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Burglars shoot disabled veteran's service dog

May 09, 2012
  • Kinga Kiss-Johnson returned home to find her service dog Balto wounded by a burglar's bullet.
Kinga Kiss-Johnson returned home to find her service dog Balto wounded… (Warrior Transition Command )

Looking for an express lane to the ninth rung of hell? Try burgling a disabled veteran's house and shooting her dog.

About 6 p.m. Monday, Kinga Kiss-Johnson, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, left her Augusta, Ga., home to buy food for her service dog Balto, a black Labrador retriever. She returned to find a side window open, and Balto lying on the couch obviously injured, according to a police report from the Richmond County Sheriff's Department. The injuries appeared to be from a gunshot. She rushed the dog to the hospital.

Kiss-Johnson, 35, does not like to talk about the incident in Afghanistan that resulted in her brain and spinal injuries. But in a phone interview, she said that Balto had been at her side constantly for 2 1/2 years.

By Wednesday, Balto had been released from the veterinary hospital. But with bullet fragments remaining in his body, Kiss-Johnson was unsure if he would make it, or if he could continue to act as her companion.

She sounded devastated. The incident occurred shortly after her return from the 2012 Warrior Games, a competition for disabled veterans at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she helped her Army team win a silver medal in archery.

Her tiny house on Gardner Street, just south of the Augusta Country Club -- sold to her for $5 as part of a program to help disabled vets -- has been broken into numerous times before. But this, she said, was the last straw.

She and her husband are now staying with friends, and trying to figure out their next steps.

Kiss-Johnson wasn't even sure if the burglars had taken anything. She's been back to the house only briefly, to pick up some medications.

"I don't know, and I don't care," she said. "I just want to make sure my puppy's OK."

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richard.fausset@latimes.com

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