Some dogs are more than “just a dog;” they are family. There are more photos of the dog than people on family’s social media: there is a celebration for the pup’s milestones, and there are monikers like “My Baby” or “My Little Man.” Such is the case with Kane, a white English bulldog. From six weeks old, when he arrived at his family’s home in 2013, Kane celebrated holidays, surrounded by adoration, continually having his picture taken. The family’s four-year-old daughter dressed Kane and painted his nails for tea parties he dutifully attended. He accompanied the family teen on fishing expeditions. Outside, the beloved pup stayed close to the house, snuffling the wild grasses, a happy, free, and healthy dog. Then Kane went missing around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
|Kane's first day home|
Kane’s family, Police Officer Lesley Dyan, and her husband State Trooper Adam, immediately began to call for Kane. They live in a rural area, so they were hiking pastures and driving door to door to speak to neighbors while searching under trees and bushes. Leslie and Adam were asking everyone, “Have you seen Kane, our white English Bulldog?” English bulldogs, by nature, prefer to snooze on the couch than chase squirrels. If they decide to explore, they rarely go far. The family kept the search close to home.
Leslie, in particular, was frantic. Kane was her “baby,” her confidant who helped her get through rough patches in life. His soft, white fur caught many of her tears, and kisses during joyous times; Kane was as close to her heart as a patrol partner or a spouse.
Kane’s family lives on a dead-end road, amid four houses. One of those houses belongs to a man named Heatherly. At the time of Kane’s disappearance and into the evening, Heatherly never answered his door when Kane’s family was knocking; his truck parked in his driveway. They heard a dog barking from inside the Heatherly home. “He has two other dogs, a Lab(rador retriever) and a little mixed terrier,” Leslie says. So a dog’s frantic barking did not seem unusual.
Kane’s family continued to canvas the neighborhood, climbing bluffs through thickets and asking permission to search the neighbor’s properties.
Monday night, Lesley and Adam again spoke with their neighbors, hoping for good news. They were still unsuccessful in speaking with Heatherly; his truck was unmoved, and he never answered his door despite their repeated efforts. Inside his home, a dog continued to bark frantically.
On Heatherly’s Facebook, he poses with a Labrador retriever; there is a photo of this dog with a smaller, mix-breed dog. Tuesday, March 24 at 7:55 a.m., Heatherly posted on his Facebook account,
Lesley and Adam were not connected to Heatherly on social media.
Searching the area was now a ritual. Lesley Dyan, Adam Marsh, and their children searched for miles screaming for Kane until their throats were raw, hearts pounding, tears streaming down chapped faces. Would they turn a corner and see their sweet, goofy boy sitting there? Or find him…?
It was Sunday, March 29, on another round of searching for her “little man” that Lesley says they again observed Heatherly’s truck parked in his driveway, unmoved. She and her husband drove into Heatherly’s yard, this time noting a strange smell emanating from the house; after eighteen years as a police officer, Lesley knows the smell of death, and she became frantic when it reached her nostrils. “What if (Heatherly’s) dead?” She asked Adam. “We haven’t seen him all week, and his truck hasn’t moved!” Concerned, they hurried to pound on the door. “I was frantic,” she recalls. The thought of a neighbor dying alone was horrific. She wondered if, in a desperate attempt, he had tried to contact any one of them…?
This time Heatherly answered the door, and as Lesley exhaled in relief, Adam was asking, “Hello sir, just wanted to check on you. And we also wanted to ask, have you seen a little white bulldog? We’ve been looking for him all week.”
Lesley Dyan has experienced some horrific things in her career and handled many sad cases. When tragedy hits home, the feeling of helplessness just doubles. So Heatherly’s flippant response was initially surreal.
“Yeah,” Heatherly answered Adam’s question. “He’s been in here in the living room dead, about four days.”
|Kane's last Christmas|
Forgetting protocol, Adam jerked the door open and pushed his way inside the house. Lesley recalls they observed boxes piled haphazardly to the ceiling as Adam weaved around piles of garbage and empty beer cans where maggots tumbled. Adam, a trained crime scene investigator observed the area where Kane’s dead body had laid and the trail where Kane had been drug to where Adam now found his little family member, on the back porch, a rotting corpse.
“What did you do!” Adam now demanded.
Heatherly reportedly told the story. “I fed him and put him in the house.”
“Did you even let him outside?”
“No. I didn’t want him to run off because I was so excited about having an English bulldog.” He began hesitating. “I went to sleep, and the next morning I woke up and he was dead. He’s been laying there for about four days now.”
“Why didn’t you just let him out so he could come home to his family!” Adam, a big, strong state trooper, was now close to tears.
“I… just didn’t want him to run off.”
“But - he could have just gone home to his family…”
Heatherly shrugged. “I didn’t want him to run away.” He did admit he allowed Kane to go outside once, on a lead, to relieve himself.
English bulldogs, no matter how well-bred, have medical issues. Stomach, eyes, bones, and skin problems are not uncommon. The females must be inseminated and give birth by cesarean. Many bulldogs require specialized food and daily medication. Because of the debris in the house, Kane may have fed on something dangerous to his already delicate system. It is possible that Heatherly’s dog did attack and fatally harm Kane. Or perhaps something in the home fell on him, killing him.
The cause of Kane’s demise will never be known; a representative of Cullman County Animal Control explains, “the state of necropsy was so advanced that an autopsy would have been difficult, if not impossible, to perform.”
Lesley says, “The investigator from the Sheriff’s Department who later went to (Heatherly’s) house interviewed (Heatherly) and he lied to them. The investigator did his best to help us.” But it seems to Lesley the reports and photographs taken from two career law enforcement officers have no bearing because on April 1 the District Attorney’s office telephoned Lesley to explain there would be no legal action taken. Kane’s case was closed.
“Bullies” are an expensive breed to own. Their purchase price ranges between $1500 – 10,000. Anyone charged with theft
of such a dog can be charged with felony
theft. But the charge was denied in this case (by the District Attorney’s
office) “because Heatherly said Kane walked up on his back porch,” says
During an interview, Heatherly says that Kane showed up at his house “the day before he died.” He says he doesn’t recall the day or date that Kane came to his door. And when asked for more information, Heatherly has not responded, despite numerous attempts to speak with him.
Adam has photographs of the evidence but refuses to allow Lesley to see Kane in that state. Kane is buried in the backyard where he once snuffled the wild grasses, where he was once a happy, free, and healthy family member.
Lesley Dyan is aghast at a system that does not protect animals and, in her opinion, fails to respect the words of two dedicated career officers. “A crime was committed, two law enforcement officers saw the evidence and heard the statement this individual made when the incident unfolded.”
Lesley looks over photographs of her “sweet little man” Kane, from the day he came home and fit in the crook of her arm to his last Christmas when he tolerated a whimsical hat for a photograph. The tears and heartache never stop. The pain is almost intolerable, as only an animal lover knows. Grief from losing Kane is searing because of how Kane was lost: to what appears to be both a heartless, cruel death and a system that cares nothing for creatures. “I want readers to know that our legal systems are still not taking animal cruelty seriously. The ones who hurt our animals are killers, plain and simple.”
 An attempt to contact the Sheriff’s office resulted in no response
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(All photos of Kanecourtesy L. Dylan)