A comfort dog who was helping a family cope after they were traumatized by last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas was allegedly shot and killed by a neighbor, who said the dog had been chasing his chickens.
Lona and Joseph Jackson, who live about 10 miles outside Bellingham, Washington, were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on Oct. 1, 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured as a gunman opened fire on the crowd.
The couple was not hit by gunfire, but a cousin who was with them, Melinda Brockie, was shot in the face and hospitalized, though she survived the attack.
After they returned home from the ordeal, Joseph said he got Jax, a Labradoodle, to help deal with the anxiety and stress, Lona Johnson tells PEOPLE.
“He gave us love and comfort with his playfulness and snuggles,” she says. “In the short time he was with us he helped us through some of our most trying times. He was a godsend.”
But Jax was shot about 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 2 on the property of the neighbor, according to police reports.
“He had been shot in the side,” Whatcom County Chief Deputy Kevin Hester tells PEOPLE. “He came back across to the road to his owners and passed away there … a member of the family saw the dog come back into the front yard and collapse there.”
Jax, who had just turned one year old, appeared to have been shot with a single round of birdshot fired from a shotgun at close range, according to Hester.
“The neighbor said (Jax) was over there chasing his chicken, which we have no proof of that but it’s possible it did occur,” Hester says, adding that no chickens were found harmed.
Deputies issued a criminal citation to Odin Maxwell, 49, on a misdemeanor count of aiming or discharging a firearm, “which is basically when you’re shooting in a reckless manner,” says Hester, explaining that “the way he was firing posed a danger to passing traffic, bicyclists and occupied houses across the street.”
Hester says no additional charges are expected to be filed against Maxwell, who did not respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
“The law says if a dog is loose on your property, you have the right to shoot and protect yourself, your family or your livestock,” Hester says, but, “even if you’re on your own property, you have to do it in a safe manner.”
Meanwhile, Johnson says she, her husband and their three teen boys remain crushed by Jax’s loss. “We were completely devastated and heartbroken,” she says. “It was an unnecessary act of violence that could have been avoided by a simple conversation.”