Two dogs belonging to an Alberta couple were shot and left to die Tuesday morning on train tracks east of Edmonton.

"In a blink of an eye, we're by ourselves and it's just absolutely devastating," Jim Thompson said.

X-rays on Thompson's Belgian shepherd, Rio, and his bassett hound, Annie, confirmed the dogs had been shot, he told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

The tragedy began just before noon Tuesday, when Thompson heard two gunshots. The sound seemed odd, though not entirely so, since he lives outside Sherwood Park where many people live on acreages.

But then he got a call from CN telling him a train crew had come across the bodies of two dogs on the tracks near his house. The dogs had been hit by a train. When Thompson joined CN staff to go back to the track and retrieve the dogs, what they found shocked them. 

"The CN people were absolutely alarmed because someone had taken our … beautiful Belgian shepherd, Rio, out of the ditch, put him back on the tracks, and a half hour before that he'd been severed in two again," Thompson said.

Thompson took his dog's bodies to a veterinarian's office in Sherwood Park where x-rays confirmed the dogs had been shot. Rio had a bullet lodged near his head. Annie, the bassett hound, had bullet fragments throughout her chest area.

Thompson's wife, Moni, said Rio helped her through a three-year battle with stomach and breast cancer which resulted in surgeons removing her stomach, spleen and both her breasts.

"He was at my bedside. He spent almost a couple of years in bed with me," she said. "Taking care of me and helping me up stairs."

Rio was a rescue dog who was abused in his former home, Thompson said. So the couple then got Annie to keep him company, and the animals eventually all got along.

The loss of her dogs hit Thompson hard as she spoke about them Wednesday afternoon.

"You can take my stomach. You can take my spleen. You can take my breasts.  Just don't take my husband or my dogs," she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

RCMP have been called in to investigate the dogs' deaths. Alberta SPCA peace officer, Don Ferguson, said this degree of violence against animals is uncommon and very serious. 

"It's actually unusual for something to be of this nature," he said.  "Normally we deal with more things like not [having] adequate food, water or shelter, veterinary care, you know, in companion animals, dogs and cats, but also horses and cattle even in the acreage areas."

Ferguson said the condition of the animal's bodies was disturbing and gruesome, even to him.