A Somerset County Sheriff’s Department official may have gone beyond the call of duty this week in finding the body of a dog that had been missing since a fatal crash in Bingham on Feb. 18.

Michael Handy of Harmony was killed Feb. 18 in a head-on crash on Route 201 in Bingham. His dog Tootie also was killed that night. The dog’s body was found in the wreckage this week. Contributed file photo

Chief Deputy James Ross said he and members of the Madison Fire Department went to the storage yard at the sheriff’s office in East Madison on Wednesday and went to work on the car driven by Michael Handy of Harmony, who was killed in a head-on crash on Route 201 in Bingham. He had three dogs with him at the time of the crash.

Two of the dogs survived, but a third dog, Tootie, wasn’t found.

Handy’s fiance, Brenda Cote, 46, also of Harmony, had been frantic looking for the dog.

“It was his dog. They were our dogs, but originally it was his dog,” Cote said Feb. 22, noting that she and Handy were to be married in June. “Just the thought of losing them both, it breaks my heart.”

Ross, who is a dog owner, went to check the wreckage of the car, searching for Tootie, a female peekapoo, a cross-breed between a Pekingese and a poodle.

“Yesterday we were able to locate the missing dog Tootie from this crash,” Ross said in an email Thursday. “Sadly it was in fact killed in the crash.”

Ross said once the reconstructionist had completed the analysis of the vehicle, and knowing the dog had yet to be located, he asked the Madison Fire Department to come with its hydraulic extrication equipment.

He said Madison Fire Chief Don French and a group of Madison firefighters came with their equipment and were able to separate the vehicle fire wall from the dash compartment, which was badly damaged.

“This is where we found the dog, obviously killed instantly in the crash,” he said. “Tootie was returned to her family yesterday.”

Contacted Thursday, Cote said Ross brought her the dog’s body himself.

“I knew she was in the car somewhere and she was,” Cote said. “Yes, he brought her himself – meant so much to me and my family.”

Ross said the accident is still under investigation.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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