GOODLAND — For more than two months, a pellet shot from a gun has been lodged in the chest of Hotkee, an 8-year-old, 10-pound Shih Tzu-Chihuahua mix.
Hotkee still snaps awake at night on occasion, barking and shaking as he scampers across owner Mark “Smitty” Schmitt’s Goodland home. Hotkee — Seminole for “white” — still needs X-rays every six months, and one day could need surgery to remove the pellet, Schmitt said.
But all things considered, Hotkee’s recovering well.
“He’s a strong puppy,” Schmitt said, “but he’s got to live now with a bullet next to his heart.”
On Thursday, Collier County sheriff’s deputies arrested the Goodland man they say shot Hotkee with a pellet gun in December. Jack Swisher, 89, faces a single charge of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He posted $2,000 bail.
Swisher said he shot Hotkee because the dog would often run through his yard, defecating in his wife’s flower beds, according to Sheriff’s Office reports.
After the shooting, Swisher told the Daily News the shooting was accidental, meant to spook the pup away from his yard. Swisher denied wanting to hurt Hotkee, noting he’s raised hunting dogs in the past.
“I didn’t intend to hit the dog,” Swisher said at the time. “I wanted to scare the dog. It was an accident. … The fact that I hit him was a surprise to me.”
A witness, however, told deputies Swisher admitted to the shooting and said “I burnt him good,” refering to the dog. Attempts to reach Swisher for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
Schmitt called the arrest a relief, saying the shooting has cost him peace of mind and about $1,500 in vet bills.
“I was very happy that he got charged with something,” Schmitt said. “It was very stressful all these nights for me and my wife, not knowing whether he’d be alive when we wake up in the morning.”
While Hotkee doesn’t have any more immediate veterinary needs, the pellet could have to be removed if it causes bleeding — an operation that costs $6,000 to $8,000, Schmitt said. He plans to pursue damages against Swisher.
Swisher previously told the Daily News he attempted to speak with Schmitt but was turned away. On Friday, speaking from his job at Stan’s Idle Hour, Schmitt said he doesn’t want to hear from his northern Goodland neighbor.
“I don’t really know the man at all,” Schmitt said. “I’d rather just stay away from him, which the police told me to do.”