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DECATUR TWP, Ind. – A family is pleading for answers after their beloved 4-year-old dog was shot by what veterinarians believe to be a BB gun or airsoft gun.

The dog’s owner, Kieryn Cooper, said Nashville, a trained service animal, escaped from her yard Friday through an area of the fence they did not know was broken.

Nashville was found several hours later by a resident in her neighborhood who contacted Cooper.

When Cooper returned home with Nashville, it was then she realized she was suffering from an injury and was bleeding from her head and nose.

“There was just a hole, and so we thought, you know, it’s kind of swollen. It’s a hole. We thought at first honestly that somebody had stabbed her with a screwdriver. That was the only thing that I could think of,” remembered Cooper.

Cooper quickly rushed Nashville to an animal hospital, where a neurological examination was performed by veterinarians, along with other tests over a four-hour period.

“Unfortunately, it appears that Nashville may have been shot by a BB gun or air gun, which resulted in her wound and eye changes,” read a report provided to Cooper by the animal hospital.

“X-rays of the head did not show any evidence of a projectile or overt fracture,” it said, meaning no object was still inside of Nashville.

“It basically went from her head just straight out her nasal canal,” Cooper said.

Cooper said her initial reaction to learning about what veterinarians believe happened to Nashville was anger.

“I screamed and cried, and I couldn’t collect myself,” she said. “Then it more so just turned into pure sadness. Sitting in that room, we only heard from the vet once, which we understood, and so I was just – it was a mind game.”

“It was, ‘Is she alive? Is she gonna be normal? Is she gonna keep her eyes?’

“They did say, you know, they had to have shot her from the back very, very close to her head to make the impact that they did.”

Despite promising signs, Nashville isn’t completely out of the woods yet.

“The swelling’s gone down tremendously, except for that left eye, it’s still pretty swollen and still having the blood discharge from her nose,” she explained.

Veterinarians told Cooper the following few days would be crucial to learning whether any other symptoms or infection develops.

“When she came home it was a little rough. She acted like she didn’t know where she was, what she was doing, couldn’t keep her head up,” said Cooper.

Since she returned home, Cooper said Nashville has eaten and drank a bit but has mostly been laying around.

She said one of the most difficult parts of this has been telling her 2-year-old daughter, Kynleigh, that she needs to be easy with her best friend and not play too much while Nashville heals.

“When she came home this morning her first thing was, ‘Nashy, where’s Nashy?'” said Cooper. “It’s hard to be like, ‘You can’t do that, you know Nashville’s hurt.’ She got upset because she doesn’t understand, she’s like, ‘Why can’t I lay on my puppy?'”

Cooper said when Nashville saw Kynleigh, her spirit they know and love returned a little bit.

“She was so excited to see her. She went from laying like that to full on tail wags. That made me feel good when she realized, like that’s my human, that’s my safe spot, my happy spot.”

Right now, their priority is monitoring Nashville to make sure she doesn’t over-exert herself.

“The hole still is letting air out, so when she starts breathing you can feel the air coming out of the top her head, so we have to keep her breathing and heart rate down,” said Cooper.

“That is my lifeline. My dog saved my life a few years ago, and since then, I’ve felt devoted to give her the best life that she can get.”

She said Nashville is a service animal who is trained to work with people who experience seizures, panic attacks or anxiety attacks.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here, so it’s my turn. If I wasn’t here for her, she wouldn’t be here,” said Cooper. “I wouldn’t want somebody else to feel this way. I could have lost her. She’s a service dog. Kynleigh could have lost her best friend. It’s a whole part of our life. She could have been gone.”

“She did not deserve this. No dog deserves something like that.”

Cooper said she is thankful for the outpouring support the Decatur Township community and others on social media have given to her upon learning of Nashville’s injuries.

“We’ve had a lot of people offer to pay for her vet bills, and they’re paid for. We were able to afford them. It’s not even about any of that, it’s just I want someone to own up for what they did because you could have killed her,” she said.

“I would be really distraught if that happened to my dog, and I really hope that people are helpful in finding out who did it,” said fellow dog owner Janelle Hublar, who lives nearby. “That’s just horrible.”

Cooper hopes anyone with information will come forward to help get justice for Nashville.

“People made comments like, you know, maybe she went after another dog or maybe they were scared. I understand and maybe even shooting her with a BB gun from a distance – it’s not okay, but,” said Cooper, “this wasn’t just you know, to scare her off. It was to hurt her and potentially try to kill her.”

“This was malicious.”

According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Cooper reported the incident Friday night. Anyone with information is encouraged to call police or Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.

CBS4 has reached out to Indianapolis Animal Care Services for additional information on the case.

Cooper is also offering a reward of $1,000 for any information she receives that leads to finding the person responsible for hurting Nashville.