigned to the case.
If the judge believes the hiker's allegation that the dogs are dangerous, they can be euthanized.
It could be months before that determination is made, and, in the meantime, the dogs are confined to their concrete kennels.
The Payson group plans to visit them as often as possible, and also has enlisted the assistance of the Flagstaff chapter of the Animal Defense League of Arizona (ADLA) for additional help.
ADLA is soliciting donations for the defense of the three dogs and letters requesting that their lives be spared. Letters should be addressed to David Rozema, Chief Deputy Coconino County Attorney, but should be sent to: ADLA, P.O. Box 1973, Flagstaff, AZ 86002 ADLA will present all the letters to the court at one time.
Donations can be sent to the above address, stipulating whether money can apply to other ADLA projects if it is not used for the defense of the three Payson dogs.
People interested in adopting any of the dogs should also so indicate.
People interested in visiting the dogs can contact Boyle at (928) 474-1836.
"Wouldn't it be nice if we could have people going up every day," Bartholomew said.
While Boyle fears the two shelter dogs may be lost causes, she holds out hope for Maggie.
"I don't know if we stand any chance on Hank and Sheba at all, but Maggie we've got to save," Boyle said. "She is the real victim here."