Stolen dog returned dead

This is such a sad story... it is sad that there are such terrible people in the world.

This story is from the Tuesday, January 6, 2009 Edition of the Press Enterprise
By KRISTIN BAVER, Press Enterprise Writer
NORTH CENTRE TWP. — A family here is still trying to figure out why someone stole their beloved dog on Christmas Eve and returned him dead days later.
The thief took the 22-month-old chocolate Labrador, named Duke, and his food dish from outside Shari and Michael Jurbala's home that night, the family says. The dog's carcass reappeared mysteriously four days later, in a mud puddle at the end of a nearby driveway.
Duke's back was broken as if he'd been hit by a car. His dish was also returned to his kennel the same day, filled with a strange type of food mixed with chili.
Mr. Jurbala, 45, figures Duke may have been stolen to be given as a Christmas present, but got away from his captor and was killed while trying to run home. Maybe the thief collected Duke's body and decided to return him.
"I just want to know what happened," he said. "(Duke) was my buddy."

'Too friendly'
So much about the events surrounding Duke's death raises questions for the Jurbalas.
The family believes the thief must have befriended their canine because they didn't hear any noise as he was whisked away. "He was too friendly. That's what got him in trouble," Mr. Jurbala said.
Mrs. Jurbala, 44, says she's scared, knowing that a stranger was trespassing near her home even while her family was gathered inside. The house was also burglarized about 15 years ago, the couple says.
The last time the family saw Duke alive, he was out romping. Mr. Jurbala went inside to fetch a ham bone for the pet; when he returned, the dog and his dish were gone. At the time, the whole family was getting ready to visit with relatives for the holiday, Mrs. Jurbala said. Swiping the pet with everyone home "was very gutsy," she says.

'Everybody loved him'
The Jurbalas took Duke in during the summer of 2007, when a relative decided he couldn't keep the rambunctious puppy. "We didn't want him," Mr. Jurbala recalled. "But the family fell in love with him." "Everybody loved him," Mrs. Jurbala added. "He loved everybody." With too much energy to stay indoors, Duke was soon residing in a private kennel near the family's home.
He enjoyed playing hide and seek with the Jurbala's daughter, and sometimes wandered free around the yard. In the winters, they kept him warm with extra straw and three fleece blankets. And they took turns microwaving Duke's food. "I just felt he had to have a warm belly," Mrs. Jurbala said. If Mrs. Jurbala and the children, Michael, 18, and Jessica, 14, get their way, the family will have another dog some day.
But Mr. Jurbala isn't so sure. "I'll never have another one like him."

Stranger spotted
Three days after Duke disappeared, the worried family placed a lost dog ad in the newspaper. A few people called after spotting similar animals, but Mrs. Jurbala said the descriptions didn't quite fit or didn't include Duke's distinctive orange collar. They also called dog law enforcer John Graham. Then Dec. 28, Mrs. Jurbala recalls spotting a man walking through the family's carport about 20 minutes before the dog's body turned up. She didn't give it a second thought until the dish and the dog reappeared.

Duke was trained to never cross the road, and the family never had a problem keeping the pooch on their property, they say. And there were no tracks to indicate how Duke had found his way to the nearby driveway, unless he was placed there.
The Jurbalas filed a police report after burying their dog with his dish and the toys that were meant to be Christmas presents. They're also offering an unspecified reward for any information about what happened, according to the newspaper advertisement.
Mrs. Jurbala describes the stranger as being about 5-foot-10, white, and wearing a tan, Carhartt-like jacket.
Anyone with information can call Briar Creek Township Police at 784-6303 or 759-0354.
Kristin Baver can be reached at 387-1234 ext. 1310 or