Category Archives: Animals

Orcas make a memorable visit

The big guy got close. Photo taken from video shot by Emilee Wright Fyffe.
The big guy got close. Photo taken from video shot by Emilee Wright Fyffe.

It was May 2002 I drove up from Camas, Wash. to interview here. Another reporter had already been picked for the job I was after, but the editors told me I’d likely be luckier in the summer. I didn’t know if I would want a job here, but I knew I wanted to want the job.

The drive in was beautiful until I hit Gorst and coming into 2002 Bremerton didn’t make me feel any better. The whole time, though, I knew there had to be something cool about this place for Money Magazine to have given it the label as the best place to live in America in the early 1990s.  During lunch on the deck at the Boat Shed we watched three eagles circling our side of the Manette Bridge, which for me was a positive development. What sealed it happened after I left the office. It was the ferry ride. Within about 2 minutes I told myself, “We have to live here.”

The other notion that fascinated me was the idea that on any given day I might be near water in which I could see orcas. I had been to Sea World in San Diego as a kid, back when most of us bought into the idea that zoos and ocean parks were good because it gave us a chance to see something we otherwise wouldn’t. It took about 30 years and one viewing of Free Willy to call that idea into question. I wanted to see orcas in the wild. This was the place.

My luck there has been spotty, but within three years I saw them twice, once in Silverdale and once on the ferry to Seattle when I was headed there for work to greet a veteran coming home on Christmas Day. Those were both distant and fleeting viewings. It took several more years to spot any more, and that was a good one. One day after work I heard the whales were in Bremerton and I drove to Bachmann Park, knowing that was their likely path out. I scored as I watched them pass all too quickly.

I don’t know that it can get any better than it was on Monday, though. We had family in town from Utah and decided to spend part of Memorial Day at Point No Point Park in Hansville. While I dozed off in a camp chair I heard my sister in law yell that there was a killer whale. It was a great scene out in the water as the whales headed south, then stopped in a spot for a while. We guessed they were feeding on salmon.

And then, like a miracle, one giant orca surfaced probably 50 feet from shore. The entire beach began to follow it then, and the visitor gave us one more view.

This is one of those times we’re not only lucky to live where we do, but when we do. I had left my phone in the car, but I was the only one. There were plenty of cameras pointed at the ocean to capture the action. My thanks to Emilee Wright Fyffe for sharing the video.

If you’re among those whose luck has not been this “amazing,” have faith that your day will come.

Enjoy the video. The first 1 minute 30 seconds was the kind of sighting I had always envisioned at Point No Point. I wasn’t counting on “amazing.” The big guy makes two appearances in the last part of the video to make that happen.

Golf in South Kitsap goes to the dogs

Kerris, the yellow lab who works at the Kitsap County Courthouse, started the weekend early with a round of golf Friday morning at Trophy Lake Golf & Casting.
Perhaps you remember the story I did on Kerris in 2010. The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office brought her on as a courtroom therapy dog to put witnesses at ease during difficult testimony, and generally to diffuse the tension. Her handler is Keven Kelly, chief of District Municipal Court.

The two were golfing for charity at the Kitsap Humane Society‘s Fore the Animal’s golf tournament. This is the third year of the tournament, which is notable for allowing animals to tag along.

I love imagining dogs in plaid knickers and spiked shoes, wagging their little tails as they get ready to tee off. Alas, it doesn’t work like that. The dogs pretty much just ride in golf carts, slobber and shed.

There were 100 golfers and seven pooches signed up for the tourney, said Rebecca Johnson, the Humane Society’s event coordinator and executive assistant.

Their goal was to raise $15,000 for KHS.

Poulsbo osprey return, set up home on their new platform

A osprey takes flight Monday from its new nesting platform at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.
A osprey takes flight Monday from its new nesting platform at Strawberry Fields in Poulsbo.

A pair of osprey have returned to Strawberry Fields where a new nesting platform was waiting for them.

The birds had built a nest on one of the lights a few years ago and it was removed for safety reasons after they left this past winter.

You can read about the platform construction and installation in a previous Kitsap Sun article.

ADA makes provisions for miniature horses as service animals

Today we’re reporting on a guide dog in training at Green Mountain Elementary School that called on Central Kitsap School District to examine its policy on service animals. District officials agreed that Bridget, a 7-month-old yellow lab, did not fit the definition of a service animal because she is not yet trained and or assigned to a person with a disability. For lack of a policy, the dog, who has many fans at the school, was banned from the classroom from November through late January. A revised policy allows for guide dogs in training at the discretion of the school principal with a written agreement.

Covering this story got me to wondering what does qualify as a service animal, especially since I have heard about miniature horses used to help people with disabilities. Just how does the Americans with Disabilities Act define “reasonable accommodation?”

