Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Dogs' silo ordeal earns them 'Hambone Award'

Zeus and Ziva win national vote after being trapped 22 days in abandoned missile battery


Last updated 11/21/2018 at 6:25pm

First and foremost, Zeus and Ziva, survived the ordeal that saw them lost for 22 days, trapped in a deactivated Nike air defense missile facility beyond their backyard fence in Medical Lake.

But recently it was announced that the German Shepards belonging to Jessica Donges and her husband won another battle, that from Nationwide Insurance Company for their annual “Hambone Award” that honors pets who are still around to bark and meow about their amazing survival skills.

Some of their competition included:

• A cat that accidently ventured into the clothes dryer and got to take a few spins before the meowing alerted the owner.

• A dog that got stung by a stingray in California.

• A cat that plunged five stories off an apartment balcony.

• Bentley the mischievous dog that managed to hot-glue his eye shut.

The tale of Zeus and Ziva captivated the voters across the country who gave them the honor for 2018.

Missing since March 19, 2018, the 2-year-old Zeus and Ziva, 3, were pulled out of a dark, damp pit April 10 at the installation that was part of the Cold War defenses for Fairchild Air Force Base, visible in the distance. 

The shuttered facility is next to Donges’ property, but a broken fence board allowed the dogs to first escape their yard. Then, a broken-down fence at the old base allowed the dogs to get inside — and into trouble.

“I was able to walk through there so anyone is able to walk through,” Donges said in an April 19 story in the Cheney Free Press.

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?

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 once housed the missiles.

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

Between Donges and Stevens, they were able to get the dogs to freedom, food, fresh water and some care from the vet. The castaways lost about 25 pounds each during their imprisonment but have since recovered.

“They’re both like nothing ever happened, no lasting issues, amazing,” Donges said.

After doing routine searches through data, Donges said she was contacted by the company for its most interesting claim of the month. “That’s kind of how it started, they were one of the 12 for the year.”

Zeus and Ziva received a trophy, plus more importantly, a big bag of treats and goodies.

“Spokane Pet Emergency, who treated Zeus and Ziva the night they found them, receives a grant for $10,000,” Donges said. Those funds are designed to cover the cost of treating pets that are brought in to the clinic by SCRAPS.

Donges said she has been, and still is a big fan of pet insurance, something animal owners do not think about until there is an accident or other instance.

The Hambone Award had its beginnings while Nationwide reviewed the many pet insurance claims that come in each month. They noticed an abundance of claims that were unusually quirky. They were bizarre tales that exemplified the inspiring strengths of pets, the harrowing actions of “pet parents,” and the skills of veterinarians who helped them survive.

The Hambone Award is named in honor of a Nationwide-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire holiday ham while waiting for someone to find him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. 

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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