Washington state

Dogs that harassed emus still at large

It was a family of emus, not ostriches it turns out, that caused a spectacle on a SeaTac road last weekend when the family of four flightless birds was attacked by dogs in their yard.

Two members of the emu family, the father and one of two youngsters, died. A nest of eggs also was left to perish after the father's death. Emu eggs are laid by the mother, but protected and warmed by the father, according to the birds' owner Ron Beaver.

A mother rabbit and 10 bunnies also were killed in the melee, Beaver said.

The dogs, which included at least two Great Pyrenees, remained at large. King County animal control officers were still on the lookout for the dogs, according to animal control spokesman Al Dams.

Dams said several incidents involving packs of marauding dogs typically are reported each week in King County, usually in rural areas.

"A pack mentality definitely kicks in when you get two or more," he said.

Beaver, a 70-year-old machine shop worker who has raised animals since he was a child, bought the 8-year-old parent emus, named Heckel and Jeckel, about five years ago from a private owner on Whidbey Island.

They were brought to his one-acre SeaTac home, and last year the female laid four eggs. Two chicks survived.

Emus are similar to ostriches, but are smaller, tamer and less ornery, Beaver said. He also said they were hand-fed and each had its own distinctive personality and look.

"They have hair on the top of their head that looks like that guy who lives across the hall from Seinfeld," Beaver said, referring to the Seinfeld character Cosmo Kramer. "When you feed them, you can feel that weird hair brush up against your hand."

On Sunday, Beaver said he and his wife went for a late breakfast and returned to find a large dog in their yard and frantic phone calls from neighbors.

"They said there was a large pack of dogs running around and the emus were running all over the place," he said. "When they panic like that, they'll run right into a wall."

That's apparently what happened to the young emu who died after running into a neighbor's fence.

The mother, father and other youngster apparently ran out of the yard and into the street where they stopped traffic as they ran back and forth in the middle of the road near South 168th Street and 37th Avenue South around 4 p.m.

It took police and animal-control officers about two hours to corral the mother and surviving youngster and return them to Beaver. The body of the father emu, who reportedly died of a heart attack, was returned by an animal control officer to the family home.

Beaver said he's had the mother emu and her surviving offspring fenced up separately since the incident.

"I've tried to stay away from them, because both of them are real skittish right now," he said. Beaver, who also keeps some doves, one pheasant, five chickens and two pigeons, lost nine turkeys to dogs a couple of years ago.

He hasn't had the heart yet to tell his grandkids about what happened to his emus.

"They're going to be heartbroken," he said.