A 12-year-old battling leukemia will have to do it without her beloved therapy dog, who was shot last week by a bow hunter.
Shelby Shuffitt and her grandfather, Junior Gray, adopted the dog 18 months ago near their home in Wagoner County, Oklahoma.
“He was a mix, but mostly basset hound,” Gray told The Huffington Post. “There is no one close to her age living near here. He was just there for her.”
That is, until November 23, when a hunter killed Tank behind their home.
“Shelby was getting ready for school and we were on the porch and Tank was barking behind the house,” Gray said. “He would bark bark bark and then he started crying and we knew something had hurt him.”
Shelby and her “Papa” soon saw Tank with an arrow stuck between the eyes and blood gushing from his head.
“There was nothing we could do,” Gray said.
He and Shelby walked back towards where Tank had been and saw the hunter on their property.
“The man started talking in foul language about how a dog tried to bite him,” Gray said. “I knew this was wrong because we knew what Tank was like. He is not aggressive at all.
“I told him, ‘That dog was barking and you knew no deer would come by while that was happening so you shot him!’”
Gray said he explained Shelby’s situation, and how important Tank was to her. Then the hunter ducked his head and said, “I’m sorry.
Instead of reporting the hunter to police, he did something else: He forgave the man.
“I said, ‘I will forgive you, but think about what you did to this little girl,’” said Gray, a retired minister. “The thing of it is, if you do something wrong and are punished, you feel free. But if they forgive you, it goes back on you and you have to deal with it.”
Gray never got the man’s name, but the story has touched a lot of hearts in Oklahoma and beyond.
Tenaciously Teal, a charity that helps cancer patients, is meeting on Thursday to vote on whether they help her replace Tank.
Gray doesn’t know if Shelby is ready for a new dog.
“Shelby is devastated. Her heart is broken, and it will be a long time before she will be able to get past it,” he told TulsaWorld.com. “She’s already going through a lot after coming down with leukemia in May. It really bothers me to see her so upset.”