BY GABE LICHT
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN “Is this Lou?”
That became a common question as photos of missing yellow Labs were posted on social media following the Dec. 21 disappearance of Jason and Shanna Davis’ dog from their property in Franklin Township.
The search for Lou came to a grim end March 1, when a tip led Jason to an island on Pelican Lake northeast of Buffalo.
“I brushed off the snow and I knew right away it was Lou,” Jason said.
It appeared that he had been shot once with a shotgun, and again with a smaller-caliber round, likely two or three weeks earlier, Jason said, but no bullets were recovered.
The couple is now working with a bounty hunter and offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. Anyone with information is directed to call the US Fugitive Aprehension Anonymous Tip Line at (612) 808-6656 or the Wright County Sheriff’s Office at (763) 682-7600.
‘He was special’
Lou came into the Davis’ home after Jason’s sister and brother-in-law decided to breed their yellow Lab.
“What they thought was going to be a big litter was just one: Lou,” Jason said. “We knew he was special from the day we got him.”
When they learned he was the lone pup, they thought he may come with challenges.
“When you’re a singleton, it’s very common to have behavioral issues, social issues because Lou never got to hang around with other puppies brothers and sisters to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, . . . and learning all the social aspects of being a dog,” Jason said.
But those concerns quickly vanished.
“He fit right in with everybody: with the animals, with UPS and FedEx, and the mail truck,” Jason said. “He took to everybody and was such a gentle dog. He had just an awesome, very outgoing personality.”
Dec. 21 disappearance
“I was walking into the workshop, and Lou was just lying on the porch like he usually does,” Jason said. “I came out a couple hours later. Lou wasn’t on the porch. I looked around and called: No Lou.”
The Lab was not known to leave the property for long periods of time, but had recently ventured over to a neighboring property where a dog was in heat.
“I drove over to the neighbors’, assuming he had gone back over there,” Jason said. “There was snow and a little wind that basically covered his tracks from the last time he was there, but there were no new tracks. I realized at that point, ‘He hasn’t been over here today.’”
The search begins
Shortly after Lou’s disappearance, Jason and Shanna created posters and posted on social media that they were looking for their lost dog. Initially, they offered a $1,000 reward for Lou’s return.
Jan. 9, they changed their message to ask “Who has Lou?”
“We contacted the Retrievers, and they got involved, and they kind of walked us through what to do,” Jason said, referencing the organization that helps find lost dogs. “They wanted us to put on there, basically, a reminder to anyone seeing that sign that it’s illegal to have our dog, other than just a reward, because it had been a few weeks.”
With that change, the Davises also increased the reward to $2,000.
Jason’s social media post was shared more than 2,300 times.
‘I have your dog’
The change in approach seemed to work, as they received a phone call about a week later.
“He said, ‘I have your dog,’” Jason said.
Thinking that someone had just found Lou, Jason asked where he was and where they could pick him up.
“He said, ‘Not so fast,’” Jason said.
The man, who identified himself as Kevin, said he had found Lou on Wright County Road 13 after visiting relatives in Delano a few weeks earlier. He told Jason his daughter was with him at the time, fell in love with him, and they decided to keep him. However, he had been feeling guilty and wanted to return Lou, according to Jason.
Throughout the evening, they exchanged several phone calls, during which Jason said the man changed his mind several times.
Jason decided to post about the situation on social media.
“I made an immediate post on Facebook with his phone number,” Jason said. “Facebook took it down almost right away, but enough people saw that phone number, they started doing their own investigative work.”
The night ended with a heated exchange, during which the caller threatened to kill Lou.
Lt. Matt Treichler, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office’s public information officer, said the Davises notified the department Jan. 16 that they had received a phone call from “Kevin” stating he had Lou.
“A couple people contacted WCSO and gave information on two different people who they believed ‘Kevin’ to be,” Treichler said. “We looked into those tips and eliminated both individuals as suspects.”
“A couple weeks later, the detectives weren’t getting anywhere with him, weren’t getting anywhere with the phone number, weren’t getting anywhere, period, so we decided to take the matter into our own hands and call him back,” Jason said. “When we did, that’s when he led us on this two-and-a-half-hour extortion wild goose chase.”
The man told them not to contact anyone or have anyone else involved as they traveled to St. Paul, saying that if he believed they had done so, he would kill Lou.
Jason said he also levied a veiled threat saying, “I know where you live. I know where you work. You’re easy people to find.”
While on the phone, they followed the directions they were given.
“I put the cash envelope under a windshield wiper . . . I walked back to my truck. As soon as I shut my truck door, I knew he wasn’t going to lead us to Lou,” Jason said. “I just got the feeling that we just dropped $1,200, and we weren’t going to get Lou back.”
Jason’s suspicion was correct, as they drove around for about 10 minutes while on the phone until the call ended with no resolution and no Lou.
“We came home, called the bounty hunter, and told him the whole story,” Jason said.
They also reported the extortion.
“There is currently no evidence to show the person(s) who took the $1,200 from the Davises ever had Lou,” Treicher said. “St. Paul PD is investigating the extortion component of this case, as that occurred in their jurisdiction.”
‘We won’t be able to move on’
When Jason saw the dog on Pelican Lake, he said he didn’t want to believe it was Lou, but he was being realistic. By comparing the dog to several photos, they were able to confirm it was Lou.
Doing so brought several weeks of searching and uncertainty to an end.
“It brings closure, which is nice,” Jason said. “The past nine or 10 weeks have been hell.”
Now that Lou has been found, they are turning their attention to the person(s) responsible.
“Until we find this guy, we won’t be able to move on,” Jason said.
He believes the person(s) responsible are from the area and familiar with the place where Lou was left.
The Davises established a GoFundMe page where individuals can donate to increase the reward amount, and that link can be found at www.delanoheraldjournal.com.
“If the cops get him without a tip or lead, it will be refunded or donated to Crossroads Animal Shelter in Buffalo,” Jason said.
Jason said he and Shanna have received thousands of messages and have read every one, though they have not been able to respond to every one.
“It’s amazing,” Jason said. “Every day, it grows.”
They have received messages from several states, and even other countries.
Six kennels have offered to give them a dog, and two or three individuals have offered to buy them a dog.
“It makes you think, in this day of bad news, it rekindles the community spirit,” Jason said. “There’s a lot more great people out there than there are the opposite.”