Stolen sheep dog saga finds a happy ending
A stolen sheep dog from the Fishtail area has sparked a criminal investigation, public outcry and possible charges in a saga that started more than six weeks ago.
On July 25, Fishtail resident Domingo Lozano went to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and reported that his pregnant Akbash sheep dog, Bella, had been tending sheep in a field near the Cowboy Bar and disappeared.
Lozano told Undersheriff Chip Kem that he feared the dog had been taken by an individual who lives in the area and transported to Billings, according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office dispatch records.
Compounding the problem was that in the few days that Bella had been gone, Loranzo had already lost sheep to predators.
Kem assigned the case to a deputy and provided Lozano with contact information for predator control — a federal program used to guard against predatory losses in such situations.
What exactly transpired between the sheriff’s office, the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office and those involved with the alleged dog-napping for approximately six weeks is unclear. Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde told the News this week the investigation is being finalized and as of Wednesday, she had not yet decided if criminal charges would be filed in the case against the person who allegedly stole Bella.
What is known is that last Saturday, more than six weeks after making that missing dog report, Bella — and her 12 puppies — were recovered from a Billings location and returned to Lozano by Rohde, a sheriff’s deputy and an Absarokee veterinarian.
SOUTH COUNTY OUTCRY
Also known is the public outcry in the Absarokee, Fishtail and Nye area when Bella was reported possibly stolen and weeks passed before she was returned to Lozano.A flier appeared around those areas, as well as on social media, titled “Bring Bella Back…stockgrowers alert!”
The flier stated that Bella had been stolen from a highly respected “sheepman” and animal lover, leaving his sheep unprotected from predators like bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. The flier also stated that Stillwater County authorities knew the location of the alleged thief in Billings but in more than “six weeks they’ve produced no known results.”
The flier urged people to call Rohde’s office and ask why, then listed her phone number. And many people did call, said Rohde.
But it wasn’t the calls and in-person visits to her office that lead to last Saturday’s reunion, but rather the evidence of the investigation, said Rohde.
Because the investigation is still active, Rohde would not specify what the motive was in the alleged theft, but it is widely believed the suspect thought Bella was being neglected.
A MAN NAMED DOMINGO
Carroll and June McCloud last week said they were beyond upset at what they saw was a lack of progress made on the case. Lozano lives on their property, runs his sheep in their pastures (as well as other ranch properties) and provides handy-man work when needed.
A Peruvian and U.S. citizen, Lozano is well known and highly respected in the south county as a knowledgeable man who takes excellent care of his flock and relies heavily on Bella to help keep his sheep safe.
AKBASH SHEEP DOGS
Akbash sheep dogs is a primitive guard dog specifically bred to battle bears, wolves and coyotes that threaten its flock, according to dogbreedinfo.com
They are described intelligent, courageous, independent and loyal with a strong maternal instinct toward any animals in its charge, according to Akbash Dogs International.
It is not unusual for Akbash sheep dogs to have cuts and scrapes from battles with the likes of coyotes and other predators and while they can have strong bonds with owners and livestock over which it protects, it is a suspicious canine by nature.
Males weigh in between 90 and 140 pounds and females are in the 75 to 105-pound range, averaging about 90 pounds. They also tend to be leaner than other Turkish livestock dogs.
The bred is from western Turkey and is selectively bred for its white color, which helps differentiate it from predators.