Pet Tales: Dog survives hawk attack

A very large hawk swooped down, dug its talons into a tiny Yorkshire terrier and lifted the dog 15 feet into the air, right in front of its owner, Lori Timczyk, who screamed and screamed. Then it dropped the 4-pound dog on the rear deck of the Timczyk home in Green Tree.

Rocky, 7, almost bled to death but was saved by the quick thinking — and driving — of his family, the navigational help of Siri, the know-it-all voice on an Apple mobile phone, and really good treatment at an emergency veterinary clinic.

Around 9 a.m. Jan. 4, Rocky was in his front yard, taking “his morning constitutional.” Just as Mrs. Timczyk opened the front door to call Rocky inside, the hawk grabbed the dog and carried him away. 

Albert Timczyk, a corporate pilot who had been packing for an out-of-town trip, came running when he heard his wife screaming. The couple think their screams made the hawk drop their dog.

“There was blood everywhere. It was horrendous,” Mrs. Timczyk said.

Rocky wasn’t crying or making any noise. He was conscious but “seemed to be in shock.” 

“If I hadn’t opened the door exactly when I did,” Rocky would have been gone, Mrs. Timczyk said.

The hawk’s talons had punctured an artery. Mr. Timczyk applied pressure, trying to stop the bleeding. His wife ran for a first-aid kit and her iPhone, and they screamed to wake up Jessica, their 15-year-old daughter.

They ran to the car, Mr. Timczyk in boxer underwear, his wife without shoes and their daughter in pajamas. Jessica asked Siri for the closest emergency veterinary clinic, and Siri gave them VCA Castle Shannon Animal Hospital. Jessica was the navigator, giving her parents driving directions.

Castle Shannon veterinarian Jennifer Lopez said they got there just in time. Rocky’s gums were white, which can indicate shock or internal bleeding. He had almost “bled out,” she said.

“They used pressure bandages, but they had a hard time stopping the bleeding,” Mrs. Timczyk said. There were deep puncture wounds on Rocky’s chest, upper back and a leg, and there were scrapes on his forehead. 

Rocky was able to come home at 9 p.m. that evening, but three days later he stopped eating and drinking and had to spend another night at the Castle Shannon hospital. He was given fluids so he wouldn’t dehydrate and was monitored for infections and liver damage. Rocky is now eating, drinking and healing. The bruising is subsiding, and at a vet visit Tuesday his liver readings were approaching the normal range.

“I’m not sure I can describe adequately the trauma Lori, Jessica and I went through,” Mr. Timczyk said in an email. “We almost lost a member of our family.”

“We don’t want this to ever happen to any pet,” said Mrs. Timczyk, adding that Rocky will never again be outside without a family member.

Hospital staff suggested the family share their story through the media; a spokesman said hospital staff have never seen a family pet mauled by a hawk before.

Rocky does not appear to be traumatized and is cheerfully going out into the yard where the attack occurred. 

“He’s back to normal,” Mrs. Timczyk said.

The attack was highly unusual, and the bird was undoubtedly a red-tailed hawk, according to spokesmen at the National Aviary on the North Side and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. That’s the largest hawk that lives and flies in close proximity to houses and people, they said. They have never heard of a wild hawk carrying off a small pet.

“Four pounds would be the absolute upper limit” of what a large red-tailed hawk could carry, said Bob Mulvihill, ornithologist at the National Aviary. “That was an ambitious attack, and I don’t think the hawk will do it again.”

Red-tailed hawks generally eat mice, moles, voles, small rabbits and, in warm months, a snake or two. They steer clear of people, although they might exhibit threatening behavior in the spring if people come close to their nests, Mr. Mulvihill said.

The screams of Rocky’s owners may have made the hawk drop the dog, or it might have been because the dog was too heavy, he said.

Rocky got another break: Red-tailed hawks usually kill their prey on the ground and then carry them away, Mr. Mulvihill said. Mrs. Timczyk’s screams might have prevented the kill.

Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the Game Commission’s southwest region, said red-tailed hawks are plentiful thanks to a decades-long ban on many pesticides and because the birds have “protected” status, meaning no one’s allowed to shoot them.

Coyotes pose a bigger threat to small pets, and coyotes are “everywhere,” Mr. Fazi said, including the city and densely populated suburbs. His office has not received reports of coyotes killing pets, although they get occasional reports of coyotes killing livestock, generally small calves and lambs.  

Television shows

Need a break from post-season football? Here are two TV alternatives:

See top athletic dogs from all over the country diving off docks, chasing discs, running agility courses and racing through weave poles on the “Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals” today from 3 to 4 p.m. on NBC.

One of the stars of the show is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois that broke a world record with a jump of 33 feet 10 inches. 

“Betty White’s Smartest Animals in America” is airing at 8 tonight on the Great American Country channel. On her 93rd birthday, Ms. White meets elephants, who have the biggest animal brains on land, a fearless honey badger, playful dolphins, kea birds that are indigenous to New Zealand and pixie pigs that are smarter than dogs. 

Ms. White also has an emotional reunion with her friend Koko the gorilla, who uses sign language to communicate with humans.

Here are the links to find Great American Country on your television: or


Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064.