The Hayes family was excited to move to their new home in Tehama County. Carol and Jason had dreamt for years of moving to the country where they could raise their kids and enjoy their dogs. Finally, that dream was becoming a reality. Jason would have to make a much longer commute and finances were going to be tight but it was worth it to live in their own little piece of heaven.
They completed their move into their new home on Memorial Day weekend and spent the next few weeks getting settled into their new home and community. One of their first priorities was to make sure that their pets - an extension of their family- were properly cared for. Even though the dogs were primarily inside pets, their first task was securing the six foot fence surrounding their property and building kennels for their three German Shepherd dogs: Dean, Shadow and Falko.
Dean, who was Schutzund B titled for obedience and temperament, was so much more than a well-behaved pet. He had trained himself to act as an Assistance Dog for Carol, a Chron’s disease sufferer. Dean possessed the uncanny ability to know when Carol was about to faint due to her illness. He would stand in front of her and use his body to break her fall and then stand over her, licking her face to help her regain consciousness. On many occasions, Dean had saved Carol from serious injury in just this way and as a result Carol depended heavily on Dean for her welfare. Shadow, the sweetheart of the family, was adopted when they found her living in abhorrent conditions in a horse barn. Falko is the newest member of the family and at seven months old has rapidly carved out a large spot in everyone’s hearts. Everything seemed so promising until tragedy struck on July 23, 2004.
Jason and Carol were coming home from work that Friday night, July 23, 2004, and Jason was just a few minutes ahead of Carol. Jason got home just before 7:00 p.m. and left the gate open for his wife so that she could follow in behind him. All of their dogs were in the house on this hot summer day. Jason came in and went to his room. Their daughter, Chiara the 1989 earthquake baby, let Dean and Falko out for a break, having no reason to think their gate was left wide open. That’s all it took for two of their German Shepherds to get out. The Hayes’s discovered they were missing within minutes. When Carol arrived about fifteen minutes after Jason, Chiara gave her mother the bad news: Jason and Mason were out searching for the dogs. Instantly, their realtor’s casual warning crashed in on Carol: Not only were their cherished pets missing, they were also in grave danger.
Carol and Chiara joined the search immediately. They spoke to every neighbor and passing motorist they could find. They yelled and called for the lost animals. Within minutes several neighbors had joined the search. Falko was found by the creek at dusk, but Dean, Carol’s Assistance Dog, was nowhere to be found. One neighbor trudged through the creek behind the housing development in the dark for over two hours calling for Dean with no results. Desperate to find their beloved dog, Jason and Carol continued searching through the night.
When Saturday morning came with still no trace of Dean, the Hayes’s again started talking to their neighbors to see if anyone had seen their beautiful dog. One neighbor reported seeing two German Shepherds chasing dragonflies in the creek the night before. He was so entertained by the spectacle that he pulled up a chair to watch for several minutes before the dogs followed the dragonflies further up the creek and out of sight. Heartened by this report, the Hayes family continued to canvas houses along the creek in the hopes of gaining more news.
The news they heard next would make their blood run cold. Another resident of the housing development, one they had talked to several times the night before, now admitted she had heard several gunshots and yelps just after 7pm the night before. She also reported that the shots had come from the Patterson house. Mark Patterson was known to have shot and killed at least one other dog in the past and was rumored to have killed and injured several other pets over the years. (The Hayes family would later learn of an incident in which a neighbor witnessed Mr. Patterson racing down the street firing his gun at and killing her dog. Shortly thereafter he kicked their deaf puppy in the face, leaving him permanently disfigured. This neighbor refused to file charges and testify for fear of retaliation.)
Upon hearing this, the Hayes family spiraled deeper into their own personal nightmare. Carol asked another neighbor, Patricia Woods, to please inquire about her dog, Dean, with the Pattersons on her behalf, as she was too distraught to do so herself. After the neighbor spoke with Sue, Mark Patterson’s wife, she relayed that Mrs. Patterson would not admit to the shooting and had stated that her husband had left to go to the Bay Area on “personal business”. The neighbor thought that Mrs. Patterson appeared to be uncomfortable with the questioning and felt that she was hiding something.
