A beloved family dog is recovering after being shot at a public park in Claremont, New Hampshire Sunday afternoon.
As Gunner the Mastiff-Boxer mix recovers from emergency surgery, his owner is now wondering why the shooter was carrying a deadly weapon in a family-friendly park in the first place.
For Gunner's family, it's heartbreaking to see their gentle giant in so much pain, because the 100-pound dog is usually hopping around, chasing balls and Frisbees.
That's exactly what he was doing Sunday afternoon just moments before the two-year-old was shot in the shoulder.
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"I never realized how big of a piece he has of my heart until this all happened," said Gunner's owner Taysa Combs of Claremont.
Combs says she was playing with her dog on the tennis courts at Monadnock Park when a couple approached the gates.
"I saw them coming so I said, 'give me a minute so I can put on his leash and we will be out of your way,'" Combs recalled.
She says they ignored her, opened the fence, and when Gunner approached, the man started running.
Within seconds, Combs says the man pulled a gun and opened fire at her dog.
"He said, 'he was coming at me,' and I said, 'he thought you were playing,'" Combs recalled. "I remember just pausing, and having it feel surreal."
Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase says the man called 911 as he was leaving the park.
Chase says it is legal to carry a weapon in Monadnock Park, and in some cases, you can be justified in using deadly force against another person's pet.
"There are state specific laws that cover when you can protect yourself," Chase explained.
While the investigation continues, Combs is taking responsibility for her role.
"Absolutely, I wish I kept my dog on a leash," she said. "We wouldn't be here right now."
Still, she admits her family may never be able to understand why the man had to shoot.
"I pleaded with him, 'please, please put the gun away,' and 'please don't shoot my dog, he would never hurt you,' and he did it anyway," Combs said.
Now, she and her family are just grateful Gunner survived. Gunner suffered shattered bones as a result of the shooting and will require surgery.
Police say it's too early in the investigation to determine whether anyone will face charges.