When Pickering teen Pablo Gomez first saw his new puppy, a five-month-old Yorkshire terrier, in December, 2011, he was speechless. He had wanted a dog for years, and his aunt, a dog breeder visiting from Mexico, had conspired with his parents to surprise him with one, in a crate complete with a bow on top.
He named the puppy – a tiny ball of brown fur and pointed ears – Jack, and got into the habit of walking him every day after school.
But just a year later, while Pablo was distracted with homework, Jack went missing one afternoon, slipping out of the house after the door had been left slightly ajar. The family covered the neighbourhood with signs and put up postings online, but for months they did not hear a thing. Then, on Monday night, a police officer knocked on Pablo's door with some gruesome news: Jack's severed head had been found at a nearby park, and investigators are treating it as a possible case of animal cruelty.
"I was breathless. I didn't know what to say," said the teen, who asked that his first name be withheld (Pablo is his middle name). "He was a very timid dog, very loving. He didn't bark at all and always wanted to play."
Police said a resident stumbled across the head Sunday afternoon at Summer Park in Pickering's west end, near the Gomez family home. According to a police press release, initial investigations suggest that the head was cut off using a "sharp tool."
However, Durham Regional Police spokeswoman Jodi MacLean said the investigation is continuing and officers are keeping their minds open to other possibilities. "There are coyotes in the area, so that can't be ruled out," she said.
Although Jack was reported missing in January of this year, police said it's not yet clear how long the head had been decomposing in the park.
Police officers tracked down the Gomez family easily. Jack's blue collar – with the family's phone number and home address printed on it – was still attached to the head. He was also microchipped and had a small tattoo on his stomach for identification.
Because of Jack's timid nature, Pablo said that when he first went missing, the family had assumed he'd been stolen. "He was a really cute dog," he said. "And if someone came up to him, he would just go down and put his paws up. They could just take him." And Jack, who weighed four kilograms, would have been easy enough to pick up, Pablo added.
"We tried everything we could to find him, and then we just prayed and hoped for the best," he said. But now that the family knows Jack isn't coming back, Pablo said they're "just trying to stay calm, just trying to continue."
When asked whether he plans to get another dog, he said the answer is a definite no. "Jack was really special, and having another dog won't be exactly like Jack," he said. Plus, he added, "it would be too much, I guess, if something happens again."