FAIRBANKS — A dog that was brutally attacked earlier this month has been reunited with her owner and is doing well.
River, a petite white husky with black markings, belongs to Eugene Witt and lives with him and a Chihuahua named Bear-Bear at a home on Turner Street. Witt was away at his job on the North Slope June 1 when Billy E. Ahkiviana, 47, allegedly entered Witt’s back yard and punched and kicked River while she was chained to her dog house. According to a neighbor who witnessed the attack and called 911, Ahkiviana also repeatedly slammed River into the muddy ground and hung her by her chain for 10 to 15 seconds.
Witt explained the circumstances surrounding River’s ordeal.
“Well, I work up north and my ex-wife was watching my house, which is probably bad right there. And it’s her boyfriend that did it. She wasn’t here and he came here and no one would open the door so he took it out on the dog,” Witt said.
Ahkiviana has an extensive criminal record dating back to 1986 which includes multiple domestic violence charges as well as stalking, assault, driving while intoxicated and criminal mischief.
Police responding to the neighbor’s 911 call heard a dog whimpering behind the house when they arrived. Ahkiviana appeared from the back yard and was breathing heavily and “belligerent and highly intoxicated,” according to police.
River was found cowering and shaking in the back of her dog house and was covered in fresh mud. She was taken to the emergency veterinary clinic and treated for her injuries, which included pain and swelling but no broken bones. She was then transported to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Animal Shelter.
Ahkiviana was indicted Thursday on one count of felony cruelty to animals. While normally a misdemeanor, cruelty to animals becomes a class C felony if the person has been previously convicted for the same crime on two or more separate occasions within 10 years of the date of the present offense, or for a law or ordinance of another jurisdiction having elements similar to those offenses.
Witt’s ex-wife was in Anchorage at the time of the attack and didn’t find out about it until the neighbors called and told her the police took the dog away. She called Witt at work and he contacted the animal shelter.
“I heard what happened to her, but I couldn’t call the pound until Monday, so there was two full days I didn’t know what condition she was in. I have shovels and things in my yard, and when they said he beat the dog up I thought for sure she’d have broken bones, but luckily she didn’t,” Witt said Saturday, petting River as she squirmed delightedly.
River was “very well-mannered and a sweetheart during her short time at the shelter,” according to shelter manager Sandy Besser. The dog was very happy to see her owner again and the reunion “brought a tear to my eye,” Besser said.
“When they brought her into the room where he was sitting, she literally jumped for joy and threw herself all over him, trying to lick his face. It was obviously a very close relationship between owner and dog,” Besser said. “It was a great thing to see.”
Both of Witt’s dogs encountered trouble last week. Bear-Bear the Chihuahua got out of the house at some point during the beating incident and went missing, Witt said.
“Yeah, he was gone for four days — he didn’t like the situation either,” Witt said.
Bear-Bear reappeared shortly before Witt returned home from work Thursday. Witt retrieved River from the animal shelter that same day and all three are happily back together. Witt said his 24-year-old daughter will be back from school soon and the dogs will be safe with her when he goes back to work.
Witt said he will be following Ahkiviana’s case closely.
“We talked to the district attorney on Friday and they’re going to keep us updated on the situation. My daughter and I want to talk at the sentencing hearing and tell the judge how our dog was abused,” Witt said.
Ahkiviana’s trial is scheduled for Aug. 20.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590.