Home in the country becomes nightmare life

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Avondale resident fears dog poisonings, bait set out with fish hooks to hurt pups

A wiener stuffed with barbs and hooks that was found on a bypass near Steve Wheeler’s Avondale home. — Submitted photo

 “A nightmare” is how a resident of Avondale describes his experience since moving to that community two years ago.

Steve Wheeler worked in British Columbia for 10 years, putting some money away and making a plan to move home.

“I was up there busting my ass so we could come back here and get a little shack,” he says.

He and his girlfriend, Sheena Chaytor, moved back with their dog, Lady, and found themselves a place in Avondale with a bit of land, access to the ocean and just a few neighbours.

One month later, their dog was poisoned.

Wheeler says they were having dinner with his family. Lady was an older dog by this time and was off the leash. She went under a boat on an area bypass and emerged chewing on what appeared to be a bone. An hour later, Lady fell over and went into convulsions.

She had a seizure and was throwing up with discharge coming from her eyes and nose.

“The vet said she had been exposed to slug bait,” says Wheeler.

 Almost a year to the date of the first incident, Wheeler and Chaytor were walking their dogs on leashes. By this time, they had gotten two other lab mix puppies. They had taken them down to the ocean near their home for some exercise. They were coming back up again onto the area bypass near their home with the dogs on leashes when Lady pulled toward what looked like some macaroni salad.  

“She got one chomp of it. We drag her back into the house, cleaned her up the best we could and, sure enough, 45 minutes later it all happened again. The exact same nightmare,” says Wheeler.

Lady spent two days in a veterinary hospital in Bay Roberts. A toxicology report showed a lot of toxins in her system. Lady survived, but the vet had a chilling message for Wheeler about the effect these incidents would have on his dog.

“These things will catch up to her,” Wheeler says the vet told him.

Perhaps the scariest incident was yet to come.



Lady passed away in February. She was old, says Wheeler, and had a tumor. They decided to have her put down, but she died that morning at home from her illness. If her life was cut short by the poisonings, the couple will never know for sure.

“If we wanted to pursue it to the point where we could actually do a full toxicology screening and have things presented to the RCMP and everything — that was going to cost us thousands of dollars,” Wheeler says.

With less than a month behind them since the death of their dog, Wheeler was walking his two puppies on leash and again walked out onto the municipal bypass near his home. One of the puppies snatched something up.

“She had it in her mouth,” he says. “At that point I just jumped down, ripped her mouth open and it fell out.”

He rushed home with his dogs, put them safely inside and went back down to the road. What the pup had tried to eat was one of two sausages laid in the road stuffed with three pronged fishhooks.

No proof

Wheeler says he’s been in touch with the police. There are about 10 people living on their one- kilometre road. He says more than half of them have dogs of their own.

There is one neighbour they’ve had some issues with from the first day they moved into their home in the country. Somebody has reported them to the police several times in the two years they’ve been there. The RCMP showed up once, he says, stating somebody complained their dogs had chased them, even though his dogs were on the leash at the time.

Now Wheeler says he never ties his dogs on outside. He has a kennel he puts them in if they have to go out and he and his girlfriend have to be so vigilant on walks that neither of them will walk the dogs alone.

“We can’t even go one person with the two dogs anymore,” he says. “The more eyes the better.”

Wheeler says he’s at a loss about what to do. He has his suspicions about who it is, but has no way to prove it. The RCMP did confirm it is still an active investigation.

Wheeler says if his dogs managed to get out now off leash by mistake, he would panic.

“The automatic fear is my dogs are going to die.”

Some people have said to him that whoever is doing it has an issue with his dogs, but he doesn’t think it’s as simple as that.

“It’s not about dogs,” he says. “It’s premeditated and it’s sick.”

Somebody who simply doesn’t like dogs wouldn’t do these things to somebody’s family, he says.

When asked if he’s thought about leaving, Wheeler pauses.

“It’s everything I’ve worked for,” he says. “We should have the right to be able to enjoy our family and enjoy the land that we’ve purchased here.”

He says they didn’t speak to the media before because they don’t want the attention. It’s a solution they’re after.

But after the incident with the fishhooks, he says they felt like they had no choice but to do something else.




Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Avondale, British Columbia, Bay Roberts

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Recent comments

  • stephen
    March 22, 2013 - 07:12

    I protect my dogs like others protect their children,harm my dogs at your own peril.No cops,until after.

  • Whaddaya At
    March 21, 2013 - 23:23

    People don't have to move to small rural areas to experience a 'you're not from here ' attitude. Try moving from St. John's to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the redneck capital of NL. People ask you if you're from ' outside ', as if you're from another galaxy.

