Larry LaRue

Samson and a dastardly archer: A dog’s story of survival

As a dog’s life goes, Samson pretty much hit the jackpot when Laura and Steve Bowerman adopted him when he was six weeks old.

The couple live on a 20-acre spread in Raymond on the Willapa River — with three quarters of an acre of river frontage and plenty of toys.

Samson was one happy Husky. And it got better.

The Bowermans adopted a second Husky, a female they named Delilah. Puppies followed. Several litters.

The Bowermans love their dogs, walk them to the river often and let Samson swim there. Neighbors know and like the 5 1/2 year old dog.

Then someone tried to kill him.

“My husband was running the dogs to the river and then would come back, do a little work and go back to them,” Laura said of the afternoon of Sept. 7. “At one point, he called for Samson and got no response.

“Samson always came when called.”

Laura came out of the couple’s home and saw her dog near the driveway, blood on his face and barely able to move. He’d tried to come to Steve’s call.

“I phoned the Willapa Veterinary Service and they said, ‘How soon can you get here?’ and I said, ‘My husband is on his way,” Laura said.

It was a Sunday, so the nearby veterinary office was closed, but Dr. Beth Bauer was on call and came in.

“Samson was in profound shock, his vital signs weren’t good,” Bauer said. “We assumed he was hit by a car or possibly been in a fight with a deer, because he had a wound over his left eye.

Bauer rehydrated Samson, gave him drugs to stabilize him and bring him out of shock.

“At that point, I told them survival was 50-50,” Bauer said.

The next morning, with Samson stabilized, vet technician Ashley Watson X-rayed the dog.

“I stepped in and glanced at the images and thought, ‘He’s got a branch in his skull,’” Bauer said. “Ashley said, ‘Look again — you won’t believe this.’”

She was right.

“It was an arrow,” Bauer said. “It had entered just above the left eye and lodged in the back of Samson’s skull. It wasn’t a target arrow, it was a hunting arrow, and it was no mistake.

“It was a kill shot. I’ve been in practice since 1968, and I’d never seen anything like it. Someone had to have broken the arrow’s shaft off.”

Bauer knew surgery to remove it was beyond her. When she called another vet’s office, they recommended neurologist Dr. Jerry DeMuth at the Summit Veterinary Referral Center, in Pierce County.

“I had neck surgery six weeks ago and am still in a brace with four fused discs,” Laura Bowerman said. “I couldn’t go with Steve to Tacoma, so their vet tech, Ashley, rode with him to keep Samson stable.

“She held him in her lap the whole drive up.”

DeMuth’s first impressions of his patient?

“I was amazed he’d survived to reach us,” DeMuth said. “This was not the kind of case they teach you in residency. Part of the arrow was coming out the back of his skull.”

Surgery took close to two hours. DeMuth opened the back of Samson’s head and cut the arrowhead off its shaft. Then it got more delicate.

“We had to remove the blades from the arrowhead one at a time,” DeMuth said. “Once we got them all, we went in through the empty eye socket and pulled the shaft out.

“There was some brain damage that will impact his hearing. I thought he’d need a week to recuperate with us. Three days after surgery, Samson went home.”

No one was happier to see him than Delilah.

“She about turned inside out,” Laura said. “Samson laid down the law, though. He was in no mood to play.”

The Bowermans hope the Pacific County Sheriff’s Department finds who nearly killed their dog on land clearly posted as “No hunting.”

In the week since coming home, Samson has regained strength and begun adjusting to a new life. He has only one eye and may have lost his hearing on the left side. The swelling in his brain has shrunk, and the vision in his right eye is returning.

“He finds his way around the house and outside,” Laura said. “Last night he snuck in about 1:30 a.m. and wound up sleeping with me for a couple of hours.”