By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Brandon Twp. — Debbie and Tom Ford gave up their annual trip to the thumb to look for Snowy Owls. Tina Drescher and her husband rang in 2023 by sitting in their car near Sands and Sawmill Lake roads. Matt Duda spent New Year’s Day morning making a cross and digging a grave.
These area residents were some of the few that were alerted by a Facebook post about an older dog, later discovered to be one of four dogs, that were wandering on Sands Road in Brandon Township.
“We were just driving by on Sawmill Lake Road, and there were the four dogs there,” said Debbie Ford. “We stopped, and they all came up to the vehicle, they weren’t very friendly at the time. There was a lot going on, and they were scared. We weren’t going to try and get any of them at the time, it wasn’t safe.”
The four dogs, two male and two female, were walking down the road, and the Fords and Drescher wanted to get them out of the road. With donated food from Pet Supplies Plus in Ortonville, Drescher was able to draw the dogs’ attention to lure them towards her car so Debbie and Tom could put the food off to the side of Sawmill Lake Road to keep them out of the street.
“They were being so protective of each other,” said Drescher. “I was seeing that they were trying to protect the big dog, he was injured and couldn’t walk very far at a time. He’d just have to bark and they’d all surround him. Every time the vehicles got around him to try and get him, the dogs would try to get away, but then see he wasn’t moving so they’d come back and surround him.”
Oakland County Sheriff were called and arrived around 5:22 p.m., on Dec. 31 according to police reports. Upon arrival, deputies saw the dogs out there and contacted animal control, but they wouldn’t come out. Deputies were able to get three of the dogs into the back of one of the police cruisers by opening the door and staying seated in the cruisers, but the injured one was having a harder time getting in. One of the deputies attempted to help, but as they did so, the other dogs jumped out of the cruiser and charged deputies. Fearing for their safety, deputies shot one of the female dogs, and the other two uninjured ones ran off into the woods. Deputies were then able to lift the injured dog into the cruiser to transport to animal control, and pull the deceased one off to the side of the road. At the time, the other three were not able to be located by deputies.
After the large male was caught, Amanda Hood was leaving her mom’s house and saw the other male down walking down Sands Road.
“We saw that he didn’t have a collar on, so we knew he was a stray,” she said. “We tried to call him over, but every time we got closer, he was walking away. We went and followed him because it was getting colder, and we found him next to the deceased female.”
Hood said that once they stopped and got out of the truck, the male took a few laps around the vehicle before jumping in her open car door.
“There was a cop coming down the street too, and I don’t know if the high beams scared him, but he jumped into the car,” she said. “He let us get near him, sniffed us, he was scared but he was super calm.”
She said it took about an hour to get the dog out of her truck and into the police car. Her mom, Dawn Hood, brought her a leash and some food to lure him, and they were able to coach him out.
“I had my infant with me, and I did not want to drive down to Animal Control with my infant and a stray dog,” she said. “Once we were able to coerce the dog out of the vehicle, he went right into the back seat of the cop’s car. I think he just realized we were trying to help him.”
Hood said that she stopped because she has two dogs herself, and she wanted to help.
“I know if my dogs ever got loose, I’d want everybody and anybody to help save our dogs,” she said.
Once she left, there was just one female dog still wandering the area.
“I couldn’t sleep that night, we went back around 12:30 because someone said the female was sitting with the deceased female, and we sat out there and just watched for a good hour and a half. We tried turning off the van and leaving the door open with some food, but we didn’t even see her that night,” said Drescher. “My husband and I went back in the morning, and she was still sitting there. We realized any time we approached her, she took off running. So I messaged Debbie because she said he had a live trap, and I left to get a dog igloo that I had, and Debbie put out the trap and set it.”
They waited all morning for the female dog to climb in, tempted by the liverwurst Debbie put in the track.
“We tried Dearborn Ham, but it wasn’t working so I went home and got liverwurst and she went in,” said Debbie. “We were there for around 3 hours watching with binoculars. She didn’t growl anymore, but she was scared. She went immediately to Oakland County Animal Control. We just thought it was more important to help these dogs. They were scared and defensive and it was a dangerous and unpredictable situation.”
Those involved thing the dogs were dumped intentionally in the area.
“As a community, we need to make a stance,” said Drescher. “This put people and those dogs in danger. This was really not okay.”
After the three dogs were caught, Debbie and Drescher called Duda, who had stopped earlier to bury the deceased dog and wanted to be alerted when they were all caught, since the last dog wouldn’t leave the deceased.
“We lost our black lab in November, so kind of a recent thing. That kind of stuff lingers with you, and it was just clear to me that this one that didn’t make it, I needed to look out for it. It’s good that the other three are getting taken care of, but this one needed to be taken care of as well,” said Duda. “Like a lot of good things in life, you don’t really think about why you do it, you just know at the time it’s the thing you’ve been called to do and you go do it.”
Duda went out on January 1 and buried the deceased dog in the area, and made a cross to mark it.
“It was not as hard as I expected it to be,” he said. “I thought I’d have a tear or two, but the whole time I was doing it, I felt a kind of happiness. Talking to her, making sure she was taken care of, I felt like I was giving her love. Love that I suspect she didn’t get a lot of from the humans in her life.”
There is currently a $600 reward offered by an area resident and local business owner for information leading to an arrest of whoever left the dogs.
“People like this need to be held accountable,” said resident Rex Murphy. “Must come forward with some type of proof of whomever dumped these poor dogs to collect rewards.”
Murphy told a local business owner about the reward, and she agreed to match it, totaling $600.
“I am, and always have been, a huge animal advocate and animal lover,” said Kim Hagar, co-owner of the Boat Bar. “I was so heartbroken to hear about these poor dogs being dumped in our community. I feel someone definitely knows who did this and I would like to see them, caught and prosecuted for animal abuse, cruelty and neglect. Rex mentioned the reward idea to me and I thought it was a great way to catch the person or persons that did this, so I decided to offer a match to his reward of $300.”
Anyone with any information is urged to contact Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, 248-627-4911.
By Shelby Stewart-Soldan