  • concerned
    March 20, 2013 - 11:25

    It just goes to show to everyone whereever you live that you can not trust your neighbours no matter where you are, Newfoundland or not. A word of wise - keep to yourself and guard everything and everyone like they are gold. Otherwise they get hurt. life lessons are not necessary to learn now but how to stay away from them. If these people can do this to dogs they don't like can you imagine what they would do to you if they didn't like you. Poison comes in many forms......any deaths unexplained in the area......

  • jockoontherocko
    March 19, 2013 - 18:59

    What kind of person does this to animals? A mean spiteful ignorant SOB.Welcome to good old friendly Newfoundland where a complete stranger is treated so kind and our own are subjected to the true feeling of some. I say some because most Nler's are kind generous people who would go out of their way to help someone. However there is a portion of our good old friendly society that would rather see you squirm and suffer in any kind of pain. These people are ignorant, jealous and mean. They don't like anyone from outside their little narrow minded area. They don't like anyone who is successfull or anyone who has more. Yes this is Bay politics for you. Don't tell me it isn't because I know full well how cruel and ignorant some NL'ers can be. Born and raised in the Bay.. Thank God the good NL'ers far outweigh the bad but it only takes a few in each little community to make life miserable for the rest. I always said Nler's treat their own worse than a complete stranger form away. Pretty two faced if you ask me. The person doing this in Avondale is probably one of those who when you meet them you would or could not ask for any better but on the inside and behind your back they would bad mouth you and do everything to make your life miserable.you just a soon as they would look at you. Apparently rural Newfoundland hasn't changed much. Welcome to the real NL.

  • Sheldon George
    March 19, 2013 - 18:49

    My dog got of the leash a year or two ago and went down the road near a house who've complained about her before (even though she's the most harmless dog ever) and came back with a poisoned ham. People are sick. This was in South River, where most people have dogs.

  • Tru
    March 19, 2013 - 13:02

    So sad to hear about what happened to Lady. I can only imagine the stress you were under trying to keep help her alive. Then, to be so kind as to take two more pups to raise and give shelter to is a wonderful gesture in a world where many have difficulty being responsible and kind to animals. This is not about 'Avondale', 'Newfoundland' or Newfoundlanders... these thoughtless individuals are in every society and culture. You just happened to hit on one right in your neighbourhood. I help in several animal groups and know that many Newfoundlanders are doing everything possible to change attitudes and the laws. I hope you don't have to go through this again, keep a vigilant eye, check things out on the walking route, and above all, try to keep you pets from getting free to be abused by someone who obviously doesn't know what it means to protect and care for their fellow creatures. Animal abusers open up you heart to these creatures and maybe you will feel the joy they give us.

  • david
    March 19, 2013 - 11:47

    Despite the glowing TV ads, this is what rural Newfoundland is like. If you visit for a week, you're impressed with the immense "friendliness"..... which is in reality simply excitement over the novelty of seeing a new face, and good ol' nosiness. But misinterpret this "charming" demeanor, and stay too long, and their true selves will come out soon enough. If they turn on you, you'll wish you were attacked by a pit bull instead. World class.

    • Helga
      March 19, 2013 - 19:48

      I agree with your comment, David. As long as you stay a week or two, you are fine. Drop your money here, but don't try to move here. Discrimination at its best is here in "good ol' Newfoundland" I have lived many places in the world, but I have to say that Newfoundland has some of the worse people that I have ever met. Don't let your animals run loose here or they will be dead.

  • saelcove
    March 19, 2013 - 10:48

    RCMP totally useless

  • Paul
    March 19, 2013 - 08:59

    I'd look into the property title/history and consider if someone is trying to drive you off because they believe it should be their land...in some of these older communities land titles can be 'confusing' and cause alot of problems...families have been torn apart over land disputes...you could have been caught in the middle of one here...I'd look to see who among your neighbours lost this piece of land in that way...

    • david
      March 19, 2013 - 11:59

      Isn't it interesting that this (quite possibly accurate) scenario would be this easy to come up with, and be easily accepted as "reasonable explanation" for what happened?! Newfoundland. Welcome tourists!

  • YTEW
    March 19, 2013 - 08:38

    I would hope the poison/hooks was meant for a problem wild animal. Keep your dogs on a leash. It's also the law.

    • Rob
      March 19, 2013 - 09:17

      YTEW. In what sick, twisted world is it appropriate to feed fish hooks to any animal, wild or domestic. Maybe you should try some yourself first.

    • YTEW
      March 19, 2013 - 10:31

      ooops, I should have left out hooks. Then again rabbit snares are just as bad. Either one will cause the animal to suffer.

