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Disc champion may have been shot

CoJo, above, a championship Australian shepherd disc dog, was found dead last Thursday with an apparent bullet hole between his eyes. (Courtesy of Jeff Stanaway)

by Larry Chowning

Tragedy struck last week on Canoe House Landing Road, at the far western end of Middlesex County, when CoJo, a beloved Australian shepherd dog, was found dead in a ditch with what appeared to be a bullet hole between his eyes.

After he had been missing for about 24 hours, the 11-year old dog was found dead last Thursday, said owner Jeff Stanaway. CoJo was a champion in disc (Frisbee) contests in which dogs perform the skill of catching flying Frisbees.

In 2006, CoJo won the national disc championship and tied for the world championship that same year in Atlanta, Georgia. CoJo just missed the world title by losing a tie-breaker, said Stanaway. The dog qualified six times for the world championships.

CoJo retired from competition in 2009 and before last week was enjoying life on Jeff and Angie Stanaway’s horse farm.

CoJo was well-known to people in the Water View area where he had performed at the Mid-Atlantic Disc Dogs competition at the Water View fire house several years ago.

Stanaway said he went out to feed his horses last Wednesday evening before dark. When he finished he called for his dogs and CoJo was missing. They have several dogs. “I looked for him for about an hour and then drove my wife to Gloucester,” said Stanaway. “When I got back I combed the neighborhood with a flashlight but could not find him that night.”

Stanaway went to work early in the morning and came home about noon on Thursday. He said he saw one of his neighbors walking down the road and asked if he had seen CoJo. The neighbor said there was a dog dead in the roadside ditch.

“I figured he was hit by a car until I picked him up and there were no obvious injuries,” said Stanaway. “Then I saw the hole between his eyes. My wife, Angie, is a vet and she immediately thought it looked like a bullet wound.”

The Stanaways took the dog to another vet and had X-rays performed, but they did not detect a bullet inside CoJo or an exit hole. “The vet thinks he was killed by a bullet or something similar,” said Stanaway.

The Stanaways raised CoJo from a puppy and said they had always found him to be a loving dog. “He was a great dog, super friendly and never showed any aggression towards anyone,” said Stanaway. “He was well known all across the United States as a great competitor.”

The Stanaways have a $2,000 reward out for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the death of CoJo.

Middlesex County Animal Control officer Ricky Warren said the matter is under investigation and anyone knowing anything about this should contact the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department at (804) 758-5600.

posted 01.22.2014

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