Jackie Watts loved animals—and that love may have led to the 33-year-old Indiana woman's death over the weekend. Watts was last seen Friday afternoon near Flat Rock River in Columbus, chasing a small white dog wearing a sweater—Ringo, a 10-year-old poodle with cataracts, who had gotten separated from his owners days prior. Watts' family reported her missing that night after she failed to return home from an errand, and police started searching around her car, which was found apparently abandoned near the river, its flashers on, CBS4 reports. On Saturday morning, Watts' body was found on a sandbar in the river. On Sunday afternoon, Ringo's body was also found on a riverbank, the Indianapolis Star reports.
An autopsy revealed Watts' cause of death was accidental drowning, and police found no signs of a struggle or foul play. "At a young age, Jackie developed a love for animals. To say that this was Jackie’s passion would be an understatement," says her family in a statement through a family friend, which notes that she volunteered with multiple animal organizations and fostered animals. "She cared deeply about the well-being of animals. If she believed she could help an animal in need, she was going to do so without hesitation. We know that Jackie gave her life for what she believed in." In a moving Facebook tribute to Watts, one of the rescues with which she volunteered said that a sick dog Watts loved had to be put down Saturday: "Jackie will be waiting for Laverne to hug and kiss on her like she did all the bunnies and dogs." (Read more drowning stories.)