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Cape Town - Lisa Murray was in her garden picking vegetables on Monday morning when she heard the gunshot.
Her husband, Neil, was walking their Jack Russell terrier and Labrador down the road from their Buffelsdrift farm, near Ladysmith.
He said when he heard the crack, he “went completely cold”. For the Murrays, it was “a magnificent day that turned into a nightmare”.
A neighbour’s two Jack Russells exchanged barks with the Murrays’ dogs as they passed the fence, and Neil Murray was whistling for his pets to follow him home when the shot rang out.
He turned to find the 10-month-old golden Labrador, Cabby, wounded.
“She was wobbling a bit and I saw that she was bleeding.
“I looked for a wound and I found it right next to her bum.”
Murray turned to Leon Coetzee, the neighbour standing behind the fence with a gun, and asked in anger and bewilderment: “Have you shot my dog?”
Feeling certain the wound was fatal, Murray then asked Coetzee to put Cabby out of her misery.
“I told him to kill the dog now because she’s going to die.
“He gave me a blank look and didn’t do anything about it.”
Lisa Murray had rushed to meet her husband, and insisted on taking the dog to their vet some 70km south.
“I insisted we go right away, so we didn’t really ask any questions,” she said. Before they left Coetzee reportedly said he had a bitch in heat.
Cabby died on the way to the vet, leaving the Murrays with more questions than answers.
“We’re quite shocked,” Lisa Murray said. “He shot Cabby but Neil was literally about 10m away, and Coetzee didn’t warn anybody he was there.”
Coetzee said he never meant to hit the animal. “I didn’t try to kill the dog. I just tried to scare them off so they wouldn’t come back again.”
Bigger dogs had been jumping over the fence and accosting his terriers, he said. He said he hadn’t seen Murray when he fired the shot, and would not have done so if he’d known the dog was his neighbour’s.
“I don’t feel happy about it,” Coetzee said. “He did ask me to shoot it at the scene but I couldn’t because I don’t kill things.
“I’m not bad in nature. I’m actually very sorry about the whole thing.”
Police recovered the bullet after an autopsy on the dog. A case of malicious damage to property has been laid, said Captain Malcolm Pojie, Southern Cape SAPSmedia liaison officer.
In the meantime, the Murrays said their small olive farm no longer feels like the oasis it once did.
“It’s obviously completely changed our feeling of comfort,” Neil Murray said.
“I worry every minute where my dogs are; if they haven’t got through the fence… The peace is gone.”