Last year, something unthinkable happened to Haley Walker-Opperman, Dave Opperman and their Scotch Collie Lab Nixon while walking in the Cranbrook Community Forest. Nixon dug up a semi-buried white, fatty substance and ate it.
After suffering convulsions and seizures, Nixon was rushed to a veterinarian who pumped his stomach and administered an anaesthetic. After the anesthetic wore off, Nixon frantically ran around their house, eventually overheating and succumbing to more seizures, and ultimately passing away.
Now, with news circulating that more dogs have perished in the same, terrible way after walking in the CCF just over a year later, Haley and Dave’s traumatic experience has been brought back up to the surface.
“Our reaction to hearing that more dogs have died was [that we’re] upset and sad that more people had to see their furry friend die a horrible death, it’s brought the memories of last fall back,” said Walker-Opperman in a recent interview with the Townsman. She described Nixon as a huge part of their family, basically their kid, and said she knows many people in the community feel the same way of their own dogs.
Local RCMP have launched an investigation into the recent deaths of four dogs who suffered a suspiciously similar fate to that of Nixon’s, but Walker-Opperman is reminded of the difficulties facing last year’s investigation.
“The investigation is a hard one,” she said. “Last year the RCMP had no leads. The substance the we strongly believe is being used to poison the dogs, 1080 Floracetate, is really hard to test for — so far the similarities of the symptoms to which the dogs suffer from before they die is why we believe it is 1080.”
Walker-Opperman explained that her veterinarian consulted with an expert on 1080 last year, which led them to believe it may be the cause. Signs of 1080 poisoning usually become visible within half an hour of ingestion, though it can take more than six hours to manifest. Initial symptoms include vomiting, anxiety, disorientation and shaking, before developing into frenzied behaviour with running and screaming fits, drooling at the mouth, uncontrolled paddling and seizures, before finally collapse and death.
At this time, with the investigation still in its early stages, it is not known whether these recent dog deaths were a result of accidental poisoning or malicious intent.
Walker-Opperman expressed some frustration over last year’s circumstances, which didn’t produce any conclusive results, and said, “It’s sad that it took three dogs and two coyotes to die last year for the RCMP to take this seriously and make a case out of it.” She said that she would like to see the forest patrolled, interviews with people of interest conducted, and complaints or situations that happen in the CCF taken seriously, and followed through with.
Last year a local business owner started a reward with the intent of getting information leading to answers over the cause of the deaths, including poisonings in Canal Flats. Walker-Opperman explained that the reward was supposed to expire at the end of November and that the money would be donated to the SPCA. However, in light of recent events, the business owner is extending the reward.
Anyone with information can contact Cranbrook RCMP at 250-489-3471 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Steeples Veterinary Clinic, who have launched an investigation with RCMP and are in talks with toxicologists, are urging pet-owners to keep a close eye on their pet, particularly when in the Community Forest.
“Also, we ask you to keep an eye out for any animal carcasses (deer, elk, etc.), chunks of meat or bone, or mysterious substances altogether,” read their December 13 Facebook update, and added:
“As of right now, there is still not enough information to establish whether this is accidental or malicious. We are asking the community to stay calm, but remain vigilant.”