The Luedke family is wondering how anyone could be so cruel.

Returning home from a five-day visit with family, the Luedkes were shocked to find their two dogs near death Monday, apparently poisoned by anti-freeze. Ronny Luedke said the family received a call from neighbors who were looking after the dogs while the family was on vacation.

“We have some really good neighbors who were taking care of our dogs,” he said. “They called when we were on our way home to tell us the dogs were really sick.”

Ronny said when he and his wife, Danielle, and their two-year-old daughter, Grace, arrived home, he knew the dogs were in serious trouble.

Rocket, a nine-year-old American Eskimo and Jack Russell Terrier mix, was so sick he could barely stand up. Missy, a five year old Boston Terrier, was also sick but not as severely as Rocket.

Ronny said he immediately loaded Rocket into his vehicle and headed to River North Small Animal Hospital.

“By the time we got to the vet Rocket could barely breathe,” Ronny said. “His tongue was turning purple — and I knew it was bad.”

Rocket was immediately put on oxygen. Blood work later showed that Rocket’s kidneys were shutting down.

Suzanne Hagner, veterinarian assistant/technician with River North, helped treat Rocket. She said the tests showed he had elevated levels of phosphorus and decreased levels of calcium in his system - indicating the presence of ethyleneglycol - a common toxin found in anti-freeze.

When the Luedkes told her Missy was also sick, Hagner recommended she be tested as well. A test on Missy showed she had the exact toxic levels that Rocket had, heightening the suspicion that the dogs were poisoned with anti-freeze.

“We can’t say for sure that the dogs were poisoned, but given the fact that both of them showed the exact same symptoms and had identical blood work - I think it’s a high likelihood that they were,” Hagner said.

Ronny said he discovered that the dogs had thrown up in the backyard and believes the poison was fed to them through meat.

The Luedkes, who live on West Oak Street in Stephenville, say they have no idea why anyone would harm their pets. Neighbors never complained about the dogs barking or getting out of the yard, Ronny said.

“We have no idea who would have done something like this,” he said. “We are racking our brains to figure it out. I just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Rocket and Missy could not be saved and were put to sleep.

Hagner said that decision was strictly up to the owners, but it was one she supported because the dogs were “suffering.”

“The kidneys were beginning to crystallize and once that happens there is no (kidney) function,” Hagner said. “It’s a painful way to die and is one of the worst types of poisoning.”

Now, young Danielle is asking for her “puppies.”

“We just tell her that they ate something and went to sleep,” Ronny said. “We are trying to keep her mind off of it.”