Service animals perform many tasks from guiding the blind, alerting people are who are deaf, and calming a person with PTSD to pulling a wheelchair and protecting a person who is having a seizure, according to the ADA.

A revision to the ADA effective in 2011 refined and clarified the definition of “service animal” in light of wider use of service dogs and the advent of using miniature horses to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

As of the revision, only dogs are recognized as service animals under Title II of the ADA (state and local government services) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities). A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Generally, under Title II and III, service animals are allowed to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is allowed to go.

A person with a disability may not be asked to remove his dog from premises unless it is out of control and the handler doesn’t take immediate, effective action, or if it is not housebroken.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.

Dogs not specifically trained to perform tasks related to a disability, but whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but are recognized under the broader definition of “assistance animal.” The Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Act allows for assistance animals as a “reasonable accommodation” where housing facility rules would otherwise prohibit them.

Miniature horses, which range in height from 24 to 30 inches at the shoulders and from 70 to 100 pounds in weight, have their own regulations. Entities, like schools, covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses as service animals “where reasonable.” A four-part test determines what’s reasonable: whether the horse is housebroken; whether it is under the owner’s control; whether the facility can accommodate the animals size, type and weight; and whether the miniature horse’s presence “will not compromise legitimate safety requirements” for operating the facility.

Humane society expands feral cat trap-neuter-return program to Port Orchard

In February 2013, the Kitsap Humane society launched a program to reduce the feral cat population in Bremerton. KHS calls them “community cats.”

The method (not without its critics) is trap-neuter-return. KHS vets say it’s documented to work in gradually reducing feral, pardon me, community cat colonies.

Adult feral cats can’t be socialized for placement as pets. The past approach to eradication of feral cat colonies has been to trap and euthanize the animals. But that doesn’t work well, according to KHS veterinarian Jen Stonequist.

Because feral cats are territorial, eliminating members of the colony simply creates a void that is soon filled again by new cats – and their unchecked litters of kittens. The cats who live in these colonies are generally in poor health and carry disease.

“An effective TNR program works to stabilize the free-roaming cat population in a community by preventing new litters of unwanted kittens, and reduces feline illnesses by reducing mother-to-litter transmission and transmission by fighting,” said KHS Spokeswoman Rachel Bearbower. “It can also significantly reduce the noise and odor which arise from unaltered males fighting, mating, and marking territories.”

KHS officials estimate there are more than 2,200 feral cats in the 98366 area code, where the effort is focused.

The Community Cats Program, funded through a PetSmart grant provides live traps and training on trapping to willing neighborhood volunteers.
Adults are neutered or spayed, and given a full check up and a rabies vaccine before they are reintroduced to their preferred neighborhood. A small mark on the ear prevents repeats. Kittens are taken into the humane society for placement as pets.

Over time the colony shrinks, as the animals are unable to reproduce.

The humane society also has a litter abatement program. If your pet has had a litter, you can bring the babies (dog or cat) to KHS. They will be spayed and neutered, and placed in “forever homes.” KHS also will spay the parent free of charge and return the animal to you.

Anyone with information about feral cat colonies in the Port Orchard area, or who is interested in volunteering for the Community Cats program, is asked to contact Kitsap Humane Society at or call 360-692-6977.

Locals help find, return lost Kansas dog

Patty headed home to Kansas by plane Thursday, July 23, after going missing south of Port Orchard on July 4.
Patty headed home to Kansas by plane Thursday, July 23, after going missing south of Port Orchard on July 4.

After Paul Sawatski arrived at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll booth and realized that his dog Patty was missing from the back of the truck, her leash and collar dangling over the side of the vehicle, he spent three days searching for her along Highway 16 without success.

More than a week after Sawatski returned to Kansas, several Kitsap County locals continued the search for Patty, a six-year-old hound dog Sawatski has had since she was seven weeks old, he said.

Patty was eventually caught in a live trap with the help of Julie Saavedra, of Bremerton, on July 18, and arrived back in Kansas July 23, almost three weeks after she went missing.

“She clicked her little paws three times and back to Kansas she went,” Saavedra said.

The dog was in good health when she was found, she added.

And Patty is now back to lounging on the bed at home, Sawatski said.

Sawatski and his fiancé Jessica Mahler were driving back to Kansas after visiting family in Kitsap County during the Fourth of July. Sawatski grew up in Seabeck and now lives in Wichita, Kan.

Patty and Jessica both dislike fire works, so Sawatski said he decided to take them and their other two dogs — Charlie and Franklin — to camp grounds were fireworks were not allowed. Somewhere between the Tremont Street exit and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Highway 16, Sawatski said he thinks Patty must have jumped out, something she has never done before.