Carol also took a moment to contact the Tehama County Sheriff’s department that Saturday around noon and reported the shooting to Officer Patterson (no relation to the shooter). Officer Patterson informed Carol that she “should take better care of her dogs” and that there was “nothing they could do” to help her. When Carol asked him to define the law with respect to shooting animals he callously responded that she should “look it up” and contact her congressman if she “did not like” the letter of the law. Carol was disgusted with the response, or rather lack thereof, from the Sheriff’s Deputy. Disappointed and sick with worry, Carol rejoined Jason and they continued their search through the rest of the day and into the night with no results.
Desperate to find Dean, and fearing that he could be lying wounded somewhere in the brush, Jason started papering the community with fliers, while another neighbor searched the creek behind the Patterson home. There was no Dean. There were paw prints along the creek’s edge but none leading away from the water. There was, however; a muddy drag mark leading up from the creek’s edge over the carpet that laid in the path leading right to the Patterson’s back yard.
Jason stopped by the Patterson home while hanging flyers on Saturday. Sue Patterson spoke to Jason, but denied knowing anything about the incident. Carol decided to speak to the Pattersons herself and Jason went along.
Discovering that Mrs. Patterson was the only one home, Carol begged for her to tell her what had happened to her dog. Mrs. Patterson said, “I do not know anything”, but said that she would call her husband and ask him to give them a call.
When Sunday morning arrived and they had not heard form the Patterson’s, Carol called Sue Patterson. Convinced by this time that Dean had been killed, Carol pleaded with Mrs. Patterson to please tell her where he was so that she could take him home for a proper burial. Once again, Mrs. Patterson refused to say anything, but said she would call her husband again and would ask him to call them directly. Finally, they got the call they had been waiting for.
When the call came on Sunday, just before noon, their worst fears were confirmed: Mark Patterson had killed their dog. He claimed that he had chased the dogs from his property twice and when they had come back a third time, Dean growled so he shot and killed him. Mr. Patterson then gave them vague directions to a ravine about five miles away where he had dumped Dean’s body.
Jason and Carol left on the longest five-mile drive of their lives to recover Dean’s body. The directions were not clear and they spent hours scouring the undeveloped area of the ranch for the body of their loyal friend. While searching for Dean, they discovered the body of another dog that had been killed weeks earlier. Just a little further up the road, they found Dean.
Miraculously, the vultures and coyotes had not touched his body. The Hayes family believes that angels were watching over him waiting for them to come and take him home.
They did. Jason hiked down to where Dean’s body lay, about fifty feet off the side of the road, and gently rolled his lifeless body on to a blanket. He drug his friend up the hill speaking to him with every step, telling him that he was a good boy and that he was going home. When they reached the road, Jason and Carol collapsed and sobbed, as the full impact of Dean’s death hit home. They had lost a friend and family member to a cruel act of violence. And Carol had lost her guardian.
Monday morning, wrought with grief from the loss of their beloved dog, Carol reported the shooting to Loren Kemper of the Tehama County Animal Control who advised her that he would start an investigation. Feeling helpless and angry over the senseless slaughter of her treasured dog, Carol also began to contact local news agencies hoping to bring this story of cruelty to the public, but was met with little interest. On a whim she also left a message Ross Turner, Tehama County Supervisor, asking for his help.
Early Tuesday morning Mr. Turner returned her call. He offered to contact the Agricultural Commission on her behalf, if she did not get adequate assistance from Animal Control. Mr. Turner also referred Carol to Andria Borba of Channel 7 News. This was the person who would be the first to tell Dean’s story to the public. Andria visited the Hayes family that Tuesday morning and compiled their story to tell on that day’s evening news. Officer Kemper arrived shortly after Andria. Officer Kemper began the first step in a lengthy and ongoing animal cruelty investigation against Mr. Patterson.
