By JOE WEBB, WKRC
WALTON, Ky. (WKRC) - The disappearance and death of a service dog brought out the best in a lot of people, who made donations and volunteered to search.
When the people at Faithful Friends Pet Memory Center heard about Gunner the service dog's death, they decided to pitch in like so many others. They're donating cremation services and an urn.
“We're just hoping to do our part and first of all show him the respect he deserved and show the family,” said. “As a veteran, the respect that they deserve.”
Since the service dog disappeared from his leash on January 12th, volunteers have searched and generous donors have offered rewards to find the Siberian Husky. He was a valuable asset to disabled Veteran Bryan Vallandingham.
“He knows when I'm going to have a seizure at least 30-45 minutes before I do,” said Bryan.
There was a lot of goodwill directed toward the Vallandinghams, but there was also a dark side. Someone had taken the dog.
Things got darker Monday afternoon when a caller to the Boone County Animal Shelter said a dead husky was near the railroad tracks not a quarter mile from the Vallandingham's house. The family raced to the location and found Gunner.
The Vallandingham family does not believe Gunner was hit by a train. They think the husky was killed and dumped by the tracks.
Their suspicion is fueled by what happened the day before. They got a call from someone demanding money in exchange for information about where Gunner was.
They called the sheriff, who launched an extortion investigation. Preliminary reports indicate a man named Dave demanded $100 on an iTunes gift card before giving any information.
He told Kimberly Vallandingham he lived in the neighborhood and was "not innocent" in the dog theft.
The extortion investigation continues, but so does the kindness of strangers.
A number of people have approached the Vallandingham family to donate a puppy to replace Gunner.
They made arrangements with a reputable husky breeder who agreed to let them have the pick of a litter of puppies that will be available next month.