  • James
    March 19, 2013 - 08:33

    This is the "friendly Newfoundlander" stereotype that we like to throw around all of the time. I've lived here for 38 years - and I can't say people here are any better or worse then elsewhere. I do know, however, that many are very dedicated to being friendly to your face, and stabbing you in the back. This is especially true when they see people working hard and contributing to their communities. It sounds to me like Wheeler is a good citizen - and because of that he is making one of his uneducated/unemployed neighbours look bad.

    • david
      March 19, 2013 - 11:53

      James, we both see the truth, but we're a tiny minority. And we'd bettewr hope that no one ever finds out who we are, or we'll be ostracized and lynched...by the "friendliest people on Earth!".

    • seanoairborne
      March 19, 2013 - 13:48

      Did you ever hear the old "familiarity breeds contempt" term?All humans put their best foot forward when they meet another person at first!Just like marriage.You start off with the best of intentions until you spot the other persons flaws.Hence,divorce.There's no difference with acquaintances.Perhaps even,more so?When some of these folks figure out your personality, and the angle you're coming from,a goodly number of them use your vulnerabilities against you!It's human nature.Even among Newfs.Some Newfs are low lifes.I've met many of them on my visits to the Rock!!And thems the facts,Byes!!!

  • KD
    March 19, 2013 - 07:46

    My family & I lived on the Burin Peninsula last year, and encountered a similar incident. Attached to the leash we used to let our dog outside we found a homemade rabbit snare. Obviously there are people like this everywhere, who unfortunately do not know the value of a pet to someone's family. It takes all kinds.

  • just me
    March 19, 2013 - 07:44

    I wonder was this done intenionly for these dogs or something else ,Iam not picking up for who ever done this senseless act , because someone had to do it ,but i know of people who live close to salt water have trouble with minks , in any case this is not the right thing to do .

  • donna
    March 19, 2013 - 07:32

    I am a dog owner myself and this is just sickening, I would be devastated if something like that were to happen to my dog...Just a suggestion, maybe, just for walks if you were to have muzzles on the dogs, then they couldn't eat anything that you didn't want them to. I personally don't like the idea of muzzles, but if it helps keep them safe maybe it's worth it

    • Stefanie
      March 19, 2013 - 08:16

      I agree Donna. Until this stops it's a good idea to take extra precautions, even those that you would rather not have to resort to. I don't like the idea of muzzling a friendly dog, but ultimately it's a better option than taking a chance on your dogs getting into to something else. They might also consider using the halti or gentle leader. It's meant to control dogs that pull but still allows them to open their mouths as long as they are walking on a loose leash. If they notice something on the ground it will give them the power to gently guide the dog's head away, and if the dog does pull towards something the nose piece will hold the mouth shut as long as they continue to pull. It might be a nicer option than having to muzzle a friendly dog. Hopefully they can put a stop to this soon so that their dogs, and other dogs in the area, are safe.

  • elffie
    March 19, 2013 - 07:31

    this must be a true nitemare to go threw and I wouldn't want any thing to happen to any pet.I think all these people living in this small area should do a complete clean sweep of the area,to look for more hazards that may be around, if over half of the people who live here have dogs , as this article states , there shouldn't be any trouble getting help if they think anything of their pets.

  • santo
    March 19, 2013 - 07:29

    Whoever is doing this isn't right in the head! It's scary that a neighbour, a fellow human being, could be so cruel as to do this to any dog. How much Lady must have suffered, and how much would the other dog had suffered had he swollowed that fish hook! I hope the RCMP are taking this seriously, as I think actions as these speak to a persons lack of morals, respect for others property, and mental state.

  • John
    March 19, 2013 - 07:24

    Awful story, it's sad that a bunch of ignorant hillbillies with nothing better to do would be setting traps like that, real low lifes. Proof that there's bad apples everywhere you go.

  • Katy
    March 19, 2013 - 06:35

    First: Please explain what a "municipal bypass" is. Is this a road of some kind? A walkway? A municipal building with a trail around it? I'm just trying to understand how likely it was that the poison would have been consumed by these dogs in particular, or if it's an area where many dogs might pass. Or is this an uninhabited area where the intended victim was wild animals? Second: As one "come-back-from-away" to another: You will find that life in smaller towns in NL have two views. One is the visible display of friendliness and helpfulness in a beautiful landscape. The other is a more sinister "you ain't from here so you're wrong no matter what." I'm willing to bet the person doing this is a lifelong inhabitant of Avondale who feels justified in hurting the "newcomers" because they bring change. Similar things happen in every small town to some degree, and it just looks worse here because so many of us are suckered by the beautiful tourism ads.

    • Rhonda
      March 19, 2013 - 07:59

      I don't think it has anything to do with being a lifeloong inhabitant who wants to hurt newcomers, that's a little paranoid. I think it's some crazy idiot, and they are everywhere, who needs to be found and placed in jail. Anyone who would do something like that is crazy.