It was Wednesday, several days after recovering Dean’s body, that Jason and Carol were advised to take him to a Veterinarian for evaluation. The body, by then, was too far decomposed for the Vet to do a formal autopsy. All he could do was x-ray Dean. The bullet fragments confirmed that the point of entry in Dean’s side would not be consistent with a dog that was taking a confrontational stance towards a target. The single shot to the side of Dean’s head was the final blow that ended his life. The vet confirmed that if Dean had been threatening Mr. Patterson when he was shot, he would have been shot straight on into the chest or head not in the side.
Dean’s death has turned out to be a polarizing incident in their community. Since their story has aired on television, many people have come out in support of the Hayes family, however; just as many long time residences and institutions still avidly support the practice of shooting unwelcome animals, wildlife included, on a person’s property.
The Rancho Tehama Homeowner’s Association has issued a “hands-off” order to all board members, telling them not to get involved. Only one member, Board President Ann Marie Eversole, has stood by the Hayes family and has selflessly given her time to search for evidence after his death to help prove the shooting unjust.
The Hayes family has also been warned to “watch their backs”. Many respected neighbors have advised them that they are likely to be the target for retaliation. They have been advised to not let their dogs into their own yard unattended and to search the property for poison before the dogs are let out of the house. They have also been advised to install security cameras around their house and yard, which they have done.
In spite of the lack of response from local law enforcement, many community members have poured out support for which the Hayes family is eternally grateful. The family awoke one morning just after Dean’s death to find a beautiful cross decorated with flowers and ribbons by their gate. Another neighbor, whom they had never met prior to this tragedy, came to dig Dean’s grave. Through the power of the internet and a network of animal-loving individuals, support has streamed in from all around the country with people writing letters to the Tehama County D.A. encouraging his office to prosecute Mr. Patterson and from those offering kind words and uplifting prayers for Carol and her family during these most challenging times.
It has been four months since Dean was shot and killed and the DA finally filed charges earlier this November. What, you may ask, is the charge? Simply this: Unlawful Dumping of Waste Matter, a misdemeanor with a monetary fine as punishment. This beautiful creature’s life has been reduced to a net worth equal to that of common rubbish.
In their quest for justice, the Hayes family has endured the cruelest act of all: apathy on the part of the very people who are supposed to protect their right to live in a peaceful and safe community. Carol and her family have been stonewalled by local law enforcement at every turn ranging from the Sheriff’s department’s long standing refusal to record incident reports for multiple acts of animal shootings and gunfire in their residential community to the DA’s office filing meaningless charges against Mr. Patterson and, to date, refusing to disclose public documents regarding the case. But perhaps the worst insult suffered to date came with the release of the transcripts of Mark Patterson’s call to Animal Control to report the shooting. In affect, and perhaps unknowingly, the Animal Control officer he spoke to fed him all of the statements he need to make and actions he needed to take to avoid prosecution in this case. No one has taken responsibility for this grievous mistake.
Years of dreams have been shattered by this one cruel act and the lack of support from their local law enforcement. The family once believed that they were moving to a beautiful home where they could fulfill their wish to raise their family in the county’s peaceful environment. Instead, they now fear for their family’s and their pets’ safety every day.
At the front of the Hayes property stands a beautiful cross marking Dean’s final resting place. This grave is a sorrowful reminder of the tragic events this family and the community as a whole suffered this past summer. It also reminds the Hayes family that change is something worth fighting for. They will continue to try and insure that Dean’s death will not be in vain. The Hayes families dream now is to bring awareness to the animal problem in their community and try and change the attitudes of the people who live in and protect it. Animals are not just property for people to possess and discard, but should instead be valued as members of our families as they enhance all of our lives with unconditional trust and love.
-- Written by Rebecca League
Tehama County, CA
“Watch your dogs,” the couple was warned as they prepared to move into their new house in the country. “People up here won’t think twice about shooting a dog running loose.” Jason and Carol Hayes could not have known how that statement would haunt them in the coming weeks.