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Des Moines Register
By Tom Alex

Better than a biscuit: Scrappy can go home
A Polk County judge says the wolf-dog may reside in Des Moines.

Scrappy, the aging wolf-dog, went home Friday after a Polk County judge said the animal was improperly seized by Des Moines animal control officials.

After the ruling, Scrappy's owner, Crystal Smith, said she was "relieved. That's about all I can say. I can't wait to get her home."

But Smith's relief was briefly put on hold when Des Moines' city attorney, Katherine Massier, said Scrappy couldn't return to the city because rabies vaccinations haven't been approved for use in wolves or wolf hybrids. Without a rabies certificate, a dog license couldn't be issued, Massier said in the courthouse hallway.

Smith's attorney Pamela Vandel disagreed, and Scrappy's supporters and Massier returned to Judge Robert Hanson's courtroom.

Vandel asked Hanson if his ruling meant that Scrappy could go home. Massier again made her rabies agrument, which she had made during the trial.

Hanson indicated the point could be agrued at another time. In the meantime, he said, Scrappy could return home.

Scrappy was picked up running loose by animal control officers on April 29. As Smith was retrieving her pet, a humane officer said the animal was a wolf and could not be kept in Des Moines.

On Aug. 7, Scrappy won a partial reprieve in a court hearing and was allowed to stay in the care of Darcy Emehiser, a professional trainer, at Rover's Ranch near Runnells. The dog park allowed Scrappy more room to run, and Smith was allowed visits.

Everyone seemed to agree during Friday's trial that Scrappy is not a wolf but rather a wolf hybrid. Des Moines' ordinance does not mention hybrids, just wolves.

A paragraph in the ordinance also says that an animal cannot be kept in the city if it is not naturally tame or gentle, is of a wild nature or disposition and is capable of killing, inflicting serious injury upon, or causing disease among human beings or domesticated animals and having known tendencies as a species to do so.

Vandel called two expert witnesses: Ronald DeArmond, a professional wildlife educator, and Emehiser.

Massier called on Dan Campbell, chief staff veterinarian with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

De Armond and Emehiser said wolf hybrids are naturally tame and do not have a naturally wild nature or disposition. Campbell said that in general they are not naturally tame and do have a wild nature.

Hanson sided with DeArmond and Emehiser.

Hanson said he does not personally agree with the owning of wild animals.

"You are getting this ruling from someone who does not believe wild animals or even large animals should be kept in the city," he said.

He added, "There are things about this city ordinance that are not spelled out very clearly."

Smith said she got Scrappy about eight years ago from a friend, whom she hasn't seen in several years. "She said she thought Scrappy might have some wolf in her but she wasn't sure," Smith said after the trial.

In previous animal investigation reports, Scrappy is listed by city officials as a husky or malamute, Smith said.

Has the story come to an end?

Smith said Scrappy is up to date on her shots. The questions that may yet arise: Is the shot effective on a wolf-dog? Emehiser said it is as it would be for any dog.

Des Moines Register
By Mark Hansen
9/25 /2009

Wolf or dog? Scrappy goes on trial today

Scrappy the 9-year-old wolf dog will miss her own trial today. I want to say she's tied up, but that's inaccurate. While Polk County Judge Robert Hanson listens to testimony, Scrappy will be at the dog ranch in Runnells, her latest home away from home.

While Polk County Judge Robert Hanson listens to testimony, Scrappy will be a the dog ranch in Runnells, her lastest home away from home.

She will, however, have legal representation. When it's over, the judge will decide whether Scrappy returns to her human family in Des Moines or goes away, possibly to an animal santuary in Indiana for wolves and wolf-dog hybrids that were raised by people.

"It looks like a wonderful place," says Des Moines' Deputy City Attorney Katharine Massier, who points out that Scrappy sometimes gets loose. "A wolf small backyard can't be contained."

Ealier in the week, Massier asked Hanson for a continuance. It seems somebody found a researcher at the University of Idaho who has a blood test that determines whether an animal is a wolf or a dog.

If true, that beats the alternative, which involves waiting until the critter dies and measuring its bones.

Hanson said no. One out-of-town witness would have trouble rescheduling, and the court date has been hanging on the calendar for at least a month now. It's time to dispense justice.

