TAVARES (FOX 35) - Police say that an Oklahoma man's dog drowned in a Leesburg lake because he put weights on the animal, then played fetch with her in the water. He's charged with animal cruelty, but in an interview from jail, he tried to explain what happened.
“It's a nightmare,” a tearful Dennys Luque offered. “I lost one of my kids, basically.”
Luque, 44, calls what happened to his dog ‘Darnite’ an accident.
“It's not the first time she was swimming, if people can understand that. It was a routine we was doing,” he said.
Leesburg police say Luque was on the Lake Harris boat ramp Sunday, throwing a ball in the water so his 1-year-old German shepherd Darnite could jump in and get it. But officers say the dog was wearing a 13-pound weighted belt while playing fetch.
“It's a hobby,” Luque continued. “She likes to challenge herself.”
He says he'd been training the dog with the weighted belt since she was 3 months old. As soon as he realized she was drowning, he said, he tried to rescue her.
“I jumped in the water as soon as I can, but my legs are tired,” he recalled.
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Witnesses tried to help but couldn't find the dog. The Leesburg Fire Department eventually recovered Darnite's body in the nearly 10-foot-deep water.
Officers say Luque didn't call police and left for two hours. He said he knew his dog was already dead and went to get tools to recover the body himself.
“I left to bring something to retrieve the body. When the cops tell me, ‘You come back after two hours?’ Yes, because I don't know what to do.”
Luque remains in jail. His bond is set at $15,000.