Columbia County (WKOW)-- To some people, a dog or a cat is no different than any other animal, but for their owners, a pet is seen as part of the family.
"He was like a child to us," pet owner Ali Reigstad explains. "There's no reason he shouldn't still be here right now."
On Friday afternoon, Ali Reigstad and Tim Rittmeyer of Arlington found two plastic containers filled with meat and rat poison in their backyard. The couple quickly discovered that their beloved Golden Retriever Gander had ingested some of the poison. They rushed him to a nearby vet's office and Sunday morning the dog started having seizures.
"Sunday morning, would have been around 6 a.m., we woke up to him having a seizure in our bed," Reigstad explains.
Hours later Gander had another seizure, then another. That's when vets discovered that his internal organs were shutting down and his brain was starting to swell. On Sunday afternoon the couple made the difficult decision to put Gander to sleep to prevent any more suffering.
"To get up the last couple of mornings and not have him there, to feed, to greet me good morning, it's been miserable," Rittmeyer says.
Columbia County deputies say the attack appears to be targeted, but they're still urging local pet owners to be on alert. They've identified a few persons of interest, but are waiting on finger prints and other evidence before they can move forward in the case. Officials with the county tell 27 News the penalty for poisoning a dog is considered a felony of animal cruelty.
To help find their dog's killer the couple has started a group on Facebook group called "Justice for Gander." The group contains more followers than there are people in the couple's hometown of Arlington. The small town features just over 800 residents. The group on social media, as of 6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, had more than 1,000 followers.
"People from different states. Some people we've never met," Reigstad.
Followers have posted several comments of support, condolences and are even offering donations toward the creation of a reward to find Gander's killer.
Columbia County deputies tell 27 News they haven't heard of this happening before in the county, but they were familiar with a case in the town of Columbus when two dogs were killed by rat poison in 2012.
Anyone with information on this case or any others involving the poisoning of pets should call Columbia County Crimestoppers at 1800-293-TIPS or contact the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at 608-742-4166.