Scrappy has been living away from home since April when she wiggled under the backyard fence after heavy rains washed some of the earth away.

Animal control nabbed her and brought her to the shelter. The next day, owner Crystal Smith came to pick her up and pay the fine. Scrappy got her shots and her tags and was about to hop into the car when the humane officer sent her back to jail.

In Des Moines, he said, it's against the law to keep a wolf as a pet. The law says nothing about wolf dogs, which could be the main point of contention today.

Scrappy spent three months at the Animal Rescue League before she was shipped to Rover's Ranch Dog Park and Training Center in Runnells. Rover's is a leafy, spacious place with animal-loving owners, but it isn't home.

Smith, a cook at the Wesley Acres retirement facility in Des Moines, says she loves Scrappy like one of her kids. Smith's 9-year-old grandson tells Smith he likes Scrappy better than her shepherd.

According to Darcy Emehiser, the family visits her dog ranch almost daily, sometimes having dinner on the patio, staying until the sun goes down.

Is Scrappy a wolf?

Scrappy's lawyer, Pamela Vandel, says no and it's up to the city to prove otherwise, which won't be easy.

What if Scappy is 49 percent dog? Or 51? Does that make her a wolf? Is there even a formula?

People who research these things say all dogs come from the gray wolf. Dogs and wolves have the same DNA. Over the last 50,000 years, there's been so much interbreeding, it's impossible to calculate an exact mix.

In court today, Vandel will present pictures of wolves and dogs and try to show how hard it is to tell them apart. She'll describe Scrappy's physical traits and point out how different they are from those of a full-fledged wolf.

Look at the ears, the teeth, the head, the snout, the legs, the feet, the tail. And while Scrappy and other female dogs go into heat twice a year, wolves are one and done.

The city, meanwhile, has photos of Scrappy looking more like White Fang or something else that jumped out of a Jack London novel.

Back at Rover's Ranch, Emehiser says even if Scrappy looks like a wolf, she acts like a dog, and that's the important thing. Behavior and temperament depend largely on how the animal is raised and socialized by the humans around it, and Emehiser says Smith has done a good job.

The city calls Scappy a wolf now, but in previous animal investigation reports and complaints, she was a "husky" or a "husky wolf" or a "dog/malamute?"

Last spring when she was named, she was called a "wolf type" and was "caught ... easily."

She went peacefully, which was no surprise to Smith. The dog police tell her Scrappy is a good girl who jumps right in the van when called.

Her ancestors in the untamed Yukon would be embarassed.

Des Moines Register
By Mark Hansen
8/20 /2009

Scrappy has trainer on her side

When a visitor approached the gate at Rover's Ranch Dog Park and Training Center in Runnells, the clientele gave him a noisy greeting.

The goldendoodle and the shepherd were particularly raucous. They barked for position and scuffled for attention.

Darcy Emehiser, the dog trainer who owns and operates the 10-acre facility, tried to calm them.

"Look who's fighting," she said, turning to the visitor. "Not the wolf dogs."

One of the three wolf dogs, a 9-year-old named Scrappy, was off to the side, taking it in. When the initial fuss subsided, she sidled over to say hello and solicit a pat.

Scrappy, so named because table scraps were all she wanted when owner Crystal Smith brought her home, wasn't there voluntarily.

While the other guests belonged to Emehiser or dog owners who were either working or on vacation, Scrappy was in exile.

She came from the Des Moines Animal Rescue League, where she spent three months in doggy jail waiting for a court to decide on her ancestry.

Is Scrappy a pet who belongs at the foot of Smith's bed?

Or is she a wolf who belongs in a wolf sanctuary? Emehiser says Scrappy wouldn't survive the experience.

Scrappy hasn't been home since the end of April, when she slipped under the backyard fence. She isn't a digger or a climber, but erosion from the rain carved an opening under the fence. Scrappy and her German shepherd roommate took it.

The next day, Smith was springing her pet, catching up on Scrappy's shots, getting her tags, and paying the ticket. Smith's nephew was leading Scrappy to the car when Des Moines' chief humane officer stopped them: The wolf stays.

