Retriever that stood by dead lodge caretaker put to death by new owner

Posted: Friday, May 03, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Buddy, the black Labrador retriever who drew national attention for his loyalty, is dead.

The couple from the village of Chignik who adopted Buddy had him euthanized last month for what they said was increasingly aggressive behavior and biting.

Buddy was the dog who stayed by the side of his owner, Bill Hitchcock, for 12 days in February after Hitchcock was killed while felling a tree on Knight Island in Prince William Sound. Hitchcock was the caretaker of a remote lodge on the island.

Lodge owners Roger and Marilyn Stowell of Spokane, Wash., received roughly 1,000 phone calls from people across the United States wanting to adopt Buddy when they learned his story. They picked Jim Brewer, mayor of the Alaska Peninsula village of Chignik, who took the dog home on March 7.

Brewer decided to have Buddy put to sleep last month by Anchorage Animal Control after he became increasingly aggressive and bit his hand.

''It turns out he was a super alpha male who had never been properly socialized with people,'' he said. ''Everybody tried to put the best light possible on Buddy in hopes there was a small chance things would have worked out.''

Brewer said he brought Buddy to Anchorage in early April for a veterinary appointment and then left him with a family in the city to recuperate.

While Buddy was there, Brewer said, his dominant personality peaked. The family asked Brewer to pick up the dog a few days later.

''He was growling and acting aggressively with their young children,'' Brewer said.

Brewer and his wife took Buddy back to their Anchorage hotel room that morning. The dog continued acting surly throughout the day.

''I took him for a walk after dinner. Then he sat down on the floor and after about five minutes had this bored look on his face,'' Brewer said. ''I was watching TV in the hotel. He stood by the door, and I said, No.' He turned around on me with a challenging stare, lifting his lips, and started to growl.''

He walked Buddy to the car for a timeout.

''As I was pushing him into the car, he turned to bite at me and ... bit down and ripped through my hand,'' Brewer said.

Brewer's wife drove him to the hospital, where he received 14 stitches. Hospital staffers called Animal Control to report the attack, and an officer responded to impound the dog.

Erin Myers, Animal Control spokeswoman, said an animal that bites is ineligible for adoption. The owner must take the pet back or surrender it. Brewer signed a surrender form April 11, she said, and Buddy was put to sleep 11 days later.

Roger Stowell was outraged to learn of the dog's death. Stowell said Buddy could be difficult and required special attention.

''He was even aggressive like that with Bill,'' Stowell said. ''That's the reason we were so selective in finding him a new home.''

Stowell said he'd been told about Buddy's biting Brewer and left a message to find out what was going on but never heard back.

Marilyn Stowell spent about six hours speaking with Brewer over several days before deciding to place Buddy with him. In a March interview, she said she thought Buddy and Brewer would be soul mates and she was very pleased with the placement.

Roger Stowell said he and his wife are upset things ended this way.

''I told him if it didn't work out, I wanted Buddy back,'' Stowell said. ''I didn't know what I was going to do if I got him back, but I wasn't going to put him down.''

Stowell said he would have searched for a new home for Buddy or sent him to a dog-training school in Colorado.

Brewer said he consulted some Labrador retriever experts who told him that Buddy, age 4, was probably too old for corrective training. Brewer said he wasn't informed of Buddy's combative tendencies when he asked to adopt him.

Despite the dog's bad side, Brewer said, Buddy should be remembered as a wonderful, beautiful, unique and loyal dog. The loss has taken a strong emotional toll on him and his wife, Brewer said. They plan to look for a new dog soon, perhaps another Lab.



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