Army veteran Bryan Vallandingham and his family are mourning the loss of a beloved family member. Their dog, Gunner, was found dead on Monday near their home in Richwood, Kentucky, after he had been missing for two weeks. The family believes that the dog was stolen, and text messages that were sent to Bryan’s wife asked for money in exchange for the dog’s location.
But it is not just the loss of a family pet that has the Vallandingham family so distraught. Gunner was Bryan’s service dog, trained to detect when the veteran was about to have a seizure.
“He would notify us if Bryan was getting ready to have a seizure,” Bryan’s wife, Kimberly Vallandingham, told WXIX. “He would tell us by sitting in front of him by laying across him or just barking randomly at Bryan so he would notify us and give us time to get him in a safe situation so he wouldn’t hurt himself.”
Now without Gunner around, the family reported that Bryan is having multiple seizures.
“I have epilepsy from a traumatic brain injury in the military. He knows when I’m going to have a seizure 30 to 45 minutes before I have one,” Bryan told WKRC. “When my wife isn’t home, he’ll put his body weight against me to keep me from falling.”
Bryan described the three-year-old Siberian Husky as his “lifeline.” Bryan served in the United States Army for 13 years.
Bryan said he let Gunner outside on January 12 in the evening to go to the bathroom. Gunner was on a long leash that extended into the yard. But just minutes later when Bryan went to check on him, Gunner was gone and there were boot prints in the snow.
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After doing an extensive search, going door-to-door in search of Gunner, the Vallandingham family took to social media to ask the community’s help in locating the veteran’s beloved and needed service dog. Local news outlets reported on the missing dog, but he was never found.
Sadly, just over two weeks after Gunner went missing, the Vallandinghams got a phone call that Gunner’s remains had been found about a half mile from their home. For disabled veteran Bryan Vallandingham, that was the worst possible news.
“Our family would like to thank everyone for the support and efforts in bringing home Gunner. Sadly Gunner was found yesterday deceased,” Bryan’s sister-in-law, Anjannette Smith, posted on Facebook. “At this time we are unable to go into details due to it being an ongoing investigation. Our hearts are broken and our family is in mourning at this time but please know all your support and condolences are being appreciated[;] it means a lot.”
The police are conducting an investigation around the dog’s death. In the meantime, the Vallandingham family is mourning the loss of their beloved service dog and trying to figure out what to do for the Army veteran’s health. The TriState Noah Project announced that it is having Gunner’s body cremated and will be giving the family a “full memorial package.”
Anyone with information about Gunner’s disappearance and death is asked to contact the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.
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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.