No doubt, Scrappy looks like she could be related to a wolf. Then again, so do full-bred huskies, malamutes and other northern dog breeds.

She has a few wolflike personality traits. She likes to hang back and scope things out before making a commitment. She can be shy, but so can some of the more conventional lines.

Once she gets to know you, though, Scrappy might roll over and let you rub her tummy. One of Smith's grandkids is on record: He likes Scrappy even better than the shepherd.

In court, Scrappy will go up against Des Moines' illegal and dangerous animal ordinance. A wolf is considered an illegal animal. A dangerous animal is one that bites or claws humans or domestic animals. Just once above the shoulders is all it takes.

Scrappy has a blemish on her record. She killed a neighbor puppy once — picked the little dog up and tried to take it home. Smith says even the neighbor believes much of the damage was done in the struggle to extricate the pup, but there it is.

As far as I know, nobody has ever accused Scrappy of attacking or biting or displaying aggressive behavior toward a human. Emehiser says that would be out of character.

Emehiser never met Scrappy before Animal Care and Control called her for an opinion. I'm sure Josh Colvin, operations manager, got his money worth.

FREE SCRAPPY! Believe in common sense? You are not alone. Contact DMPD Police Chief Judy Bradshaw and demand the resignation of ‘Chief Humane Officer’ Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh. Read the 4-part story below:

Des Moines Register
By Brenda Fullick
8/7 /2009

Dog? Wolf? Canine in custody until answer found

Her owner says the animal isn't a wolf, but the police aren't so sure. A Des Moines ordinance says wolves can't be pets.

Scrappy was released on a probation of sorts Thursday pending a determination of whether the animal is a dog, wolf or wolf dog.

The animal has been in custody since April 29, when she was picked up after running loose.

When owner Crystal Smith tried to retrieve Scrappy from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa Inc., someone decided the animal looked like a wolf and detained it.

Des Moines, like dozens of other cities, has an ordinance that says residents can't keep a wolf.

Smith said Scrappy isn't a wolf.

"I am not positive of her breed mix, but she has a Siberian husky look," said Smith, who has owned the animal for about eight years. "She does not have wild animal tendencies. She's very tame and friendly."

Police Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh, Des Moines' chief humane officer, said: "All the indicators, to me, are that it's a wolf. My dilemma is I can't just walk away from that. I don't feel comfortable with someone keeping it in the city like it's a dog."

Because the city ordinance mentions "wolves," and not wolf dogs or wolf-dog mixes, a court will decide the animal's fate.

The issue was discussed before Judge Robert Hanson on Thursday. But the only decision made was that Scrappy could be released to Rovers Ranch in Runnells, in the care of Darcy Emehiser, a professional dog trainer.

Emehiser promised under oath that she has ample insurance and a fenced area from which Scrappy can't escape.

Smith's attorney, Pam Vandel, said the issue boils down to whether Scrappy is a wolf or a dog. She said most dogs have wolf in their ancestry. Vandel said there's no way to know until Scrappy is dead whether she's a wolf.

L. David Mech, an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota who has a special interest in wolves, said DNA can be used to tell whether an animal is a wolf or a dog but it won't yield a percentage of either in a mix.

He said it's not possible to tell a wolf from some hybrids by examination.

He said the World Conservation Union Wolf Specialist Group, of which he is chairman, recommends against keeping wolves or wolf dogs as pets.

No one has papers showing Scrappy's family tree.

A date for the next hearing was not announced.

By Brenda Fullick

Logan's Law
What if someone shot your dog?

What if you found out that your pet had been gunned down for sport with a spotlight and a high-powered rifle?

And what if you found out that, in the state of Iowa, it was perfectly legal?

Darcy Emehiser wants to change the state law that says anyone has a right to kill any dog not wearing a collar with a rabies tag in rural Iowa.

The current law was adopted at a time when rabid animals were a significant threat to Iowa's early residents. The law states, "It shall be lawful for any person and the duty of all peace officers. ... to kill any dog for which a rabies vaccination is required, when the dog is not wearing a collar with rabies vaccination tag attached."

The law also states that even if a dog is wearing proof of rabies vaccination, that dog may be killed on the spot when it is "worrying, chasing, maiming or killing any domestic animal or fowl. ..."

