POST FALLS - What Dale Morris had feared about his missing dog for the past four months was confirmed this week.
The collar, leash and tags of Charlie, a 6-year-old Chinese Crested Powderpuff dog, were found by a friend of Morris on Monday about a quarter of a mile from where the pooch was last seen on the north side of Post Falls in October.
Morris said Charlie's collar had been chewed up and he was presumably the victim of a coyote attack, based on neighbors' reports of hearing and seeing coyotes off Guy Road on the edge of the city.
"The mystery has been solved," said Morris, fighting back tears. "I've always hoped that somebody would find him."
Morris wants his case to be an alert for other owners to watch out for their animals and predators.
"The coyotes in that area are very bad," Morris said, adding that owners shouldn't let their pets out after dark.
Morris said he always kept Charlie on a leash, but this time the dog got away and didn't come back despite Morris yelling.
"He disappeared in 30 seconds, and I never saw him again," Morris said.
Morris and others searched for Charlie for nearly two weeks and newspaper ads were placed before Morris left for Arizona for the winter. Neighbors have kept an eye out for Charlie over the winter.
Charlie's collar, leash and tags were found by Jim Guy, a friend of Morris, along railroad tracks.
Local law enforcement officials said they haven't seen a spike in predator attacks on dogs and other domestic animals, but they happen from time to time.
"Preventing access (to the animals) is probably the best security," said Kootenai County Sheriff's Office Lt. Stu Miller.
Lynn Humphreys, who has farmed on the Rathdrum Prairie near the state line for the past 23 years, said three coyotes that have roamed around his operation's buildings have been shot this winter. But there have been no attacks on his animals.
Humphreys said he doesn't believe there has been an increase in the number of predators around compared to previous years.
"Having predators around and being aware of them is just part of the rural life," Humphreys said. "Urban sprawl has taken more of their habitat, and they've adapted quite well. The domestic animals can be an easy prey for them."