“No one honked. I didn’t hear anything hit the truck,” he said.

Sawatski and Mahler spent the Fourth of July driving up and down Highway 16 looking for Patty. There was no sign of the dog in the road, which kept Sawatski hopeful, he said.

The couple stayed through the weekend searching and contacting local humane societies. Mahler flew back to Kansas for work on Monday and Sawatski stay an extra day to search for Patty.

After seeing online postings for the missing dog, Saavedra contacted the Sawatski and offered her helping locating Patty. Saavedra runs the Facebook page “Kitsap and Mason counties Lost and Found Furbabies.”

People would call Saavedra or Sawatski when they sighted the dog, narrowing where she could be found.

After several reported sightings around the Purdy Crescent Road exit, Saavedra set a live trap with a cooked steak, chew toy and T-shirt that Sawatski mailed her. The hope was that Sawatski’s scent would bring the hound dog into the trap, Saavedra said.

“I think the steak had something to do with it too,” Sawatski said.

2013 Cat tales, loose ends tied

Some sad stories have a happy ending.

Maybe it was Squirt’s time. Maybe he had an underlying illness. Whatever the case, Mallory Jackson walked into her custom framing shop on Bay Street in Port Orchard just about a year ago to find her nearly 17-year-old cat, Squirt, beloved mascot of Custom Picture Framing on Bay Street, curled up in his basket but not asleep, no, dead.
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Squirt must have died some time over the holiday. He had seemed fine on New Year’s Eve as he and Jackson spent the day together, she working, he presiding, as was his way. There was the ritual brushing at the end of the work day, the play time. The cat was well accommodated and used to spending Sundays in the store solo. On Monday, she found him.

The loss of Squirt was “horrible,” Jackson said. She was not eager to get a new cat, but in August, at an animal adoption event hosted by the Kitsap Humane Society, there was one that caught her eye. He was orange, like Squirt, and he was missing his right front leg.

The cat was found by Good Samaritans in July, shot in the chest with BB’s, his leg fractured in several places. A vet in Central Kitsap tended to the cat and had no choice but to amputate the leg. The humane society handled the placement, when the cat was well enough to go to a new home.

Jackson did not take the cat right away. She went out and bought supplies, toys. If he was still there, she reason she was meant to have him. If not …

The cat was still there. She called him Scooter Kitty, and after some initial shyness, he has taken over the frame shop, winning the hearts of Jackson and her customers, much as did Squirt.
Scooter Kitty’s loss of a leg doesn’t hamper him much. He jumps up on tables with ease and “he’s so darn fast,” Jackson said. The two are a good fit.

“He just needed a home, and I needed a cat,” she said.

More happy news out of a sad situation: the cat we reported on in October that had been bound in tape and set on fire recovered well and is now happy in her new home. There are no leads in this horrific case of animal abuse.

The cat was found in a flower bed near Orchard Heights Elementary School. She was brought to Cedar Creek Animal Hospital and treated for hypothermia as well as burns that took the tips of her ears but fortunately did no more significant damage.
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Remarkably, the cat not only trusted humans after its ordeal, but was outright affectionate.

“All she wants to do is jump in your lap and purr,” said clinic owner Dr. Mike Alberts.

One of the people who brought her in has adopted the young female cat and named her Marvel.

“It’s a wonderfully nice cat,” Alberts said. “It’s doing great and has a great home.”

And while we’re on the topic of sad cat tales with a silver lining, let’s not forget the story of James Raasch, who took in a stray cat while stationed with the Navy in Naples, Italy. The cat was his companion for more than a decade, but when he relocated to Bremerton, the cat went missing.

Raasch moved to California and gave the cat up for gone, hoping her Italian street smarts would keep her safe. Odie, as he called her, took up with a feral cat colony and was located by the Kitsap Humane Society, which monitors feral cat populations. Information on a microchip embedded beneath Odie’s fur reunited the two, when Raasch came to Kitsap for a wedding.
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Odie seemed almost instantly to recognize her owner. She is now living in California, happy to be home, wherever that might be.

How to speak the turkey’s language of love

Some holiday traditions were made to be broken, but here’s one we can’t resist … pulling out this old chestnut from 2008.

Al Prante of South Kitsap is a champion turkey caller. In this video, he gives some tips on how to attract a female turkey by sounding like a proud and sexy male turkey. It’s really quite educational.

(P.S. Sorry I couldn’t get the links to our other turkey videos to work if you viewed an earlier version of this blog.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all … especially those who have to work on the holiday.

Cancer survivor from Germany stops in Poulsbo

POULSBO — Poulsbo Inn and Suites sales manager Courtney Cutrona was a little skeptical while listening to a scruffy, older German claim he was on a worldwide bike tour with his two Alaskan malamutes.

