Animal magnetism roosts in Federal Way

Federal Way started out as a hick town with lots of farms and farm animals: Horses, geese, ducks, chickens. The entire Old McDonald repertoire.

Despite growing to the 8th largest city in the state, the F-Dub still has room for an assortment of animals. Subsequently, Federal Wayers are sometimes presented with unusual animal encounters, as I’ve learned in July.

During the Fourth of July week, a pair of horses stabled near our neighborhood got spooked during a thunderstorm and busted out of their corral, wandering the suburban streets near my house after midnight.

Helpful neighbors took the situation in hand and tried to herd the horses back home. Even after the horses responded to the attempted herding by walking right up to my front door, I was blissfully unaware, soundly asleep.

It was only when the police came knocking on the door that the drama became personal.

Around 1 a.m., I became aware of my wife nudging me insistently and the sound of our two dogs barking as if their mortal enemies — the squirrels — had launched an attack. “Someone’s at the door!” she whisper-yelled, as if she might disturb the dogs’ barking.

Since she’d obviously awoken before me, I wondered why she didn’t just go and see what they wanted. You see, I’m not all caught up in those “traditional gender roles” that dictate that husbands have to answer the door in the middle of the night when it could be a homicidal maniac knocking. As I was reminded this evening, however, my wife still believes in the traditional roles.

So, off I stumbled, half asleep to see if it was friend or foe. Although, it’s typically not a good thing to have a police officer knocking on your door at 1 a.m., I was relieved to find one of Federal Way’s finest, rather than the afore-mentioned lunatic.

“I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but there are two horses in your backyard,” he informed me matter-of-factly as if he was telling me I had a taillight out. At this point, I was pretty sure that I was actually having one of the weirdest dreams I’d ever had. I can only imagine what horrible neurosis is represented by a dream with police officers, barking dogs and horses on my lawn.

But no, the neighbors’ herding efforts had ultimately negotiated the horses into my backyard, where they decided to stay (I have wisely let my garden overgrow with weeds, just in case hungry horses decided to stop by). The officer and his colleague were going to try luring the horses out of my yard. So, like a good citizen I offered any support I could, which resulted in arming the officers with two of my best organic carrots. They did their best to lure the horses out, but the equestrian refugee crisis was only solved when the horses’ owner showed up around 2 a.m. to lead them away.

Our animal encounters aren’t always rural-tinged or requiring intervention. Sometimes the mayor can solve the problem. On a recent call to Federal Way’s Mayor Jack Dovey, I was greeted by “Hi, this is Jack,” followed by indistinguishable, yet definitively birdlike noises from the mayor. In the background, someone or something made similar noises in reply.

“I’ve got a macaw on my shoulder,” he explained. Over the years, Jack and I have had a number of conversations about our mutual enthusiasm for birds, so this seemed reasonable to me. But the bird didn’t belong to Mayor Dovey. Mango, the macaw, had escaped from a neighbor’s home and had alighted in a tree in Jack and Jennifer Dovey’s yard. Jack had talked the bird out of the tree and onto his shoulder. When I had called, he was keeping the bird calm by making macaw-like noises and letting it walk across his shoulders.

He was clearly nonplussed by the appearance of the large bird, and relished the role of bird whisperer. Eventually the Doveys were able to locate the wayward macaw’s owners and returned him home, safe and sound.

Federal Way has animal magnetism. Literally. We may not be a hick town anymore, but we do know what to do when animals make a surprise appearance in our lives (and yards).

Chris Carrel is a lifelong Federal Way resident and executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos, a nonprofit conservation organization working to preserve and restore Hylebos Creek and the West Hylebos Wetlands. Contact: chinook@hylebos.org.

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