HUDSON — On a Thursday afternoon last month while the kids were at school, Hunter and Bella slipped through the fence around their owner's yard.
The dogs went poking through the woods and into a neighborhood the next street over. At some point Feb. 27, deputies say, Hunter, the 2-year-old black Labrador crossed the property line at 14320 Thompson Ave.
One hundred and forty-five feet up the driveway, according to a Pasco sheriff's report, Hugh Matthew Schnacky stood on the other side of a gate, leveled a .22-caliber rifle at the dog and fired. A neighbor heard the gunshot and watched as Hunter wilted to the ground.
Bella came back to her own home. When Randall Patsches opened the door, she darted under a coffee table, shaking. Hunter was missing. He knew something was wrong.
When Patsches' 12-year-old son, Sam, came home, they went out to look for the dog. As they drove down Thompson Avenue, a woman stopped them and told them what happened.
Patsches said he confronted Schnacky and asked him why he shot Hunter. Schnacky would only say the dog was on his property, according to Patsches. He asked Schnacky what he did with the body. Schnacky said he loaded the dead dog into a pickup truck and dropped it in a Dumpster at the end of the road. When Patsches and his son went to look, the Dumpster's contents had already been collected.
After hearing from witnesses and speaking with Patsches, deputies on Sunday went to Schnacky's home and arrested him on a charge of animal cruelty. He was released a few hours later on $5,000 bail. Records show this is his only arrest in Florida.
A man who answered the phone at the listed number for Schnacky said he wasn't there, then hung up.
With no body to bury, the Patscheses have not put up a monument for Hunter. Sam asked his father to make a collage of pictures of the dog remembered as docile, timid and "a lover." Snapshots show Hunter, then a big-footed puppy, exploring the view from a porch, sitting at attention on the arm of a sofa and lounging next to Sam. Patsches remembers Hunter could fit in the palm of his hand when the family first brought him home from the shelter.
"Bella always kept him going, playing, bugging him. He liked to stay outside and lay and sit in the sun," Sam said. "And now he's in heaven. Having fun."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Alex Orlando can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.