Worrying? Should a dog be killed because it makes another animal "worry"?

Emehiser isn't impractical; she believes that farmers deserve the right to kill feral animals when necessary to protect their livestock, and she believes that all people should have the right to protect themselves from dangerous dogs.

However, Emehiser - who operates an exercise park for dogs and their humans about five minutes east of Des Moines - doesn't think it ought to be legal for Iowans to kill other people's animals for the sheer joy of watching them die.

Lost in the fog

Emehiser's nightmare started on a Tuesday.

It was Dec. 27, 2005. Area fog hung so thick, a woman was killed in the Lowe's parking lot in Altoona because a driver couldn't see her.

Emehiser had been walking back to her house that day after a training session with her four dogs: Sage, Jasmine, Logan and Timber. Suddenly, three of the dogs took off, maybe chasing a rabbit or a squirrel; only the elderly Sage stayed behind.

Emehiser called to her dogs, and Timber returned to the house, but Logan and Jasmine didn't show. This was extremely unusual, because Emehiser is a professional dog trainer who makes sure her dogs have impeccable manners. "They had awesome recall - awesome recall," she says. Beyond that, the dogs had plenty of freedom to romp in the country at their home between Pleasant Hill and Runnells; they weren't like dogs who are cooped up in houses or yards and desperate for the chance to run.

Emehiser soon became convinced that Logan and Jasmine got turned around in the heavy fog and couldn't see to find their way home. Fortunately, she knew that Logan and Jasmine would be polite if they met up with humans: Both had their Canine Good Citizen certifications.
Logan in particular was a solid, levelheaded character: He was so calm, confident and patient that Emehiser had been using him during training to help re-socialize other dogs. "He was such a gentle spirit," Emehiser says.

Emehiser and her partner, Lin Nibblelink, launched an unusually exhaustive, exhausting search: They distributed thousands of flyers, bought two billboards on Iowa Highway 163, commissioned two aerial searches, sought tracking help from the Native American community, and arranged for a horseback search coordinated by the Animal Rescue League.

They also worked with animal communicators. And they bought newspaper advertisements that announced $1,000 rewards for each dog.

False sightings kept Emehiser's phone ringing - she racked up a $1,200 cell phone bill in just three weeks - and she followed up on a dizzying number of dead-end leads.

"We searched no less than 20 hours a day for the next 18 days," Emehiser says.

The searchers followed creek beds. When actual sightings were confirmed by people who knew Logan and Jasmine personally, the searchers would use urine and dog fur to try to leave a trail leading them back home.

But as far as anyone could tell, Jasmine and Logan kept moving, trying to find their way home. They just didn't know what direction home was.

At one point, they found Jasmine's leather collar. Her tags, including her rabies tag, had been removed.

Then, on day 16, they got a phone call: An elderly lady said there was a dog in a roadside ditch near her house. And, in fact, it was Jasmine's body. Apparently she bled to death from two gunshot wounds.

The elderly woman's son came by, Emehiser says, and he knew specific details about who had shot Jasmine.

But it wasn't technically a crime under Iowa law. Jasmine's collar had been removed, along with a bright orange harness designed to protect against accidents during hunting season.

The searchers kept looking for Logan. And two days later they found his body about 150 feet from where Jasmine had died.

He, too, had died, from a gunshot wound to the heart.

Logan's collar, tags and orange harness were also missing.

"They were shot with high-powered rifles and spotlights," Emehiser says. She says the elderly woman's son had a story that matched what animal communicators were telling her about what happened. We had some names, so we confronted some people."

However, the Jasper County Sheriff's Department wouldn't take a report, Emehiser says. After all, it's not illegal to shoot dogs in Iowa - even though the whole community was plastered with billboards, ads and flyers letting people know that these dogs were missing members of Emehiser's family.

"Then to have them just be shot when everybody - everybody - was aware we were looking for them," Emehiser says. "So we decided that the law needed to be changed."

