LEWIS COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The owner of a dog spa was arrested in Lewis County after being accused of faking the disappearance of a dog that died in his care.
What started as a lost pet case took a heartbreaking turn for the owners of a dog named “Boomer.”
“He was like my child. He was everything to me. We have other dogs, but Boomer was special,” Barri Comer explained to News 2 while tearing up.
For the last four years, Boomer was an important part of the Comer family after the tri-colored Australian Shepherd stole their hearts as a pup.
“He was my baby,” Barri said, adding that Boomer would sit with her, watch TV, and act like her therapy dog.
Sept. 4 was the last time the Comers saw Boomer. They told News 2 they boarded Boomer, along with their three other dogs, at Paw Paw’s Porch Pet Spa in Hohenwald, with a groomer they had used for years, while they went on a rare vacation.
“On our way home on the 11th, we get a call saying that Boomer was being walked and he escaped his collar, so they were searching for him,” Barri recalled.
The owner of the pet spa, Darryl “Tommy” Wherry reportedly tried to cover up the death, pleading for help in the search for Boomer by sharing numerous posts on social media, hanging flyers and banners, and offering reward money.
“He starts this big campaign with flyers and banners and everything to find Boomer with a reward. It started at 250 and it got up to at least 750,” said Barri.
This campaign went on for more than two months, with the Lewis County community rallying in the search efforts.
However, hopeful leads turned up empty for the family, who received an anonymous tip in the last two weeks saying Boomer had died at the groomer, according to Barri.
The family said Wherry fessed up to the claim.
“He sent me everything on Messenger, saying Boomer did die at his facility and he dumped him on the side of the road,” Barri said.
The family, wanting Boomer’s remains, contacted law enforcement. Wherry reportedly turned himself in and now faces charges for theft of property.
“They interviewed him the next day and he took them to his body,” Barri explained. “They did a field test and everything and nothing was left but bones and the skin basically, so there was nothing to do a necropsy on.”
The Comers said it’s been a heartbreaking world of emotions while they are still left not knowing how their Boomer died.
“I just want my Boomer back and I know I can’t have him,” said Barri.
The Comers cremated Boomer and are set to get his ashes back on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
News 2 reached out to the spa owner several times, but did not hear back. In addition, the website for Paw Paw’s Porch Pet Spa no longer seems active.
However, the Lewis County Herald reported Wherry sent a statement to them, saying in part that he doesn’t know how the dog died, he was wrong, and he’s sorry.
A “Justice for Boomer” Facebook page was created for the community that invested in Boomer’s return home, drawing hundreds of members. Some of those individuals also pulled together and got the Comers a new puppy.
“It will never replace Boomer, but it sure is a cute little puppy and we’ve been enjoying it,” the family said of the new puppy, Rex.
Meanwhile, the Comers said they are considering suing Wherry and his business.