When Michelle Colaianni checked on her dogs after a family outing to Libby, she was unprepared for what she found.
“I was having a panic attack,” Colaianni said.
When Colaianni called her sister, Ashley Denton, Denton could barely understand her between the phone connection and her screaming.
Tiny Girl, Denton’s son’s yellow Labrador, had been shot at close range in the back of the head with a shotgun.
Denton said she suspects whoever killed Tiny Girl was known to both Tiny Girl and the other six dogs kept in the kennel. The other dogs are protective, and the way Tiny Girl was found suggested she trusted the person who shot her.
“Why?” Denton said. “She was an innocent animal. She didn’t do anything. And if they were trying to hurt me, it is my dog, but it was my son’s dog, my eight year old’s dog.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe said Wednesday the investigation was ongoing, and no further information was available.
Denton said the family suspects who did it, but declined to comment while the investigation is ongoing. She is shocked and confused how anyone could do something so violent to such a gentle, trusting animal.
“She was the most loving, caring, attention — I will please you in any way possible kind of dog,” Denton said. “She (must have) just sat there.”
Tiny Girl had only recently finished nursing a litter of puppies, Denton said. She has a picture of Tiny Girl with Denver, one of her full-grown puppies from a previous litter, lounging on top of her while Tiny Girl slept.
“Denver did sleep on her a lot,” she said. “He was a momma’s boy.”
Tiny Girl was given to Hunter, Denton’s son, five years ago for his third birthday. He named her after a character from Dinosaur Train, a PBS children’s show.
Denton said she had recently moved to her new home south of Troy with her children and Tiny Girl. Colaianni lives next door, so they placed Tiny Girl in her half-acre kennel with the other dogs while they finished moving.
But now Denton is unsure how safe her family is in their new home, and has her children staying elsewhere while the Sheriff’s Office investigates, she said.
“We’ve gone as far as changing locks and making sure we go places in pairs,” she said. “It’s a complete violation of every sense of space and safety.”
Colaianni, who has lived there about a year, said she never would have imagined something like this happening.
The event has been devastating for her children, Denton said.
“Every night at dinner, we do prayers, and we say what we’re thankful for, and they say ‘Tiny’, every night,” she said.
Denton has offered a $500 reward, to which a community member added another $300, for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 406-293-4112.