Jax hadn’t been a member of the Johnson household for a full year, yet he quickly became a big part of the family.
Lona and Joseph Johnson brought the labradoodle into their Bellingham-area home in part to bring comfort to their family and help it deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Johnsons were in the audience at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas last October, when a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 people and injuring 851, including Whatcom County resident Melinda Brockie.
A cousin of the Johnsons who attended the concert with them, Brockie was shot in the right cheek.
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“We heard that dogs are good pets to help with the healing and PTSD and anxiety and all the things that came with that horrible night. We decided on a labradoodle and got Jax, and he was such a blessing,” Joseph said.
“He gave us something to look forward to. I really believe Jax was a big part of our healing, not only for my wife and I, but for our children, who were at home and saw the news and the social media and knew we were shot at. He’s helped us all.”
That what made Jax’s death this week so difficult for the Johnsons. Jax was shot and killed Sunday morning on the family’s property.
Odin Maxwell, 49, a neighbor of the Johnsons, was cited for aiming or discharging a firearm, according to Whatcom County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kevin Hester.
At approximately 7:45 a.m. Sunday, sheriff’s deputies, the Everson Police Department, Nooksack Tribal Police and the Humane Society responded to a report of a dog being shot in the 2800 block of Goshen Road.
Maxwell told deputies the dog was chasing his chickens, but he refused to cooperate further, Hester said.
An investigation showed no chickens were harmed and Maxwell was reckless in the way he fired his shotgun at the dog, Hester said.
According to the Johnsons, their 9-year-old nephew was playing outside nearby with his chihuahua at the time Jax was shot.
“We’re pretty upset and hurt right now,” Lona said. “It triggered a lot of PTSD for our family. We’re still trying to deal with what happened in Las Vegas, and then this happened. Everybody who knows us knows how important Jax was to us.”
Lona and Joseph said they hadn’t had any previous dealings with Maxwell prior to Sunday, and Joseph said a nephew even returned one of Maxwell’s chickens that had come onto their property unharmed only days before the shooting.
They said Maxwell never expressed any concerns about Jax nor said he’d chased chickens before the incident.
“We cried pretty much all day Sunday, and the kids had a hard time, wanting to come home,” Lona said. “It was hard being home without having Jax around. It was so quiet.”
Lona said several people have reached out to offer support, and the family is open to the idea of getting another dog sometime in the future. Just not yet.
“It’s definitely been a tough year,” Joseph said. “We went through a life-changing event in Las Vegas. It gives you a different perspective on a lot of things. Just like now, there was a lot of anger over what we went through.
“It’s hard to be woken up by gunshots and to see your dog shot on your property. It brings back a lot of those same feelings.”