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Family Seeks Answers After Dead Dog Tossed From Truck In Orcutt

The family of Sam, a toy poodle tossed from a truck into a crowd of adults and children rallying in Orcutt, just wants answers.

So do investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the odd incident that occurred at approximately 4 p.m. March 18 at the corner of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road when someone in a red pickup truck threw the dog’s body out the window.

“The deceased poodle was tossed into a crowd of teachers who were attending a peaceful demonstration,” said Kelly Hoover, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt or injured in the crowd,” Hoover said, adding that the Sheriff's Department is actively investigating this case and is not releasing additional details at this time.

A $5,000 reward has been offered by animal-advocacy groups to encourage someone to come forward with information about last Friday's incident.

Sam, owned by Sophia and Johnnie Schwark and their daughter Ashley, disappeared at mid-day Wednesday from their yard on Dartmouth Lane off Foster Road in Orcutt.

The family of Sam the toy poodle wants answers after his body was thrown out of a truck at a crowd of rallying teachers in Orcutt. Click to view larger
The family of Sam the toy poodle wants answers after his body was thrown out of a truck at a crowd of rallying teachers in Orcutt.  (Contributed photo)

The family acquired the 14 1/2-year-old dog as a puppy after Ashley fell in love with the animal at a pet store during a visit with relatives. She convinced her parents to check it out.

They, too, fell in love.

“Ashley’s heartbroken. We all are,” Sophia Schwark said of their 18-year-old daughter, who, along with her parents and a cousin, survived a 1999 Christmas night fire that killed her brothers, Johnnie Jr., 12, and Zackary Lee, 10.

After discovering Sam’s absence, Sophia Schwark posted about the family’s missing dog on social media pages set up to report lost and found pets.

“I don’t believe he got out. I honestly don’t,” she said, unwilling to speculate what might have happened.

Searches of the backyard and neighborhood failed to turn up the dog. 

Two days later, she received a call from a friend participating in a rally involving members of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association and Orcutt Educators Association. 

The friend wondered if the family’s dog had been found.

After seeing pictures of the poodle’s body, she knew it was Sam.

“I could tell,” Schwark said.

Sam was wearing a collar with tags the day he disappeared but did not have them when his body showed up, she said. 

“I don’t know what happened to him," she said. “Where are the tags? Why did they take the tags off?”

Rigor mortis had set in so authorities believe the death had occurred earlier.

Because of his age, the family knows the dog might have died due to natural causes, but that doesn’t explain why his body was tossed from the truck. 

“Somebody found him, whether they found him alive or they found him dead,” Schwark said, wondering why they didn’t try to contact the family or authorities about discovering the dog.

Those in the truck reportedly were teenagers or young adults, she added.

“This to me is very heartbreaking. Sam is part of our family. If it was part of your family, how would you feel?

“I just hope that whoever has done it — whether it’s one person, two people, however many there are that are involved — they can find it in their heart to do what’s right.”

 Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Sheriff's Department anonymous tip line at 805.681.4171.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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