A plaid flannel dog bed lies on the floor next to the Christmas tree in Patti Barcklow's living room.
It belongs to Tibby, Barcklow's friendly yellow Labrador retriever, who will never come back to curl up in it.
"That was supposed to be Tibby's Christmas present," Barcklow said. "Thank goodness we gave it to her early, so she got to use it."
Tibby was killed Dec. 3 in the front yard of Barcklow's Martinez home. When her son, Bobby Jordan, 15, came home from school, he found the backyard gate open and 3-year-old Tibby with an obviously broken back in the yard just outside the gate.
Daisy, the family's 1-year-old Daschund/terrier mix, also was injured. She had received cuts and puncture wounds to her hind legs.
"I found her in the backyard," Bobby said of Daisy. "She was hiding under the steps and wouldn't come out."
The family rushed Daisy to the veterinarian, who performed surgery to repair the worst laceration that cut through muscle and tendons to the bone. Barcklow said the veterinarian determined that Tibby and Daisy's wounds were not caused from another animal, but by a person.
"It is beyond cruel," Barcklow said. "To be this physically violent..."
The veterinarian believes Tibby died mid-morning, meaning the attack occurred between 7 and 11 a.m., when the family was not home. Barcklow called the police later that night to report the incident.
"Either this was an act of retaliation or this was committed by a mentally disturbed person," Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. "We're convinced these injuries and the death of the dog was at the hands of a human being. It was no accident."
Morris said the case was passed along to an investigator. Rewards totalling $7,500 are being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, Morris said.
Barcklow said her dogs normally stayed in the backyard during the day and were not able to open the gate, which had to be unlocked and lifted to open. The front yard faces well-traveled Blue Ridge Drive and the back entrance to the Food Lion parking lot.
Though Daisy is a barker, Tibby was not a dog that would provoke an attack by barking or otherwise being aggressive, Barcklow said. In fact, Tibby had to be encouraged to stand up for herself when Daisy would steal her food.
Barcklow's husband, Greg, went door to door the evening of the incident looking for witnesses.
"My husband, we used to joke that Tibby was his girlfriend," Barcklow said. "When he had days off when we were dating, he would come to my house and pick her up and bring her to his house. He would make her French fries and chicken nuggets and they'd just lay on the couch and watch movies."
A neighbor found Tibby's collar on Blue Ridge Drive a short distance from the Barcklows' home. The ID tag with Tibby's name and phone number was missing, though the ring to which it was attached and her rabies tag were intact.
Since Tibby died, Barcklow said Daisy is now leery of strangers, especially men. Barcklow doesn't allow Daisy outside alone, and when she goes outside, she runs to where Tibby was found.
"It is like she's looking for her," Barcklow said, adding that Daisy was traumatized by the incident. "Even when the police officer came, she didn't bark. She just had this pitiful cry and moan. It was the most heartbreaking sound I'd ever heard. Both my girls (Jacki, 12, and Amber, 10) refused to sleep in their rooms and slept out there on the couch so they could be with her and just kind of comfort her."
Barcklow is concerned that someone who was so violent against animals is a threat to the rest of the community. But she is hoping a witness will come forward with information leading to an arrest.
"I wish someone had heard them and looked out and just been able to stop it," Barcklow said. "We just really feel like there is somebody who saw something."
Anyone with information should call the sheriff's office at (706) 541-1044.
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