Thurston County Dog Gets Unwanted Flight Courtesy of Eagle

Rainier: ‘Miracle Dog’ Mostly Unshaken After Being Snatched by Large Bird

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Once upon a time in Rainier, Honey ventured where no little dog had ventured before.

One minute she was on the ground minding her own sniffing business, and the next she was suddenly flying.

After several minutes, she was falling.

And so ended Honey’s not-so-excellent adventure in the sky.

Really.

Mind you, this is no weird dream.

John Wilson, one of Honey’s owners, witnessed the sordid adventure in lucid clarity. To this day, some three weeks since the incident occurred, he can still see it as though it occurred an hour ago.

This is what happened:

Wilson, who owns Wilson’s Tree Expert Company out of rural Rainier, was lounging on his back deck about 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, watching his two dogs Honey and Hank scamper in the backyard. Honey’s a little thing — a 2-year-old, 16-pound, Heinz-57 breed about as big as a chihuahua — and Hank’s a 5-year-old, broad-chested Rottweiler-Labrador mix.

From his deck seat, Wilson watched in stunned amazement as a huge bald eagle — wings up, talons poised — suddenly swooped down from a nearby Douglas Fir tree, grabbed Honey and soared off at a 25-degree angle until it reached about 100 feet into the air.

Wilson, who sat nailed to his deck for a few seconds shocked beyond words (except for a few this newspaper cannot print), was flabbergasted.

“It seemed so shocking because the world seemed right, everything was going OK, and all of a sudden, bam! It happened real quick,” Wilson recalled on Sunday, March 15, from the farm he shares with his partner, Lori Mason. “It was a snatch and grab. I’ll never forget it.”

Wilson was especially aggrieved knowing that a neighbor family had lost their dachshund dog to a marauding eagle and he hadn’t taken the warning seriously enough. Honey should have been on a leash, Wilson realized.

“It was that attitude that it can’t happen to me,” he lamented.

But he discovered the hard way it could.

“When you see an eagle that close, they’re a lot bigger than you would imagine,” said Wilson, who figured he was about 30 feet away from Honey when the eagle snatched her. “I didn’t hear a screech, nothing, not a peep. It was a complete shock.”

When his stunned paralysis finally eased, Wilson — who had been watching as the eagle drifted about a quarter-mile away — darted down a path that led to a field of marsh grass, keeping his eyes on the eagle the whole time.

Honey, meanwhile, seemed to be taking the whole thing in stride.

“Honey wasn’t fighting,” Wilson said. “She was just hanging loosely by the talons.”

But not for long.

Wilson estimates the pup was in the air for about 5 minutes before her free tour rudely ended.

To his incredulity, the eagle suddenly dropped Honey from a height of about 100 feet. She landed somewhere in the marshland as Wilson splashed in knee-deep water to try and find her.

“I was determined to find Honey when the eagle dropped her,” he said. “I heard no sound when she hit the ground — no splash, nothing.”

His first try yielded nothing — an hour of anguish and no Honey.

So he waded back to the house to greet Mason, who had been out of town and arrived home as Wilson was searching. He told her what had happened, and with her torment fresh on his mind raced back out into the water-clogged field.

“I had to face my own stupidity,” Wilson said, kicking himself for letting the incident occur.

But all would end well.

With the sun beginning to set after another hour in the marsh, Wilson and a neighbor who owned the wetland property both spotted a white form curled into a ball atop a grass mound.

It was Honey — cold, wet and shivering — but alive.

“It was a miracle to be dropped from 100 feet,” Wilson said. “I was overjoyed to find her alive. I yelled to my neighbor, ‘Holy ----, she’s alive!’”

Wilson immediately cradled Honey in his sweatshirt, ran back to the house and handed her to Mason, who warmed her in a burrito of towels.

And miraculously, Honey’s temporarily bloodshot eyes were the only evidence she’d tangled with an eagle. And with any luck the airborne incident won’t happen again.

“I’ve taken on the philosophy that this fleshly adventure is a learning lesson for both of us,” Wilson said. “She’s our miracle dog.”

It was a bit of a learning lesson, too, for Samantha Montgomery, public affairs communications manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She had queried the department’s biologists about the incident, but they couldn’t conclusively say why the bird of prey had acted as it had.

“It’s hard to say why an eagle decided to try for the puppy,” she wrote via email. “Eagles can only successfully fly off with small prey. They are also generally leery of hunting near people.”

Age might have had something to do with it, too, she added.

“Juvenile eagles may be more likely to take more risk and try for prey that is too heavy.”

Like a Rottweiler-Labrador mix named Hank, perhaps?

That’s facetious, of course, but nevertheless Wilson’s keeping an eagle eye out for predators these days — and both dogs will be leashed from now on.

Honey’s roaming days are over.

“I’m very thankful that this dog is still alive,” Wilson concluded. “It was stupid of me to let her out. Lesson learned.”

And the eagle? What did it learn?

It’s pretty simple, really: never bite off more than you can chew.

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