September 7, 2018 1:10 pm
Updated: September 7, 2018 1:11 pm

Las Vegas shooting survivors got a dog to help them heal. Then a neighbour shot it dead

In this undated family photo provided by Joseph Johnson, Johnson, right, and his wife Lona, left, both of Whatcom County in Washington state, pose for a photo with their dog, Jax.

Lona Johnson via AP
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A Washington couple who survived the Las Vegas mass shooting last year said a neighbour shot and killed the therapy dog they got in order to deal with the trauma from the attack.

The couple, Lona and Joseph Johnson, said they got their Labradoodle Jax less than a year ago to help them cope with the stress and anxiety caused from the tragedy in October 2017.

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The Bellingham Herald reported that the couple were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival when a gunman shot and killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.

READ MORE: B.C. teens who escaped Las Vegas massacre worry about PTSD

Among the wounded was their cousin, Melinda Brockie, who attended the festival with them.

Joseph and Lana then got the Labradoodle in order to help them help heal from post-traumatic stress.

“He was such a blessing,” Joseph Johnson told The Bellingham Herald. “He gave us something to look forward to. I really believe Jax was a big part of our healing.”

Jax, a dog adopted by Joseph Johnson and his wife Lona, both of Whatcom County in Washington state, is shown.

Joseph Johnson via AP

Early Sunday, the couple said a neighbour in their rural northwest Washington community shot and killed Jax on the family’s property.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said it cited the neighbour, 49-year-old Odin Maxwell, for recklessly discharging a firearm.

The sheriff’s office reported that Maxwell said the dog had been chasing his chickens but investigators did not find evidence that any had been hurt.

“We’re pretty upset and hurt right now,” Lona told the Bellingham Herald. “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.”

WATCH: B.C. trauma dog goes to Las Vegas after shooting

The couple said they didn’t have any previous dealings with Maxwell, and Joseph said their nephew even returned one of Maxwell’s chickens unharmed after it came onto their property only days before the dog was shot.

He said the couple is considering suing Maxwell. They also plan to host a five kilometre run for people with their dogs to raise awareness about animal cruelty.

READ MORE: Caber, Canada’s first trauma dog, goes to Las Vegas to help shooting victims

“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.”

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