A petition drive

This year just before funnel week, Emehiser and friends worked with Rep. Geri Huser, Animal Rescue League's Tom Colvin and the ARL lobbyist in an attempt to create support in the Legislature to change the law. But they started too late in the process, and certain vocal legislators were against them. Emehiser recalls Rep. Danny Carroll of Grinnell in particular as saying, "I don't want anybody to take away my right to shoot a dog."

Emehiser doesn't want people to lose that right, either. However, she believes most well-intentioned farmers would shoot warning shots into the air if a dog were really bothering their livestock; what she's trying to stop are the people who shoot dogs for amusement or spite. Emehiser says she's not anti-gun, but that her father taught her that you eat what you kill: "You don't just shoot to kill for fun."

Emehiser says she has cried every morning and every night since she lost Logan and Jasmine. "This loss has been harder than losing my mother."

It's illegal for private citizens to shoot guns in Des Moines and many other cities.

However, ARL director Colvin says that rural Iowa is divided between the people who care about animals' welfare and the people who follow the policy of the "three S's" - shoot, shovel and shut up. "That means you do it, and you don't tell anybody about it, and nobody's going to know," Colvin says.

ARL frequently gets calls from people whose dogs have run off their properties, Colvin says. "Before they could even get them back, they've been shot by a neighbor or whatever. And the neighbor may or may not have livestock."

Iowa's current law was designed to protect farmers, he says. However, people who just don't like dogs "can hide behind the same law. That's the frustration."

In many instances, like in the case of Logan and Jasmine, there were no livestock around to be chased, or even "worried."

One hundred years ago, "worrying" had a different meaning, Colvin explains. It meant that an animal was surrounded by potential predators and so fearful that it could harm itself. He argues that the law needs to be updated to reflect the current meaning of the word.

He also thinks the law should no longer decree that it's the "duty of all peace officers" to kill untagged dogs. "I've talked to a lot of law enforcement people that, frankly, don't want to shoot dogs," Colvin says.

A couple of weeks ago, petitions began showing up in coffeehouses and grooming businesses, asking for Iowa citizens to support a change in the law. The petition also will be emailed to veterinary offices throughout the state. "I want thousands" of people to sign, Emehiser says. "I can't see why we can't have 20,000 or 30,000 names, if not more."

More information is available at .

Des Moines Register
Rekha Basu

Seek justice in the killing of dogs

Two days after Christmas, two pet dogs got seperated from their owner in the woods around Runnells.

Last week, after a massive, nearly 'round-the-clock search, the dogs turned up, three days and about a quarter-mile apart, in a Washington Township cornfield.

They'd been shot with high-powered rifles for sport, their owners say, and left to bleed to death.

Jasmine, a 9-year-old malamute -german shepherd mix, and Logan, a 3 year-old malamute-husky mix, had been owned by Darcy, a professional dog trainer, since they were puppies. The pictures show beautiful dogs, whose owner, in happier times, dressed her pooch for the photo in a red bandanna and top hat.

Darcy owns Rover's Ranch, a dog park and training center between Pleasant Hill and Runnells.

Devestated isn't a strong enough word to describe how she feels. She's beside herself with sorrow and rage. Not only were the dogs her best friends, she says, but Logan actually helped her train other dogs.

Whoever shot them did it for fun, she says. She calls it poaching: "I don't want to slam all hunters but these guys are not hunters."

Both dogs had been wearing orange harnesses and metal-buckle collars with four tags apiece, including blinking ones. Jasmine's collar however, had come undone and was found seperately. Both pets also had microchips implanted for identification.

But in the end, none of the safeguards protected them. What's worse, as cases involving hunters often do, whether in gorilla territory in Africa or the deer-filled woods of Maine, the shootings have split the community into two camps.

In one camp are the hundreds of friends and neighbors who went out in search teams, posted fliers offering a $1000 reward for the dogs' safe return, and have cooked meals and sent flowers and sympathy cards to the owners. Jasmine and Logan were known in the neighborhood. They were used in demonstrations at local schools. Involved in the search were people from Polk County Animal Control and the director of the Animal Rescue League.

In the other camp are people defending the still unidentified shooters by lashing out at the two owners, who have appeared on local TV news and are offering a reward for information. Darcy estimated she's gotten hundreds of hateful letters and phone calls from people defending the killings and blaming her for letting the dogs out of her sight. She'd stopped in her house to use the bathroom when they took off in a fog and sleet.

