After being flown to Langley for surgery, Maria and Garry Otto’s 13-year-old Pomeranian managed to survive a fierce attack by river otters along the Sangan River last week. (Submitted)

Letter: Small dog attacked by Sangan river otters


On Wednesday, Sept. 19, my wife and I were fishing at the Sangan River estuary near Masset. The tide was just beginning to flood.

A friend of ours was fishing on the same bank just upstream from us. It was a calm, peaceful day. Sandhill cranes, kingfishers, geese and other birds were present and a group of river otters milled about 100 feet upstream of us. Our 13-year-old Pomeranian dog, still in fairly good condition with cataracts and a treatable heart condition was lounging around enjoying the day also.

The last time I saw the dog she was visiting with our friend looking for a treat and having her ears scratched about 10 metres away from me.

A few minutes later my wife asked me where the dog was, to which I replied she was up the beach by the treeline about 100 to 150 feet away and was fine. A minute or so later, I heard a yelp and that a commotion was occurring with the dog. I instantly ran toward the yelping noise expecting to see our dog being attacked by another dog, an eagle, racoons or even a bear.

At first sight it was terrible to see our little dog being torn apart by two adult river otters. One had her by the face area and the other by the leg and rear end area. The two of them were dragging her towards the river below the treeline and continuing their attack as they did.

I was screaming and yelling all the way as I quickly approached with my friend behind me doing the same.

Ten feet away from them they dropped our dog, looked at us for a brief second and then grabbed her again and continued their attack.

I had to physically engage them and snatch our dog from their grasp. This whole incident occurred in less than a minute, from the time of the yelp to when I held her.

It was obvious that her rear left leg was broken severely. She sustained several wounds to her rear end area and blood was coming out of her mouth and face. She was shaking violently and going into shock. We loaded her into our vehicle and sped to the animal hospital in Tlell and had her attended to within one hour of the attack. She survived the trip and after being stabilized, the vet gave us three choices based on her condition, age and chance of life quality:

1) Put her down;

2) Amputate her leg or;

3) If a specialist was of the opinion she could be restored physically to walk again, then be sent to them for further treatment.

All was contingent that she survive the day and that evening. She was flown to Vancouver the next day and transported to a specialist in Langley, B.C.

She survived surgery and has a restored leg and arrived back to Terrace a few days later. Her prognosis of a full physical recovery appears good and should be walking fairly normally in time.

This dog has been a significant piece of our life and fortunately the attack was not fatal.

Had several factors not occurred after the incident she would not be alive and with a chance of ending her remaining days with a quality of life. This is only due to you who cared and went above and beyond in our time of need.

We thank Ted Corry, Haida Gwaii Animal Hospital Vet Dane Richardson and staff, Leila Riddall, Anne Marie Mol, Lisa Thorgeirson, Barb Lawrence, Art Dystra/Catherine Waterer, Pacific Coastal staff, David at Pets to Vets, Boundary Bay Speciality Vet Eric Crawford and staff, and the Carr family in Richmond. We gratefully thank you and anyone we missed.

As in most incidents, they are preventable. We have always been very aware and protective if eagles, other dogs or other perceived threats are present regarding our dog. I have been on the banks of the Sangan with that dog all of her life and in the proximity of river otters several times. I do not know why they attacked — maybe a den was nearby or part of their group that day included juveniles or kittens.

Maybe weasels are weasels and will be weasels. In any case, this letter is to make other dog owners and persons with young children aware that anywhere at any time danger may be present.

Be aware …

Maria and Garry Otto

Sangan Drive, Masset, Haida Gwaii

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