Dog, shot and missing for three weeks, is returned home

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Copper, a boxer mix, was discovered along State Road 285 in Mossy Head with a gunshot wound in his head.

JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

GULF BREEZE — After three weeks of searching, the Dukes family was finally reunited with their pup, Copper, last weekend.

Copper, a boxer mix, had gone missing from his Gulf Breeze home on April 27 when owner Sarah Dukes noticed the back gate had been left open. For some unknown reason, Copper was discovered the next day along State Road 285 in Mossy Head — a 70-mile drive from his home — with a gunshot wound in his head. He was spotted by Dan and Liz Ammons, who contacted April Madr of H.E.A.R.T Animal Rescue.

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“He appeared that he had been beaten previous to the wound,” Madr said. “He was left for dead. We immediately took him to Freeport Pet Clinic where he stayed for a week.”

Posts on social media and calls to animal control left Madr with no leads. On May 5, the dog was taken to his foster family who called him “Monte.”

H.E.A.R.T is a nonprofit organization based in DeFuniak Springs that helps raise money to care for homeless pets and foster pets in need. As with any H.E.A.R.T pet, the dog received complete vet care, including shots and neutering.

“He’s a very sweet boy,” Madr said. “A little shy and scared, but was really improving.”

Monte, a.k.a Copper, hadn’t yet been posted for adoption when Madr was contacted by a woman in Freeport who recognized the dog from social media posts. She got in contact with Dukes and said, “I think we have your pup.”

Dukes said the family had been searching around Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. One Facebook post had as many as 400 shares, which is how it reached Freeport. They had no idea Copper would get so far away in such a short period of time.

“We were so grateful that he was OK, but heartbroken that someone would shoot him,” Dukes said. “It is hard to believe that someone would treat a dog the way Copper was treated.”

Madr said she doesn’t know what happened in those 24 hours when Copper was taken from Gulf Breeze to Mossy Head, but said she suspects foul play. Although she calls this story a “miracle,” Madr said it’s not the first time the rescue has assisted an injured, missing pup.

“It’s just devastating,” she said. “We hope this story lets people know to keep an eye on their pups. And if you see something, report it.”

On Saturday, Madr personally delivered Copper to his family. A video recorded just as Copper was brought home shows him jumping out of the car and into his owners’ arms.

“You knew immediately that he was their baby,” she said. “They were overjoyed. It was an emotional afternoon.”

Copper is “happy and doing great,” according to the Dukes. The family would like to find the person responsible for injuring Copper, but are grateful to finally have him home.

“It is a miracle that he survived and that we found him,” Dukes said. “We owe so much to the amazing people at the H.E.A.R.T organization.”

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