The law says you can shoot a nuisance animal on your property if it's a threat to people or livestock, but Darcy says her dogs were no threat to anyone. Jasmine weighed about 100 pounds, and hobbled because of hip dysplasia. There were no farmers or livestock for miles around. And she says her dogs could hardly be mistaken for coyotes because they were three times the size.

Both before and since the shootings, the women have combed the area and spoken to witnesses. Some placed the dogs at various spots over the two and a half weeks they were missing, but didn't call animal control. Others reported seeing three trucks carrying hunters trespassing on private property at night, using spotlights.

As for authorities, Darcy says despite several reports to the Jasper County Sheriff's Department and 4,000 fliers people distributed in the area, officers did nothing. A record keeper at the sheriff's department pulled up the records of a couple calls from the women, but there's not even a report on file from the sheriff's deputy they spoke to.

Clearly, to some, the fate of a couple of pets is a low priority.

Those of us who have and love animals can't understand how anyone could be cavalier about deliberate cruelty to them - even though almost daily, there are stories of pet heroics toward humans.

Maybe when a price tag can be put on their value to humanity, we'll get tougher about protecting them.

WOI-TV Channel 5

play video>

Runnells Woman Shocked After Finding Dogs Shot

RUNNELLS- A central Iowa woman wants to know why someone would ever turn a high-powered rifle on her two dogs.

In late December, two dogs got loose from their owner, and were found two and a half weeks later, but this story does not come with a happy ending.

Darcy, from Runnells, said, "They were truly lost and got turned around in the fog. They lost their bearings." It's been a rough month for Darcy. As the owner of Rover's Ranch Dog Park and Training Center, canines are her livelihood. On December 27th, two of her own- 9-year-old Jasmine, and 3-year-old Logan, both Husky mixes, took off after a deer. Darcy said, "Just like a parent turns around and their child is gone. That's what happened. I started looking immediately, frantically, in fact."

Darcy and hundreds of others searched extensively by ground, and air. After two and a half weeks in the wild, living off the land and scraps from a nearby landfill, last Thursday Jasmine was found dead in jasper county, five miles from home. Darcy said, "She was lying in the ditch with two high-power rifle slugs in her."

She hoped if she stuck around the area where Jasmine was found, Logan would come back. To no avail. Logan was found across the road. Darcy said, "He was also shot, once through the heart with a high-powered rifle."

Since Iowa is an ag state, it's perfectly legal to shoot a dog if it's a nuisance. However, Darcy is convinced neither of her pets were causing trouble, and were just lost. She feels this was nothing short of a deliberate and sensless act.

That's why she hopes this tragedy can serve a purpose. Darcy said, "The next time the good people see a dog that doesn't belong there, make a phone call, because my pets would be here today."

She got the phone call Thursday, but the person who called actually saw Jasmine lying in the ditch the day before. She says, had that person called as soon as they saw Jasmine, she may have survived.

Darcy is offering a reward for any information that may help catch whoever's responsible. If you have any information that may help Darcy, you're asked to call 967-6768.

Altoona Hearld-Index

By Kristin Danley-Greiner

Search for missing pets ends sadly for dog owners

For several weeks, dog lovers Lin and Darcy, who own Rover's Ranch Dogpark & Training Center near Runnells, had been frantically seeking out their two Husky-mix dogs who got lost in the fog near their farm on Dec. 27. Unfortunately, their search ended this past week when they found their beloved pets shot to death in an open cornfield. The two women now have issued a reward in the quest for more information on the alleged hunters who killed their dogs.

The dogs, Jasmine and Logan, had been playing outside that foggy day in December with another one of the couple's dogs, and the third dog returned home when the owners called for them. But Jasmine and Logan did not.

When Lin and Darcy first discovered their dogs missing that Dec. 27, they combed the immediate neighborhood, then distributed 4,000 flyers about the dogs to people in the area that same day, including garbage truck drivers at the nearby landfill. They mounted flyers on big sheets of plywood painted blue that they posted along Highway 163.

