Retired service dog beaten, stabbed and burned; owner wants the community to be aware

Sep. 9—WATERTOWN — Iajah Hughes is trying to make sense of why his border collie — a retired service dog that helped him and others cope with loss and anxiety — was recently beaten, stabbed and maimed.

Eight-year-old border collie-pitbull mix, King, went missing near Anne Street on Aug. 27. King was found three days later in a garage, with stab wounds, a fractured skull and tail that was severed.

City police issued a news release this week asking the public for assistance in finding those responsible for the abuse of King. Like most people, Mr. Hughes has thought about taking matters into his own hands, but he'd rather make the community aware and be patient as police investigate.

Meeting King now, he's calm and appreciative of head pats and back scratches. He seems a bit lethargic in his recovery, but at least he's able to walk.

King, who Mr. Hughes said can open doors, had gotten out of the house on Anne Street on that August day. Mr. Hughes had been attending the funeral of his aunt in New York City the day King went missing. He immediately began posting on community pages on Facebook as he made his way home. Eventually, a couple found King in a garage a few blocks away on Superior Street. The couple had seen the Facebook post and got in touch with Mr. Hughes.

"He was in the worst shape I had ever seen a dog," Mr. Hughes said. "My dog was beaten, burned, scorched and tortured, yet he was still wagging his tail and being loving toward people."

Mr. Hughes' first thought was to get King emergency treatment. Someone mentioned taking him to Syracuse, but it wasn't clear if King would have made it. His tail had been severed before someone performed a faulty cauterization job. The dog was losing blood, so they went to VCA North Country on Route 3. Mr. Hughes said he couldn't thank the vets and staff there enough for the job they did. Bills did mount up, however, as he has already paid around $750, and that isn't counting follow-up appointments and the surgery to have King's tail amputated. A fundraiser, which Mr. Hughes didn't ask for but is grateful for, had raised a few hundred dollars. It can be found by searching "Help with kings medical bills" on Facebook.

Still, King is now walking, which he couldn't do when Mr. Hughes found him in that garage. His stab wounds are healing, as well as his fractured skull.

"King is my best friend," Mr. Hughes said. "I'd go broke trying to save him."

Mr. Hughes now has to make sense of the violence inflicted on a notoriously calm dog. He said he got King around 8 years ago, after Mr. Hughes witnessed his friend die of a gunshot wound. He trained King for three years before he became a service dog. That went on for years until Mr. Hughes had his first son, Kamdon. He decided to retire King, but the dog still did his part in helping others end their fear of dogs, or even help his nephew who has Down syndrome.

"He has been through every monumental period in my life," Mr. Hughes said. "From being homeless, to going to school, to climbing mountains together, to experiencing swimming for the first time together."

Mr. Hughes' priority has never been to hunt down those responsible. Although he'd like to — and maybe he would have in the past — he said he's changed for the better. The best way to retaliate is to tell the community and be patient with the police, he said, which he hopes will be a better way to deter something like this happening to others.

"If I want to change the world I have to start in my community," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm just glad King is home."