Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Dogs pulled from defunct Medical Lake missile site

Lost for three weeks, owner never gave up hope she'd find her pets


April 19, 2018

Two Medical Lake German Shepard's, Zeus and Ziva, came through a hole in their backyard fence and ultimately got trapped for 22 days in a deactivated Nike air defense missile facility at the edge of town.

It was hardly like the exploits of World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush or Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini, all of whom spent seemingly endless time lost at sea after being shot down in World War II.

But the 22 days that a pair of Medical Lake German Shepard's spent trapped in a former missile installation may have seemed like the ordeals those members of "The Greatest Generation," endured.

That's because Zeus and Ziva are the equivalent of blood relatives for Fox Ridge resident Jessica Donges and her husband. "They are definitely the center of our little universe," she said.

Missing since March 19, the 2-year-old Zeus and Ziva, 3, were pulled out of a dark, damp pit April 10 at the deactivated Nike battery that was part of the Cold War defenses for Fairchild Air Force Base, visible in the distance.

The installation butts up to Donges' property, but a broken fence board allowed the dogs to escape. A broken-down fence at the old base allowed the dogs to get inside - and in trouble.

"I was able to walk through there so anyone is able to walk through," she said.

Throughout the ordeal, Donges never lost hope of seeing the blonde Zeus and Ziva with black and tan mixed coat. But as more time passed, her concern was for their well-being. Had they been hurt, killed or pet-napped?

Fliers posted across Medical Lake - and online help from a pet finder Facebook page - brought plenty of leads but no solution. They left the hole in the fence just in case the dogs decided to retrace their steps.

Donges decided one more sweep of the Nike site was in order. And there she heard it, a single bark. She was able to trace the sound to one of the pits that housed the ground-to-air defensive missiles, first designed to down conventional bombers, but later improved to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs.

Not knowing what else was in that dark hole, Donges called 911 and Medical Lake Assistant Fire Chief Corey Stevens answered.

Stevens described the facility more as a bunker. "I've been in them a couple of times years ago so I said let me go check this out," Stevens said.

He likened it to the pit at a quick-lube oil change business, only a lot bigger. "It was probably six, seven feet down, 10–15 feet across, 30-feet long," Stevens said. Inside was water - likely the element that saved their lives - plus some debris that allowed them to find a place to stay dry.

Stevens said. "It's quite phenomenal," that after three weeks they were found, and OK.

Between Donges and Stevens, they were able to get the dogs to freedom, food, fresh water and some care from the vet. They lost about 25 pounds each during their imprisonment, but have since gained back about seven of it.

Donges' theory is that "her boy," Zeus, follows Ziva, the girl, everywhere. "She's the boss-lady."

Perhaps Ziva may have fallen into the pit and Zeus followed, not wanting to leave her "Because they are very much attached at the hip," Donges said.

Her veterinarians said the dogs apparently did well throughout the ordeal, despite the extended length of time without food. That could be because they had each other, Donges said.

She also did research and found that when a dog doesn't know when its next meal is going to be, their body shuts down to preserve what they have on hand.

Stevens said he does not want a spotlight because performing duties like this is their job.

"The owner did most of it, she searched every day, she was the one that found them," Stevens said. "We were just there for support and make sure she was safe getting them out."

It was a quick and easy job, Stevens said. "You know us, we don't believe anything we do is heroic, we're just trying to help everyone out."

With her pooches back home, "My biggest thing is I hope whomever owns the property finds a way to seal it or better secure it; that way this doesn't happen to anyone else, to a child, anything like that," Donges said.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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