MENLO, Ga. -- Stormy Cundiff worked the late shift the night before, so she didn't wake up until about 2 p.m. Monday, right around the time she heard two gunshots behind her house.
Cundiff, 19, ran to her bedroom and woke up her husband, Jamie Cundiff. The two walked out the front door and around the corner of their house at 1622 Jamestown Road. There, in the backyard, they found Stormy's uncle, 28-year-old Zachary William Brown, a gun in his hand and a pitbull-labrador mix at his feet.
Deputies say Brown shot the Cundiffs' dog, Buddy, twice in the side of the head. Brown admitted it, according to a Chattooga County sheriff's arrest report, and officers charged him with animal cruelty. He left jail later Monday after paying a bond of $800.
The Cundiffs don't know Buddy's exact age. Jamie, 19, said the black dog with white paws showed up at their house in March.
"He looked like a little stray," Jamie said. "He was so skinny."
He said the dog was like his child, staying inside most of the day and sometimes sleeping in the bed with the Cundiffs. Inside their house Tuesday afternoon, under a miniature manger scene, the couple put up four Christmas stockings: one for Jamie, one for Stormy, one for their cat, and one for Buddy.
The Cundiffs live in a mobile home in rural Menlo in Chattooga County. Between the bare trees behind them and the road in front of them, goats roam the yard. To the Cundiffs' right sits Brown's house, accented with several "No Trespassing" signs. To the Cundiffs' left is the home of Dottie Tucker, Brown's mother and Stormy Cundiff's grandmother.
Tucker and Brown did not answer when a reporter called their listed phone numbers Tuesday afternoon. Stormy said she, Jamie and Buddy never had any problems with her family members before Monday.
The Chattooga County Sheriff's Office arrested 28-year-old Zachary Brown on animal cruelty charges Monday after police say he shot his niece's dog in the head.
"There wasn't fussin'," she said. "There wasn't fightin'. There was nothin'."
The dog freed himself from the chain that held him in the front yard, according to the arrest report. Buddy then walked to the backyard, where one of Brown's children found him.
When the child walked over to Tucker's house, the dog followed. Then, Tucker later told deputies, Buddy began eating her own dog's food and attacking her rabbits' cages.
Tucker grabbed a stick and tried to chase Buddy away. When that didn't work, she called Brown and told her son to "take care" of the dog.
That's when Brown grabbed Buddy and brought him to the Cundiffs' back yard. He told deputies he didn't want to kill the dog in front of his own children.
And that, deputies say, is when he pulled the trigger, twice. Then, when Jamie Cundiff came outside and yelled at him, Brown kicked Buddy in the face, picked him up and plopped his body down at the Cundiffs' front door.
One day later, Jamie Cundiff said he still didn't understand what happened, or why.
"It was just a big ol' baby," he said of Buddy. "That's all he was."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@times freepress.com.
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