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Old Yeller, Matthew Beauchamp and a dog named Lad: Part I

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In 1957, Disney released "Old Yeller" on Christmas day. The movie starred a Louisville, Kentucky native, Tommy Kirk, a young man on the rise as Travis, the son of Jim Coates (Fess Parker) and his wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire). As a child, watching a re-run of this movie on TV, I was traumatized by one particular scene, where a boy must euthanize his own dog.

Taking place back in the late 1860s, after the American Civil War, Travis becomes the man of the house when his father leaves for a cattle drive and along with a dog named Old Yeller, he watches out for his younger brother Arliss. The family lives in fear of rabies, first from wild boars and later, from their own animals. Old Yeller saves the family from a rabid wolf, but becomes infected. Travis is forced to shoot his beloved dog.

"Old Yeller" takes place in Texas, but the question of gun euthanasia should be in the national spotlight now since the Owensboro, Kentucky incident involving Matthew Wade Beauchamp and his collie. Beauchamp has been much villainized on many Facebook pages and news resource websites. There is a dispute over what exactly happened.

What isn't disputed is that Beauchamp took the collie he owned and attempted to euthanize it with a shotgun in February of this year. The dog was shot three times in the jaw.

The dog was not dead, but found, starving with its jaw hanging agape. The dog was turned over to a nonprofit based, not in Owensboro, but in Louisville. Louisville is 107.3 miles or about two hours away from Owensboro. Owensboro is 18.7 square miles with a population of about 58,082.

The dog which was named Lad, had surgery in Louisville and the lower jaw was removed. The dog was taken to UCDavis for reconstructive jaw surgery, but required time to recover from an infection. Lad eventually died from complications of surgery.

Matthew Beauchamp, 28, owned the dog. From Facebook we know that his mother is Lori Beauchamp. His brother Andrew Scott Beauchamp died on 31 August 2013. Taylor Beauchamp is a relative of Matthew Beauchamp.

Records show that Matthew Beauchamp was previously arrested for being drunk in public.

Two people have written in his defense. The first was Taylor Beauchamp who posted this essay on her Facebook page on 4 April 2014:

"I'm not usually one to post anything on here, but I think in this case someone needs to speak out and let everyone know the truth. I'm sure you've all heard and have been following the "Lad dog story" which has been brutally misconstrued by the media. It's really sad when a person is trying to do the right thing and is made out to be a monster. It is not uncommon for the media to present information about something in a way that provokes public interest and excitement at the expense of accuracy. The dog was hit by a car, wouldn't move or eat, his health was fading. ALL he was trying to do was put the dog out of its misery and stop him from suffering. Clearly it didn't go as planned, however there were never cruel intentions. Im a dog lover myself and understand where everyone is coming from because they are only getting the story the media has put out there, but please get the full story before you judge. If I've learned anything from this it's to never pass judgment on anything I read or hear in the news. I'm not posting this to start an argument, just wanted to get the truth out there. If you have something negative to say please just keep it to yourself or remove me as friend."

The other person made a comment more recently on TriStatehomepage.com, Mason McNulty who wrote:

"I know Matt Beauchamp, he's a good guy, a good old boy, he did NOT torture the dog. Matt was trying to put him down, by himself and the dog got away from him. It's a terrible situation all around. Matt is a great dad and a good person. The media has turned this all upside down."

Could this be possible with a dog Lad whose injured jaw was the result of gun shots? While the dog showed no broken bones that might have been caused by a high velocity collision with a vehicle, not all animals hit by vehicles die or have broken bones. In which case, the dog might have suffered a brain injury such as a contusion or concussion.

With a contusion, the dog would not have lost consciousness, but the dog would seem dazed and disoriented. The dog might also have problems with its balance.

With a concussion, the dog would have lost consciousness, no matter how brief. The dog might exhibit the same symptoms of a contusion. A severe concussion results in the death of millions of neurons and the cell death doesn't stop within hours of the injury and may continue for months.

If brain swelling occurs, one pupil may become dilated and unresponsive to light. The dog may exhibit weakness or paralysis of one or more limbs. A dog with mil to moderate brain swelling will be sleepy but easy to arouse from sleep. Nausea or vomiting are also symptoms of a concussion.

A brain injury resulting from a car accident isn't out of the realm of possibility for the dog now known as Lad.

A CT scan in the first 24 to 48 hours will show brain swelling. An MRI is the better choice 48 hours or more after the incident because it exposes patients to less radiation. For whatever reason, Beauchamp chose not to take the young collie to the vet and no diagnosis was made and no treatment initiated. While the swelling would have eventually subsided, scarring on the brain tissue, if any, would have still have been visible.

Cost may have been a concern. Matthew Beauchamp had court fees waived when he made an Alford plea on 22 August 2014 and received a three-year probation sentence. The court documents list the reason for the waiver was Beauchamp was indigent.

The scenario that Taylor Beauchamp proposes is not out of the realm of possibilities. Matthew Beauchamp won't be the only person in Kentucky or other states to weigh the cost of a bullet against the cost of a veterinary bill, even though he had recently bought a pedigreed dog (Lad was less than a year old at the time of the shooting). Without a trial, Beauchamp hasn't been found guilty and the spotlight may gradually fade and allow Owensboro to return to normal.

Old Yeller, Lad and the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Shoot the Dog? (Part 2)

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