Beloved, prize-winning agility dog found dead in Kearney, and family wants answers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Northland family is desperate for answers about what happened to their dog.  Border collie Hero wasn't just a family pet; he was an international champion and well-known performer.

Be forewarned that this story contains some graphic, disturbing detail.

This past weekend, his owners say someone trespassed onto their property and killed him.

Hero lived up to his name for his owner Darby Smith.

"He was just a gentleman, which is not, most border collies are not that way.  They're obsessive and compulsive and that wasn't Hero.  He was a lover and wanted nothing more than just to lay on your lap," said Smith.

But Hero also loved to play and show off.  Darby and his family spent countless hours training Hero in disc and agility skills. Hero competed all over the country with Darby and his daughter, often taking top honors.

"They were ranked 4th in the world in youth. So he was really accomplished with her, as well as me," Smith said.

He's also performed during pre-game and halftime shows for Mizzou, KU, K-State, Nebraska and the Royals, along with demonstrations at area elementary schools.

"We had a super tight bond. When you do something that much and that often with a dog and they learned so much and I can't even explain the bond we had.  He was just like my son, like one of my kids," Smith said.

But at just 5 years old, Hero's glory days were abruptly ended. Darby's wife and daughters came home Friday night to find Hero in a pool of blood.

"She was in hysterics and my kids were screaming and she said, `Hero's dead!'  And I said, 'How's that even possible?'" said Smith.

The family's Kearney home has invisible electric fencing.  Their pets can't get even close to the road.

"He was where he was allowed to be. He should've been safe," said Smith.

Hero's skull was crushed, and whoever hurt him, made no obvious effort to explain what happened, just leaving the dog to die.

"The person that was there should not have been there. They were not in the boundaries of where they were allowed to be. To leave things the way they were left for my kids to come home and find, they didn't need to see that," Smith said.

Smith says he doesn't want the person responsible to be arrested. Instead, he just wants answers, an apology perhaps, and for whoever killed Hero to know exactly what they took away from his family and the entire community.

"It wasn't just a dog. No dog is just a dog. But it has a serious impact on a lot of people. He deserved a lot better. I just wish they'd have had the courage to say something.  He deserved at least that," said Smith.

The Smith family has a second dog that also competes in disc, and is now struggling without his partner.  Hero was certainly an irreplaceable dog that will be missed by many.

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