LOWELL, Mich — Saturday night, Emma Wikstrom was doing standard weekend chores when she got a panicked phone call from her mother.
"She said she thought they shot him through the heart," Wikstrom says. Her mom had been out on a walk with her three dogs on their usual trail through the Lowell Game Area. Out front was Huck, the energetic 2-year-old Australian Cattle dog.
Buckshot went through Huck's front right leg, missing his vital organs. Five minutes later, Emma and her husband were at the trail to pick up Huck and bring him to an emergency veterinarian.
"He wasn't nippy," Wikstrom says. She rode in the back with Huck, keeping pressure on his leg to stop the bleeding. "You'd think that an animal that was in that much pain would be aggressive, but he wasn't."
Three days later, Huck is on his way to Michigan State's small animal hospital for surgery. Based on his x-rays, surgeons believe they won't have to amputate his leg. With some rehab, he'll be back to his energetic ways.
Huck the Dog
Huck's recovery is a positive note, but something seems off in Wikstrom's mind.
The Kent County Sheriffs Office is handling the investigation. As of Tuesday afternoon, they don't have any leads on who fired the shots.
The buckshot that hit Huck was a large caliber, but the only legal hunting that weekend was small game. In her words, the most traumatizing part is how close her mother was to Huck.
"When she started screaming out for help, and telling whoever it was they hit her dog, there were two more shots that went out." She says. "So they heard her, they shot again and then they didn’t come and help. This wasn’t a normal hunter."
Cary Foster, a sergeant with the Michigan DNR agrees, this was not a normal hunter.
"Hunters that are responsible need to identify what they're shooting at and what's past what they're shooting at. That's what we teach at Hunter safety," Foster said. "And don't fire unless you're 100% sure that it's safe to take that shot. So if somebody is shooting at a dog... and if they're shooting after somebody yelling, they're obviously not a responsible and ethical hunter."
A native of Lowell, Wikstrom says hunting is something she's been around her whole life. She doesn't want to discourage hunters, but she does hope her family's story will lead to more vigilance on the trails. She posted Huck's story to an overwhelming response on Facebook. Among the thousands of shares were stories of people experiencing similar scary situations nearby those trails.
"We really do feel that our town, in general, has the responsibility to make sure that the trails are safe," She says. "North Country trails, a lot of them run right through active hunting grounds... this is not anti-hunting or anything like that. It's just trying to make sure that these trails are safe for everybody."
Sgt. Foster says the best way to make sure you are staying safe is to follow hunting rules by season, and wear brightly colored clothing when on trails.
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