GLOUCESTER - At the end of Bray Street in West Gloucester, a large granite stone is surrounded by pots of wilting yellow and purple mums on a mound of freshly turned sod, shaded by tall oaks and white pines.
“Otis Robert Wood 2003-2006’’ is hand-painted in white lettering across the stone, marking the grave of a beloved, 80-pound yellow Labrador that died Sept. 13 from blunt force trauma authorities say was likely caused by a boot.
Gloucester police and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have intensified their investigation into the death and are focusing their efforts on two hunters. The MSPCA also has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved.
Otis’s family, meanwhile, is in mourning.
The Bray Street area, where Otis lived with Tim and Megara Wood and their 9-year-old daughter Tracy, is a sparsely populated neighborhood surrounded by 40 acres of undeveloped private property. Dogs have frequently roamed freely there.
And for several years, homeowners such as the Woods have allowed deer hunters to use their land and park in their driveways during the fall hunt ing season, which begins in mid-October.
And before the season - up until 10 days before opening - they have let hunters “bait’’ deer paths with piles of dried corn.
Just 24 hours after he failed to return from being with his “best friend’’ - a neighbor’s dog named Jackson - Otis was found next to one of the bait piles, having bled to death from his mouth and nose.
Tim Wood said he let his dog out midafternoon on Sept. 13, the same day he saw two hunters enter the woods to set up tree stands, and then he heard a commotion. “The dogs were barking, but only one came out of the woods,’’ he said.
It was not unusual for Otis to come home at his leisure.
“We got back about 6 or 6:30, and we started looking till about 11 that night,’’ Wood said.
The next morning, at 6 a.m., Wood, his neighbor, and Jackson searched the woods, plowing through thorny bushes until just after noon, when Jackson found his best friend in a grassy area near one of the corn piles.
The family vet described Otis’s injuries as similar to those of a dog hit by a car.
“The vet said somebody had kicked him,’’ Wood said.
One week later, the same truck returned with the same two hunters, Wood said, and one of the hunters made a quick trip into the woods and returned rather abruptly to his truck. “Fortunately, we recognized them and got a license plate number,’’ Wood said.
While there have been no arrests, it appears unlikely it was an accident, said Gloucester police Detective Steven Mizzoni. “We are investigating all of the possibilities,’’ he said.
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