Back on Feb. 24, Jessica Shaw and a friend were out on their usual after work walk on the Commuter trail in Fort Rupert when disaster struck in the form of a cougar attack.
They had parked on the Bear Cove Highway entrance and walked to the south side of the trail off of Beaver Harbour Road before turning back. Her dog Oakey was off leash and maybe 15-20 feet ahead of them.
Just as they approached the south end of the lake, “we heard barking and then my dog shrieking and screaming,” she said.
Shaw and her friend started running as fast as they could, screaming at the top of their lungs.
“From a distance I could see a big cougar trying to get up a tree with my dog,” Shaw stated, noting the cougar had attempted to jump up the tree twice unsuccessfully, “and on the third jump he dropped my dog and ran to the top of tree just as I got to the bottom of the tree where my dog was crumpled on the ground covered in blood.”
From there, Shaw scooped Oakey off the ground and she and her friend took off running.
“We were still about 20-25 minutes away from the car and as I carried my pup my friend was calling the vet,” she said, adding, “Unfortunately the local vet hospital was closed by then and we were directed to Nanaimo Emergency Veterinary Hospital. We got to the car and I immediately began driving down island, I begged the dispatch to please see if they could find something closer as he is so small and had sustained serious injuries.”
The dispatch advised her she could try to reach an on-call vet in Comox, and then provided their pager number. Luckily, the vet in Comox returned her page and agreed to meet them in Comox where they arrived just after 9 p.m.
By midnight, it was determined Oakey had sustained a bite through his left eye that would need to be removed, several puncture wounds to his face, and he had neck and several skull fractures that required further assessment at the Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital.
Over the course of the last two weeks following the attack, Oakey has had surgery to remove his left eye and had craniotomy surgery to remove three bone fragments from his brain.
“Despite the serious surgeries and injuries, Oakey has been one tough little cookie,” Shaw said. “He never whined or whimpered once. He is still healing but his recovery is going very well and he will adjust to life with one eye in no time. I am so amazed and thrilled that my little 14lb dog survived such a serious attack.”
As for conservation, Shaw noted they were called and advised that although officers were taking the matter very seriously and have posted signs to warn trail users about wildlife activity in the area, “they did not go out to catch the cougar as they have no way of determining if they’ve got the right cat.”
Shaw said in the past she has hiked the trails in town every day with her dog and although they have come across bears before, “I never thought we’d come across a cougar or that it would attack. I have the utmost respect for the outdoors and its natural inhabitants and I will always have Oakey on leash in the future.”
A friend of hers has set up a Go Fund Me page, as Oakey’s vet bills came in over $13,000.
If you are interested in donating to help fund Oakey’s surgeries, please go to https://gofund.me/79e048bd or google “Help Oakey” on Go Fund Me.
“I am so appreciative of the all the kind words and sentiments the local people of Port Hardy have sent,” added Shaw.