Randolph Westphal said he stopped in Poulsbo last week as part of his sixth bike tour to inspire others to not give up in the face of challenges. It’s a story he’s lived through, he told Poulsbo Inn staff, after nearly dying from skin cancer in 1987. He’s had 28 surgeries to remove the cancer and today, bikes around the world sharing his story.

In-between his tales, Cutrona was able to slip away and do a quick internet search on the 55 year old, who is from Frankfurt, Germany.

The information she found confirmed Westphal’s story.
“Sometimes we get some people with interesting stories, but this kind of struck me as different,” she said.
Cutrona and the general manager of Poulsbo Inn decided to let the bicyclist stay at the hotel Tuesday night for free.
Westphal said he relies on the generosity of strangers to help him and his dogs while on his bike tours. (And finding Subway locations because the sandwiches are cheap, he added.) He plans to log almost 25,000 miles on this trip.
The Canadian media has detailed Westphal’s tour, which started in May. The Peninsula Daily News wrote about another tour in 2008.

He started traveling around the world on his bike to inspire others to “never give up,” he said. He uses a cart to bring his traveling companions — two Alaskan malamutes — along for the ride. He sometimes does motivational speeches along the way.

Westphal said he’s never heard of  the area until last week.  His stay in Kitsap was brief — he left for Seattle the next day and made plans to hit Oregon after that.

“He’s an exuberant guy,” Cutrona said the day after Westphal left. “It was an interesting interaction.. He deserved some sort of recognition for what he’s doing.”

South Kitsap woman reunites lost dogs with owners

Juliua Stroup with Zsa Zsa and Bell shortly after the two dogs were found in Poulsbo

PORT ORCHARD — Juliua Stroup has been reuniting lost dogs with their owners for only two months, but she’s already lost count of the number of reunions she’s done.

There was Brewster, a dog from Gig Harbor missing since June 15. Stroup found him in Port Orchard Friday. A chihuahua-mix found in Belfair that was reunited with its East Bremerton owner last week. A Port Orchard bulldog at the animal shelter Stroup delivered to its owner.

But if she were to see the dogs once again, she’d remember each story.

“When I’m done with one, I just move on to the next,” said the 50-year-old Port Orchard resident.

Stroup keeps track of lost dogs in the county by spending 8 to 10 hours everyday working toward rescue efforts. That means spending hours on the internet, comparing found postings to lost dog ads to match dog and owner.

Her efforts are being honored Sunday by PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap at the annual dog-celebration event, WagFest.

A retired information technology specialist at Keyport, Stroup said she got involved in reuniting dogs and their owners in early July after noticing an increase in the number lost pet ads after the 4th of July holiday.

“I was just going to help a little, but then I got pulled in,” Stroup recalled during a phone interview from her Port Orchard home.

Stroup was recently involved in a reunion between two Boxer dogs and their Port Ludlow owners.

The dogs had escaped from the Viking Kennels in Poulsbo while David and Maisie Wheatley and their family went on vacation in July.

The problem was made worse when Viking Kennels staff revealed the dogs, Zsa Zsa and Bell, had been missing about a week before the family returned.

Stroup and a team of volunteers went into rescue mode, scouring the internet and making phone calls and visiting area animal shelters on a daily basis.

It also was the first time Stroup herself physically walked and searched an area for a missing dog, despite still recovering from hip surgery at the time.

Zsa Zsa was found 11 days later while Bell was found 21 days later.

Callers noticed Zsa Zsa darting in and out of traffic near Gunderson and Stottlemeyer Roads and Bell was found hiding in a wooded area near Lincoln and Widme Roads. Other than dehydration and a few cuts and scraps, the two dogs were in good shape, Stroup said.
She calls Zsa Zsa and Bell her godchildren now.

The best part of reuniting owners with their dogs is being part of the emotional reunion, Stroup said.

Reunited dogs with their owners is just one of the ways Stroup gives back to her community.

After leaving her job at Keyport a few years ago, Stroup started collecting wood from various sources to give to the poor.

The 50 year old also volunteers for equine non-profits around the county, using her trailer to transport horses from one location to another.

“People need to know you don’t need to do something really huge to help,” she said. “You just have to be a bit inconvenienced. You don’t have o have a lot of money, but just put in the effort.”

She’ll be attending Sunday’s Wagfest with the Wheatleys and her four-legged godchildren.

Photo: Maisie Wheatley of Port Ludlow with Zsa Zsa

Maisie Wheatley of Port Ludlow with Zsa Zsa
Maisie Wheatley of Port Ludlow with Zsa Zsa