The loyal dog owners persisted in their search for their dogs, backing off on combing the woods for a bit, but camping in a farmer's field where they had been spotted despite the freezing cold temperatures. They tromped through the nearby landfill, looking for their dearly loved dogs and arranged for arial shots to be taken to try and help pinpoint their location.

They even enlisted the help of the Animal Rescue League, which planned to hold a search on horseback in the nearby countryside where the dogs had been spotted, as well as Shirley Hull, an animal communicator, who relayed messages from Jasmine.

But in the end, their diligent and heart-wrenching efforts were not enough.

"We received a phone call in the afternoon from a woman who lived a few miles east and a mile north of the landfill who said her son had seen an animal by the railroad tracks on his way to work that morning," Darcy said. "We went there immediately and it was Jasmine. She was dead from two gunshot wounds. She must have laid their all day before dying, because her body wasn't even stiff and rigor sets in within an hour to two of death."

The loss dealt a blow to Darcy and Lin, who had received quite a few calls with sightings of the dogs roaming the area, trying to find their way home. But the two never reached the area of the sightings in time. Jasmine's collar was found and sightings with descriptions of wolves in people's yards had been made, but the women knew it was just their big and lovable canines.

They were my babies. They were my kids. They were very important to us," Darcy said. "We picked out Jasmine when she was three days old and kept going back to see her until she was old enough to come home, and she was nine. We got logan at six-and-a-half weeks and he's just a little over three now. We just wanted them home."

The two women had proof that the dogs were north of their home near Ivy Church and followed Mud Creek almost to Bondurant. They also were spotted near NE 23rd Avenue, NE 54th and along the Camp Creek watershed. Unfortunately, after being on the run for a period of time, the dogs were hungry, scared and in survival mode.

"We'd done all of the other normal things and more. We had scent lures in strategic places, contacted all the police, sheriff, animal control, shelters, mail carriers, garbage trucks, delivery drivers - anyone who would take a flyer," Lin said. "We'd been working with people from the White Eagle Pow Wow who have held special Native American spiritual ceremonies, too. Dan Backer, a friend from Runnells, put in about as many brutal hours searching as we did, and The Pooper Scooper People were also tireless helpers."

Logan was found Saturday less than half a mile from where Jasmine had been found. Darcy said that the people who tipped them off to where Jasmine had been spotted said they believed the dogs had been killed by coyote hunters out spotlighting after dark without permission on private land.

"I used to hunt myself and have nothing against hunting, but there's a world of difference between a responsible, sportsman-like hunter and someone who runs down two domestic pet dogs - one who is 9 years old with a limp - across three miles of straight, flat cornfields," Darcy said. "There was nowhere for them to take cover from these people and no place to hide."

With Jasmine's coloring, Darcy said that it could be possible to mistake her for a coyote, but her size is much bigger than that of a coyote. Logan, however, did not resemble a coyote at all.

"In the end, we knew they were together, but these people were just shooting to kill and didn't care what it was," Darcy said. "Good thing there wasn't a child lost in the field at that time. But now we've lost half of our family."

For more information about the identification of the alleged hunters believed to have shot and killed Jasmine and Logan, call 967-6768. A reward is being offered for information that results in the identification of the people.

The Des Moines Register
Around Iowa

Haley gets a massage
Bow wow-- could these dogs have it any better?

Canine massage therapist Jessica Briggle works on Haley, a Bernese mountain dog, Saturday at the Rover's Ranch Dog Park and Training Center Fall Roundup. Rover's Ranch, 200 S.E. 108th St., is a fenced dog park where dogs can train and run off-leash. A portion of the event's ticket sales will go to the Animal Lifeline of Iowa.
Luna tips a teeter-totter Luna, owned by Scott Jetter of Des Moines, tips a teeter-totter as she runs the agility course.

Wide open spaces: Stephanie Fitzsimmons of Des Moines watches her 5-month-old German Shepard, Vegas, chase after Jasmine, a malamute mix, in the general dog run area of Rover's Ranch Dog Park.The Des Moines Register
Front Page
By Joanne Boekman

It's a dog-meet-dog world
Metro area's first canine park offers training,
room to run

Vegas gives a kiss to Sage, a malamute mix, Monday as they play at the new dog park.Jasmine and Sage, malamute-mixed breeds, romped nearby while their owners spent months clearing overgrown vegetation and junk from their property so more dogs could play there.

