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Montana family suspects poisoning to blame after two dogs unexpectedly die

Posted at 6:53 AM, Mar 11, 2024

ROUNDUP — Two families in Roundup are mourning the unexpected loss of their dogs. After one of the owners found several meatballs filled with blue-green crystals in her backyard, they believe their pups were poisoned.

One of those owners is Roundup resident, Cricket Nichols. For Nichols, her animals are her world.

“We might have a lot of them but they’re all very, very well taken care of. They get so much attention from everybody that’s in our life,” Nichols said at her home on Sunday.

Her eight dogs and seven cats, however, received the wrong kind of attention at the end of February. Nichols said that at first, she saw symptoms like lethargy in all her pets, symptoms that progressively got worse.

Cricket Nichols

“I saw all but one of our cats throw up. And all but one of the dogs,” said Nichols.

Despite aid from her vet, the mysterious illness hit Shasta, Nichols' pregnant two pound chihuahua the hardest.

“First she vomited blood and then blood coming out of her nose and mouth,” Nichols added.

Shasta perished a couple of days later and according to Nichols' vet, she was poisoned.

Shasta with a family member

“So I walked our entire fence line and I found probably 10 or 15, they looked like meatballs. As soon as I picked them up, they literally disintegrated in my hands and it left behind bluish green crystals,” said Nichols.

For Nichols' cousin, Heaven Benson, the story was all too familiar. Benson lives about a mile away from Nichols in Roundup and recently lost her dog, Hunter.

“I called for him on the 13th of February. He hadn’t eaten in a few days. There was blood clot vomit for the last couple days about it,” Benson said.

Benson had to put down the 14-year-old black lab blue heeler mix on February 23, after he suffered from multiple seizures.


“It devastated my daughter, my son couldn’t even be in the room. He had to leave the house until it was over. We still haven’t buried them, it’s just so hard,” said Benson.

Benson's vet told her that Hunter had been overdosing. Now, the cousins believe their family is being targeted. Nichols had called Musselshell County Sheriff's Office to report the incident, but she said the sheriff's office wouldn't take her report.

“We have a video but it’s not very clear so you can’t really tell who it is, so they basically told us our hands are tied. They couldn’t help us, they basically told us watch our pets better,” Nichols said.

MTN reached out to the Musselshell County Sheriff's Office Friday for more information and was told it has not received any reports of the animals being poisoned. Sheriff Sean Lesnick told MTN, it can be a difficult crime to prove, as certain Montana ordinances state dogs off leash-harassing livestock or wildlife can legally be executed, and intent is hard to prove.

He also said, every few years in Roundup, claims of animals being poisoned arise but rarely can be proven. In fact, in recent years, the sheriff sent a portion of a dog’s liver, that was suspected to be poisoned, to the University of Michigan. The tests came back negative for any toxicities in the animals system.

Heaven Benson

Regardless, it's a scary situation for the pair of cousins, especially with two toddlers in Nichols' care.

“We have gotten cameras now up all around our house, both front and back, which is pretty sad,” Nichols added.

“To whoever’s doing this, just why? Why would you put somebody through this pain? ‘Cuz I literally feel like I lost my kid,” Benson said.