WILLMAR -- The little black and white puppy romps and chews playfully on a toy, seemingly oblivious to all that has happened in the last two weeks of her short nine-week long life.
The pit bull/Brittany spaniel cross, who has no official name but is called "Missy" or "Puppy," is the only surviving member of a litter of nine pups first dumped into a drainage ditch and then shot last Saturday by a rural Willmar man.
Trisha Chapman, her fiancé Mike Schulz and two children intend to keep the puppy after what she has been through.
"We will keep her," Chapman said Thursday. "We were going to give the puppies away. We just can't do that now."
The pup somehow survived a shooting that left a 57-year-old Willmar man charged with second-degree assault and animal cruelty. Terence Dale Schwartz faces the felony charges in Kandiyohi County District Court. Schwartz allegedly pointed the gun at a man and shot eight of the nine puppies with a .22-caliber pistol last Saturday evening at a rural Willmar home.
The survivor was found, with another wounded pup, under the deck of the home. Chapman rushed that pup and two others to the veterinarian, but the others couldn't be saved and were euthanized. The survivor was only grazed by a bullet, and has a very minor wound on her side.
The bodies of the remaining pups were located in a fire pit where a fire had been burning, Chapman said.
The litter was the offspring of the couple's male pit bull, named Whiskey, and Schwartz's female Brittany Spaniel dog. Chapman says had agreed to take care of the litter and find homes for the puppies. The couple, their children and Schwartz lived in the same home for about a year, Chapman said. The men work together at a nearby farm.
Chapman says they all got along well, and that she doesn't know what caused Schwartz, the owner of the property, to first throw the litter into a drainage ditch. She said Schwartz told her on Oct. 19 that he got rid of the litter and that he "threw them in a slough."
Chapman said she called the local Humane Society and provided information about the litter, in case someone found them. A young man, walking along a drainage ditch while hunting, did find the puppies on Oct. 24 and brought them to the Humane Society. Officials there called Chapman, who retrieved the animals and brought them back to the house. She and others then left the home, while Chapman's brother, his 16-month-old daughter and Chapman's 7-year-old daughter, stayed behind. Chapman said she received frantic phone calls that Schwartz was shooting the puppies and returned to find the girls running away from the place along the road, having seen the shooting and fleeing to get away.
Chapman says she had thought it would be best if she brought the puppies home to their mother, and that's why she took the litter back home from the Humane Society.
"If I could have looked into the future and seen what was about to happen, I would have never brought the dogs home."
Chapman says she's received a great deal of community support and KSAX, the Alexandria-based television station, is taking suggestions for names for the puppy.
"It's only fair to have them (the community) help us name the dog," she said.