Cadaver dog shot in Illinois neighborhood, reward offered

FREEBURG, Ill. – A dog specially trained to assist law enforcement with locating human remains is fighting for his life after someone shot him earlier this week. It is believed Rowdy was shot with an airsoft rifle at close range.

“All of us veterinarians are shocked that this much damage could be done by an airsoft rifle,” said Megan Baebler, Associate Veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Center, who performed Rowdy's emergency surgery.

Marla Vollmer said she let her two dogs, Rowdy and Ruby, out on their property in Freeburg, Illinois on August 7. When Vollmer called them back in, Ruby returned but Rowdy did not. She knew something was wrong.

She saw Rowdy lying in the yard close to the road. When she called to him again, he lifted his head and wagged his tail, but still did not move.

Vollmer immediately got the truck, scooped Rowdy up, and took him to the 24-hour emergency veterinarian.

“We had no idea at the time that he’d be shot,” said Vollmer.

Baebler believes Rowdy was shot at close range. She said the pellet went into his left side, through the muscle and his small intestine four times, creating eight holes, before becoming lodged in his right side.

Baebler was unable to remove the pellet due to the extensive internal damage.

“Two of those holes were not repairable, and I ended up having to take about an eight-inch long section of his intestines out, and then suture those ends back together in order to save Rowdy’s life,” said Baebler.

Vollmer rescued Rowdy as a puppy from the Belleville Humane Society. Months later, the two began training with Gateway Search Dogs.

After nearly two years, Rowdy became a certified human remains detection dog, otherwise known as a cadaver dog. For the past six years, the pair have volunteered their time and talents with law enforcement agencies across the bi-state area on about 35 cases.

To keep their skills sharp, Vollmer trains Rowdy and Ruby daily. Her bond with them is as strong as the bond the dogs have with one another.

“He treats her like the annoying little sister that she is, but she worships the ground he walks on, and these last couple of days she has just been lost,” Vollmer said.

Vollmer's home is located in a subdivision with other families and dogs. They have no idea who would want to do something like this to their beloved pet.

The cost of Rowdy’s surgery and care could reach upwards of $6,000. The Vollmers are not asking for money, they just want answers and to bring awareness to the dangers of airsoft guns.

“You can’t treat (airsoft guns) like toys. These are not toys," she said. "You’ve got to respect life. You have to respect these animals. This dog is my friend and he’s my partner, and if I lose him that will just break my heart.”

The Vollmers and their rescue friends have chipped in to offer a $2,100 reward for information leading to the person who shot Rowdy. Anyone with information is asked to call the Freeburg Police Department at 618-539-3132.