When Laci Peterson first disappeared, McKenzie, the golden retriever she shared with her husband Scott Peterson, became a center point in the case almost instantly. Not only was the gorgeous pup found wandering the neighborhood — with her leash still on and covered in mud — while Scott was on his “fishing trip,” but she was also a crucial part of the trial since Scott alleged that his wife had shared her plans to take the dog for a walk on the day that she disappeared, Dec. 24, 2002.

Almost instantly, Scott’s story about Laci’s plans to walk the dog that day seemed suspicious — as she hadn’t shared those plans with anyone else, and her friends even testified that pregnancy was wearing her down significantly, so much so that she struggled with exercise, including walks with the dog. During the trial, Laci’s friend Stacey Boyers testified about the last time she saw her murdered friend, shortly before that fateful Christmas Eve, “[Laci] told me that it didn’t seem like the holidays because it was kind of depressing. Every time she would start to do something, she would have to stop and rest.”

Because of the conflicting stories — Laci’s friends saying she was in no shape to walk the dog, Scott suggesting that she did walk the dog and may have even been abducted while doing so — the nation, entirely fixated on the case, became emotionally invested with McKenzie, as well. During the trial, the neighbor who returned McKenzie to the Peterson’s lawn even testified, saying that she saw no signs of struggle at the house, adding that Scott had her talk to a detective about discovering McKenzie on the leash without Laci anywhere in sight.

McKenzie’s involvement in the case has also become a crucial factor for those who believe Scott is innocent. Many people have claimed to have seen Laci walking the dog during the time Scott was “fishing,” and the alleged eyewitness spottings of Laci and McKenzie have become an arguing point for those who believe Scott.

At one point, the interest in McKenzie grew to be so extreme that Scott — who is currently on death row after being charged with the first- and second-degree murders of his wife and unborn child — suggested hiring a “dog psychic.” As Laci’s mom Sharon Rocha explained to Katie Couric,”[I thought], ‘Why aren’t we getting a people psychic?’” she said with a laugh. “You know, if you’re gonna hire a psychic… At that time, I was just, ‘What are you talking about?’ It was, to me, absolutely ridiculous.”

When Scott was finally arrested and taken into custody shortly after Laci and her unborn son Conner’s bodies were found, people all over the nation became obsessed with the fate of McKenzie. As Mike Rodriguez, who was serving as the director of Stanislaus County Animal Services at the time, told the Modesto Bee, “There’s a lot of concern about the welfare of those animals. I’ve received four calls just today. I’ve heard from people across the country.”

Around the same time, Terri Western, one of Laci’s friends, told the Bee, “I know the dog is safe with one of Scott’s relatives,” while another friend confirmed that Stacey Boyers took in Laci’s beloved cats, Siam and Gracie. Five years after the trial, Scott’s mother declined the say where McKenzie was, only saying, “The dog is well and being taken care of and is very happy.”

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