Chico was a “sweet, sweet dog” who in his old age of 18 mainly liked to sleep and eat, according to Kaylee Belanger.
But after 18 years mainly spent with an owner who passed away several years ago, the mostly white Shih Tzu was allegedly buried alive by Richard Piquard, a 24-year-old Whitinsville man now charged with animal cruelty.
After he was found, Chico was taken to Tufts veterinary hospital in Grafton for treatment on Sunday, but he had to be euthanized, Northbridge police said in a news release.
Piquard was arraigned in Uxbridge District Court on Tuesday. His bail was set at $1,000, and he was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation during his next court date on Oct. 26. He also cannot have animals while the case moves forward, and he must allow the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to visit to make sure he’s complying with this, according to Paul Jarvey, a spokesman for Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early.
Belanger was the one who found the dog, as confirmed by Northbridge Police Chief Walter Warchol via email to Boston.com.
“Supposedly, Mr. Piquard made some type of statement indicating that he got a new kitten and the dog did not get along with the cat,” the chief said.
Belanger told Boston.com that she had been around Chico for roughly eight years, having known the family.
“It was a very shocking event,” she said of finding Chico buried.
Covered in dirt, the small dog was also beneath a rock that Belanger said was larger than her hand held out flat — the size of Chico’s abdomen.
Piquard had told Belanger via text message that Chico had passed away and he had buried him, Belanger said in a Facebook post. But then he agreed to have the dog cremated at Belanger’s request.
That’s when Belanger went to look for the grave, she wrote.
After digging for a bit, Belanger and her fiance, Alex Borden, uncovered Chico, and discovered he was alive.
“He felt flat like a pancake from the rock weighing him down in the hole,” she wrote.
Chico was originally owned by Alex Dion, who died a few years ago, Belanger said. Piquard, who is the father of Dion’s niece and nephew, took Chico in about a year ago, she said.
Belanger, who is studying to be a veterinary technician, told Boston.com that what happened was a “shocking event.”
“It kept me up at night,” she said. “I’ve been unable to sleep at night.”
Belanger said the scenario of what happened has played over and over in her head.
“You just imagine what that dog went through,” she said.
Piquard’s attorney, Maureen Wolf, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.