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In cross-species whodunit, horned owl’s prime suspect

Sarah Miller’s  miniature pinscher, Mary Lew, was attacked in their South Hill yard. (Jesse Tinsley)
Sarah Miller’s miniature pinscher, Mary Lew, was attacked in their South Hill yard. (Jesse Tinsley)

It’s getting so a dog can’t take care of business anymore without risking life and limb to a big-eyed raptor just waiting to sink its talons into an unsuspecting pooch.

A 9-year-old miniature pinscher named Mary Lew had just taken her owner, Sarah Miller, into the front yard of their south Spokane home about 5 p.m. Sunday when the 8-pound dog was attacked by an owl.

“It must have come from above the garage, and the next thing I knew it was just attacking her,” Miller said. Her dog was at the end of a 5-foot leash.

“The owl didn’t take the leash into consideration,” said Miller, who lives near 51st Avenue and Crestline Street.

She thought the predator was a coyote at first because it was so big. Then she saw the owl flapping its wings, trying to take Mary Lew for a flight into oblivion. Miller pulled on the leash and ran to save Mary Lew.

“I was going to take that owl down,” Miller said. Although she kicked at it, she’s not sure she landed any blows before the owl flew off. Miller grabbed Mary Lew, who was bleeding from her neck and shoulder. “There was blood everywhere. I’m a nurse, but I did not react well.”

She wrapped the “min-pin” in a towel and took her to the Pet Emergency Clinic, 21 E. Mission Ave., where the dog was X-rayed, treated for her lacerations and prescribed painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife official guessed the dog’s assailant was a great horned owl, a species not uncommon on the South Hill.

Great horned owls will defend nesting sites and have been known to take barn cats, said Kevin Robinette, wildlife program manager for Eastern Washington. “Still, it is unusual to have an aggressive owl this time of year,” he said.

Miller said the ordeal wasn’t like the scene in the recent movie “The Proposal” in which Sandra Bullock’s character throws her cell phone at a bald eagle, causing it to drop the little dog it had snatched. It was more violent and traumatic for dog and owner. However, Mary Lew “still likes to go out” when nature calls.

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