ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. – Investigators are searching for answers in the death of a chocolate Lab named Ranger.
Hayden Coats told WVEC ranger has been more like a member of the family since they got him at 6 weeks old.
"I can't hardly think about it, it just kills me," Coats told the station. "He was like out kid, our entertainer our protector."
The dog was reported missing earlier this month, according to the Isle Of Wight County Animal Shelter.
"The dog originally reported missing Saturday was located near the intersection of Reynolds Drive and Nike Park Road Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately Ranger was found in a trash bag on the side of the road deceased with potential gunshot wounds," the shelter's Facebook post detailed.
"We figured he went to the swamp and would come back but he never did," Coats said.
The weather made it hard to recover any evidence from the bag he was found in, the shelter said. Ranger's collar was found a half-mile away from the dog's body.
The Isle of Wight Sheriff's Office says the Coats want closure and justice after losing Ranger.
"What adds to their frustration is that someone actually shot this dog," Lt. Thomas Potter said. "It's always hard to lose a pet but it's a little bit more understandable if it had been hit by a car or something else happens, but when an animal is purposely shot that's cruel."
Potter said that there was no indication that Ranger was anything but a happy, lovable Lab and worries about what his killer might be capable of. "Someone that would want to ... inflict this type of injury to him, that's someone that we definitely want to take a further look at."
The shelter added this statement to their Facebook page:
"We understand that sometimes when dogs are off the property of their owners they can act out of character that can make any person unfamiliar with dogs or behavior could act in self defense," the post continued. "Our goal at this time is to bring closure to the family. We are asking for anyone who may have heard any gunshots over this time period within the Carrollton/ Eagle Harbor/ Nike Park area or had witnessed this dog loose to please contact Animal Control."