‘He was my son’ — Eltopia man reflects on slain dog’s life

James Anderson with Chucky, his dog.
James Anderson with Chucky, his dog. Courtesy James Anderson

James Anderson and his dog, Chucky, rarely spent time apart.

“Four hours was as long as we’d ever been separated,” Anderson recalled.

That’s why it felt odd to Anderson that Chucky didn’t return on March 9, 2014, after bolting off to check nearby gunfire.

Anderson, 56, searched for the 7-year-old English springer spaniel for hours, through the night. He found his beloved pet the next morning wounded, half-dead from gunshot wounds, in an orchard.

Chucky died on the operating table at the Pasco Animal Hospital.

“He was my son,” Anderson said. “Sometimes, some people take for granted what’s other people’s whole lives.”

Chucky’s death led to an investigation of Anderson’s neighbors, Scott and Lori Hayles, and their three preteen sons.

And this week, a Franklin County jury ordered them to pay more than $36,000 for the dog’s death, which included $15,000 for emotional distress.

The Hayles and their defense attorney could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Anderson believes the Hayles children shot Chucky and concealed the incident, which occurred while they were trapshooting.

“I don’t even have words in my vocabulary to express my gratitude toward them,” Anderson said Friday of the jurors’ verdict.

Anderson was born in Kennewick and raised in the same Eltopia-area farm home where he now lives. Though he has friends in Spokane and Washougal, he has no immediate family in the area and few visitors.

“No cars will come in or out,” he said. “I do imagine people might think I’m a hermit.”

More than 20 years ago, he worked as a construction worker and helped build satellite communication equipment for U.S. Navy bases.

“When you left port, you never knew where you were going to be,” he said. “Cheap way to see the world, I guess.”

After he fell on the job five years later, he returned home and adopted a stray dog, a rottweiler named Roxy, to help cope. When she died 11 years later, the Pasco Animal Hospital contacted him, saying that a teacher in the area was looking to sell some puppies.

That’s when Chucky and Anderson met.

Chucky seemed a cut above just five months later, when Anderson was out on the water and the then-tiny puppy retrieved his first bird.

Without hesitation, Chucky lunged into the water.

“He swam right out and got (the bird),” Anderson said. “He was just a little itty bitty pup. He made me so proud.”

Chucky was trained to fetch fishing lures, open doors and even ride on the back of Anderson’s motorcycle. He was also trained to understand more than 100 commands.

“He could understand every word I said,” Anderson said.

When Anderson went out on fishing trips in North Bonneville, Chucky excelled in swimming out to fetch fishing lures for him and his fishing buddies, he said.

Separation was never easy for the two, as Anderson could never find a kennel to take Chucky in. The dog would cry and yelp if they were separated for too long.

After the dog’s death, Anderson had to find the truth about what happened, he said. He searched all over for attorneys to help take his case. The Franklin County sheriff’s office did not provide help.

“They told me they don’t investigate dog murders,” he said.

When others declined to help, Anderson’s search led him to Adam Karp, an animal rights attorney.

“I would’ve gave up a long time ago if it wasn’t for him,” Anderson said.

After the jury ruled in his favor, Anderson was grateful for the outcome, but indifferent about the money.

“It never has been a dollar deal with me,” he said. “It was principle. I owed it to Chuck.”

Looking forward, Anderson continues to care for Gomer, a 1-year-old black mouth cur, a breed used for hunting and cattle herding.

Though he calls Gomer “my new buddy,” no animal will ever replace Chucky.

“He’s got a big heart, but he’ll never have what Chuck had,” Anderson said.

Sean Bassinger: 509-582-1556, @Seandood