When Tyaina Finch was initially interviewed by police in the shooting death of her boyfriend, off-duty Darby Police Officer Mark Hudson, she had a story that sounded a little far fetched.
Finch, 27, was charged Tuesday with homicide and related offenses in Hudson’s death in a case that has made headlines in part because her initial explanation blamed the dog.
According to a statement she gave to detectives, she and Hudson were play fighting when their yellow Lab, Simba, came between them. She looked down to see the dog carrying Hudson’s .40-caliber Sig Sauer service weapon in its mouth.
“Ms Finch stated she took the gun from the dog’s mouth and turned toward the victim stating ‘I asked you to put this….’ at which time the gun went off,” Detective Thomas Scarpato wrote in a police affidavit.
If that story sounds untrue, it’s because it probably is. Finch later recanted, claiming in court documents that she killed Hudson during a domestic dispute that turned violent.
But the question lingers, would a dog actually pick up a gun?
“I would find it very surprising that a dog would pick up a very heavy, metal object,” said Krista Milito, co-owner of The Philly Pack, a dog training school.
That’s because dogs don’t really like metal.
Cindy Otto, a veterinarian and Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, says that a dog’s willingness to pick up metal is part of the screening process for working dogs. A dog is ordered to retrieve a ball, a leather object, and then a metal pipe or set of keys.
For police dogs, willingness to pick up firearms is part of the training and the job, but, Otto says they have to be trained to do it.
“It’s not a natural thing,” Otto said.
Some trainers use metal objects to correct chewing or holding behaviors.
Marisa Scully, of Philly Dog Training said that when she was training her dog to hold something a certain way for a commercial advertising shoot, she couldn’t use wood or something softer because the dog would have naturally chewed it. So she turned to metal kitchen utensils to correct it.
“Chewing or chomping is not something they are inclined to do with metal,” Scully said.
Darby Township Police Chief Leonard McDevitt said Finch’s initial explanation is useful for police purposes because it put the gun in her hand. That she later changed her story further damages her credibility that the killing was a response to domestic abuse.
“I’d been a cop for 30 years, I’d never heard one like that. The dog did it — where would you come up with something like that?” McDevitt said.
Edit: In an article published on Apr. 1, the victim was misidentified. He is Mark Hudson. Metro regrets the error.