Revisited: October 29, 2003 / by Justin Merriman

This photograph is from October of 2003. I was working for the Valley News Dispatch and received a call from my city editor telling me about a local dog that was bitten by a rabid skunk. He asked me to go to the home and see if I could get a photo of the dog and it's owner. Before my editor hung up he told me that the owner might actually put the dog down himself but he didn't want me to stay for that. I quickly drove to the address my editor gave me. When I got to the home there was no answer at the front door. I walked around the back and found Joe Burdek digging a grave for his dog, Pooh Bear. I introduced myself and talked to Joe for quite some time. He explained to me that he never got the dog his rabies shot and couldn't afford to take him to a vet. I asked him what he planned to do with the dog and he told me that once I left he was going to shoot it. I paused for a moment and then asked him if I could stay for that. I explained to him that it is important for people to see the reality of this unfortunate situation. He seemed to hesitate but after thinking for a few minutes he agreed to let me stay. Immediately he went back to digging the grave and I stepped off to the side. As he dig the grave he would often stop and lean on the shovel and cry. He quickly finished the grave and walked over to a table and picked up a .22 caliber pistol that he had wrapped in a towel. He tucked it in the back of his belt and walked towards the dog. He grabbed the dog's leash and pulled the dog closer to the shallow grave. As he held the dog with one hand he reached back with the other and grabbed the pistol. I quickly pointed it towards the dog's head and pulled the trigger. I was behind him and waited for the shot. All I heard was a click. The gun misfired. He pulled it back, cocked it again and placed it back to the dog's head. Once the gun fired he quickly pushed his beloved pet of 8 years into the grave and began covering him up with the freshly dug dirt. He shoveled quickly and soon the grave was filled. He patted the top of the loose dirt with his shovel and turned to me. I don't remember what he said to me or what I said to him, but do remember I left very soon after. The top photo ran in the newspaper and the bottom one didn't.