Pet owner believes dog's death is suspicious

Jake, the Morans
Jake, the Morans' Maltese, was found dead under the deck of their Miller Bay Estates home. Jake's owners believe his death is suspicious.
— image credit: Courtesy Kelly Moran

MILLER BAY ESTATES — It wasn’t like Jake to be away from the house when they got home from work.

It was after 6 p.m. Tuesday and it was dark. Kelly Moran and his wife looked for their Maltese on their property, tucked on a cul-de-sac that backs onto a forest above Indianola.

They found Jake under the deck. “He was a little cold lump of hair on the ground,” Moran said. “I picked him up. His legs were there. And there was a stump where his head used to be.”

The Morans initially feared someone had decapitated Jake, because there was no sign that he had had a fight with a natural predator. There were no other marks on Jake’s body. His fur was relatively clean and white, except for the blood on his neck and dirt from where he had been laying under the deck.

“He didn’t look like he’d been in a fight,” Moran said.

As for predators, Moran said that in the 12 years he’s lived in Miller Bay Estates, he saw a bear once — four or five years ago, he said. Laura Tetrick, a member at large of the Miller Bay Estates Homeowners Association, said she saw a coyote in the neighborhood a few years ago.

Moran’s house is one of five on Beachwood Avenue. He described his back yard as “relatively small.” You have to open a gate to get in. The property is bordered by wild blackberry bushes and, in the back, the forest.

Jake weighed 8-10 pounds, was seven or eight years old, and was registered with the American Kennel Club. He was mostly an indoor dog but had access to the yard via a dog door.

Jake was usually at the door when Moran left for work in the morning. “I’d tell him to be a good boy and protect the house, and he’d go back to bed.”

Jake got along with the neighbors and their dogs, among them two pit bulls. “Kids love him,” Moran said. He said Jake got out of the yard once, and a neighbor picked him up and kept him until the Morans got home.

“We have good rapport with each other and we love each other’s dogs,” Moran said. “We live in a nice neighborhood.”

An examination at Apple Tree Cove Animal Hospital in Kingston confirmed that there may be more wild predators than the Morans know.

A veterinarian determined that there was some tearing on one side of the neck, indicating that Jake was killed by a large animal, possibly a coyote. But why would a predator take the head and leave the body?

Dr. Howard Robinson said, “It may have been interrupted by another animal … A coyote, if interrupted, will skedaddle.”

Robinson said there have been bear sightings recently. A couple of weeks ago, he treated a Hansville-area dog that had puncture wounds on its rump. “At 2 in the morning, the dog heard something and went running out,” Robinson said. The dog came running back in, and the owners saw a mother bear and two cubs outside. “The bear swiped the dog on its butt,” Robinson said.

Robinson gave this advice to pet owners: If you live near wildlife, don’t let your pet roam unsupervised, “particularly early morning and late evening, when predators will be out and about. And don’t leave food out that would attract bears and other predators.”

Moran and others are still struck by the strange circumstances surrounding Jake’s death.

“My brother-in-law and I looked around the outside of the house, checked out the bushes, the garbage cans, inside the lid-covered and closed hot tub for the missing part of his body (and) possible blood stray … anything, but nothing looked out-of-place,” Moran said in an email.

“The ground around the dog door wasn’t disturbed with claw marks, no little remains, hair or bones … we looked hard to find any kind of footprints, but found nothing.”

Michael Pratt, director of wildlife services at West Sound Wildlife Shelter, said he doesn’t second-guess veterinarians, but said the circumstances makes him think Jake’s death was caused by a human.

“If he was killed by another animal, you would find ruffled-up fur and bite marks. There should be blood where it was carried from.

“A raccoon would not just take the head. We can eliminate river otter. Coyotes will not just take the head. Large animals aren’t going to just take the head and leave the body. I’m not trying to outguess the vet, but based on what I’m hearing I’m not convinced right now it’s an animal.”

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