Berdeaux family mourns loss of dog

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When Jim Berdeaux spoke of Bella, the 10-year-old family dachshund, that was euthanized after being burned over 40 percent of her body, he did so, alternately with a lump in his throat and smile in his heart.

“We are absolutely heartbroken,” he said. “Bella was a wonderful little dog and our family adored her. She was a happy part of our lives for seven years. It’s just heartbreaking what happened to her.”

What happened continues to be suspect, but Berdeaux believes strongly that Bella was doused in charcoal lighter or some other flammable liquid and deliberately set on fire.

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The incident happened Aug. 17 in the China Grove community in northern Pike County.

Berdeaux said his daughter, Brooke Berdeaux, and her daughter, Charli, spent the night in China Grove at the home of her fiancé, Dennis Gray, who works in Columbus.

“They took Bella with them and, when they got ready to leave the next morning, Bella ran off and they couldn’t chase her down,” Berdeaux said. “When they came back that afternoon to look for Bella and check on the property, they found Bella lying under the steps. She had been badly hurt. She couldn’t stand and acted like she was in shock.”

Brooke Berdeaux took Bella to Pike Animal Hospital in Troy where it was determined that the dog had been severely burned.

“When I got the call around 11 o’clock that night, the lady said her dog has been hit by a car,” said Lawrence Johnston, veterinarian. “When they got here with the dog, I saw that it had been burned.”

Johnston said he could smell an accelerant, similar to lighter fluid, which led him to think that the dog could have been intentionally set on fire.

“I don’t want to think that but I just don’t see that it could have happened any other way,” he said. “If there had been a bonfire or a big barbecue or something, but there wasn’t. It’s heartbreaking to think that someone might have intentionally set the dog on fire. I’m not saying that’s what happened. I just don’t think it could have happened any other way.”

The Berdeaux family made the tough decision to have Bella euthanized.

“It was hard but it was the best thing – the only thing – we could do for her,” Jim Berdeaux said.

Johnston said, too, that it was the humane thing to do.

“The dog had third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body,” he said. “When there is that much damage, the skin can’t heal. There’s just too much of the skin gone. It’s not going to heal and infection will set in and it will lose too much fluid.”

Johnston said the pain from a burn like that is most intense when the body is on fire and then when it starts to heal.

“When an animal is trying to recover from a burn the pain is almost unbearable,” he said. “And, in this case, the chances of recovery were almost non existent.”

The Berdeaux family “inherited” Bella about seven years ago and she quickly became a member of the family.

“We all loved her,” Berdeaux said. “It just breaks my heart to think that she might have been lying there burned liked that for four, six or eight hours. Bella was one of those dogs that went running, wagging her tail when somebody spoke to her. Why anybody would want to set a sweet dog like Bella on fire – barbecue her – defies humanity.”

In an effort to find out what happened to Bella, if she were intentionally set on fire or something else tragic happened to her, the Berdeaux family is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the alleged act.

The Humane Society of Pike County has committed another $500 toward the reward.

Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact the Pike County Sheriff’s Department at 566-4347.