Darcy and Lin, Jasmine and Sage's owners, today open Rover's Ranch Dog Park, a private park for dogs and their human companions. The two transformed farmland they bought two years ago north of Runnells to create the park.

The metro area's first dog park includes open and shady areas for small and large dogs to exercise, play and train without leashes.

Puppy love: Darcy, co-owner of Rover's Ranch, hangs out in the park Monday with her dogs Sage, left, and Jasmine. The metro area's first dog park opens for business today.Darcy, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, said the park will offer opportunities for education and training.

"We are promoting responsible dog ownership," she said.

The Rover's Ranch e-mail list of potential members includes about 400 names of people living as far away as Clive, Urbandale and West Des Moines. Manyof them learned about the park from early TV and newspaper coverage.

"We're opening, ready or not, and we'll keep working to get things in order," Darcy said.

They have erected a fence around a two-acre area, spread wood chips on walks, planted trees and flowers and designed an area for resting and smoking.

They expect to open an agility-training area next spring and create a pond where dogs can swim and train.

Down time: dog ties are installed around the patio area of Rover's Ranch dog park so owners can sit and relax with their pets.The owners plan this fall to enclose and insulate a nearby triple garage-size wooden shed for an office and classrooms.

Paula Sunday, the Animal Rescue League's pet behavior counselor, has agreed to offer classes, although none have been scheduled.

"I do want to work with them on some presentations, offering information for pet owners to learn more about dog communication and working with their dogs," Sunday said.

The park has a user fee, which ranges from $3 for one day to $150 for one year. Users must clean up after their dogs.

Rick Gates, a retrired Des Moines police officer who has two German shorthairs, Breeze and Putzer, purchased a charter membership for $500 after touring the area with his dogs.

"My dogs just love it out there," he said. "I think it's a beautiful, beautiful place."

Gates said he needed room to work with Breeze and Putzer, who hunt with him.

"Someplace like this was really needed for people to go with their dogs," he said.

Gates lives in northwest Des Moines and said it takes him 20 minutes to get to the park.

Darcy is the on-site manager. She plans to return to her work as an artist - she sketches portraits of pets - when work on the park is complete.

Lin, a mental health administrator for the Iowa Department of Human Services, works evenings and weekends on the park.

They are financing the project themselves and doing most of the work on their own.

"Nobody's believed in us to finance it. We're bootstrapping it," Darcy said. "It's definitely a labor of love."


Up Front

Run free

Residents are still waiting for a public dog park to open in Des Moines. Until one is established, locals can try Rover's Ranch, which will open Aug. 17 at 200 S.E. 108th St. between Pleasant Hill and Runnells. The private park, which allows dogs to run off-leash, sells a $3 one-day pass, as well as monthly and yearly memberships. It's open seven days a week.

The Des Moines Register
Metro Record
By Register News Services

Planned dog park takes a step forward

Runnells could be home to the Des Moines area's first dog park.

The Polk County Board of Adjustment has given Darcy and Lin approval to open a private animal-training facility on their property at 200 S.E. 108th St. They plan to open the park within the next six weeks.

The 2-acre facility will be slightly different than what is proposed in Des Moines and West Des Moines, Darcy said Wednesday. The park, about 2-1/2 miles east of Southeast Polk High School, will offer classes for obedience training and grooming. Memberships range from $3 a day to $150 a year. More than 130 people already have purchased memberships.

*CORRECTIONS: Rover's Ranch will NOT do grooming or offer classes on grooming. We are talking with our favorite groomer about presenting one of our monthly workshops on things every dog-guardian needs to know about grooming! The other incorrect detail in the article was about memberships. We do not already have 130 members, though at the time of the article about 130 people had indicated an interest so far. On Sept. 15, 2002 the $3 day pass is being replaced with a one time 1st-Visit pass for $5.

Rover's Ranch was on the 5:00 and 10:00 news on KCCI Channel 8 in August 2002!

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Rover's Ranch is located between Pleasant Hill & Runnells IA 50237 | Phone: 515-967-6768
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