Meet Conner, one of my beautiful Labrador Retrievers with whom we share our home. Conner is my heart dog; he goes wherever I go. He sleeps by my side, whether in bed or in the living room watching TV. He gets up to follow me, even if it is just to make a trip to the bathroom. In 2009, Conner and I traveled nearly the width and breadth of this country going to dog shows, sleeping in hotel rooms, and navigating sometimes icy highways. We were, and still are, a team.
On March 7, 2012, I came very close to losing Conner: this is the story of three pit bulls and how they nearly killed Conner and bit me.
Wednesday afternoon was filled with chores. My plan was to leave early Thursday morning to go pick up my new wheaten Ameraucana rooster, “Hawkeye”, from Huckleberry Farms in Hodges, SC. Preparations were under way – crates washed and scrubbed, tarp down in the back of our SUV, extra food bowls and waterers cleaned and sanitized. And, of course, our existing RIR roo, Mr Grady, captured and ready to be dispatched to chicken heaven, aka my freezer. It was such a nice day in SC, I decided the boys, Eli, Conner, and Gage, all deserved some fun time outside, too, so I let them out in the fenced yard to run and play for a bit. Besides, any time there’s running water outside, Gage has to be there. He loves to chase the stream from the water hose! It is always such a kick to play chase the water with him!
So, I’m around front finishing up getting ready. Crates scrubbed and drying and ready to loaded in the car when three things happened nearly simultaneously.
- My neighbor went by with his little dog, Oscar, on a leash and of course, my dogs were barking at Oscar. I yelled at Gage, usually the guilty party, to “chill”.
- Instead of quiet, the barking escalated and became frenzied with high pitched yelps thrown in. Barry and I both drop what we’re doing to go see what is going on. My first fear is that the pit bulls down the street have gotten loose again and attacked my neighbor or his little dog. They lost a pet three months ago to two of those pits.
- My phone rings and, as I’m walking around to the back, I notice it is my neighbor, Gladys (Bowling), calling. A chill goes down my spine; the combination of the call and the frenzied barking can only mean one thing – her dogs, the pit bulls, are loose again.
I enter the gate to my dog yard and my heart jumped at the scene before me. Three pit bulls have one of my dogs on the ground and viciously tearing at his flesh – one at his throat, one at his front legs, and the third at his hindquarters. At that point, I only know it is a black dog on the ground – either Eli or Conner. I don’t remember my feet hitting the ground from the gate to where those pit bulls were trying to kill one of my dogs. For someone who jokes that I couldn’t run from a burning house, I must have run like a cheetah. I only remember screaming, “Nooooo” and repeatedly “Barry, Barry, Barry”. I was in the middle of it before I thought about risks or consequences. There was no fear, only anger at these creatures that were hurting my beloved dog. At some point, I realized it was Conner on the ground and I looked around to find my other two dogs to see if they were safe. At the same time, I was reaching between slashing teeth and snapping jaws to grab the collars of at least two of those dogs to get them off Conner.Conner was on the ground, whites of his eyes as big as saucers, eyes rolling, and trying to snap at his attackers, but the dog at his throat prevented him from reaching around. Gage was next to me, bewildered looking, and snapping at the hocks of one of the attackers, but it was clear he did not understand what was happening or what to do. Eli, my old man, was at the top of the rise next to the tree and, for the moment, was safe. I finally grabbed the collar of the dog that was at Conner’s throat and yanked him off Conner, raising his front feet off the ground. My left hand finally found and latched onto the collar of the dog that was tearing at Conner’s front legs and belly and I yanked him off Conner, too. I was still holding those two collars, both dog’s front legs off the ground, and screaming for Barry and screaming “NOOO” at these animals tearing at Conner at the same time when Barry walked through the gate with a shot gun and told me to get out of the way. I dropped the collars of those two pit bulls and they immediately went for Conner again. Barry took aim at their chests because their heads were already buried in Conner’s fur and “KABLAM” went the shotgun. The dog at Conner’s throat yelped and took off for the corner of the yard and collapsed. But the other two dogs didn’t even flinch. The shotgun went off again and the dog at Conner’s front legs yelped and took off in the same direction as the first one. Conner was finally able to get up and, with the third dog still hanging onto his thigh, ran for the gate. Barry reloaded for the third shot, but the shotgun jammed and there was no blast. Conner was next to the gate, on his feet, but the third dog had Conner’s rear leg in a vise grip and wouldn’t let go. I grabbed his collar with one hand and was beating him on the head with the other. The attacker was oblivious to me – he was in the “zone” and wasn’t going to let go until his “prey” was dead. One of the owners of the three pit bulls, Gladys Bowling, had arrived and was standing by the gate. She got a choke collar on her dog, and between the two of us, we got him off Conner and she took him out of the yard. Gage and Eli had already escaped and headed inside, but Conner was just sitting there looking confused. I walked up to him to see how much damage had been done. I had blood over my arm and hands, dripping down to my shoes and turning the sand at my feet a bright red. I thought it was Conner’s blood, but it wasn’t. At some point during the struggle to grab collars, I had been bitten several times on the right forearm and at least twice on the left hand. I looked up at Barry and said, “I’ve been bitten”. I looked and saw the two dogs, who I thought were dead, lying on the ground in the far corner of our yard and Conner sitting by the gate and everything went black.
My right forearm[/caption]The rest of the day was just a continuation of the nightmare. ER trip for me, where I completed a dog bite report. Because of the deep puncture wounds, there were no stitches, but I did get a prescription for pain medicine and antibiotics. I was so worried about Conner, but the wounds that were visible weren’t serious. Barry stayed to help clean up and take care of Conner and one of my neighbors drove me to the hospital.
I didn’t know until later that one of the dogs that was shot, “Chubby” had survived the shotgun blast to the chest and his owners, Bobby and Gladys Bowling, asked Barry to drive them to the vet, since they didn’t own a car. Barry was sure the vet would put the dog down. The first dog shot, “Abby”, was dead and Bobby buried her under a pin oak tree behind our coach. The third dog was uninjured and was home with Bobby, with their other two pit bulls.
Inside of my left hand. More puncture wounds on the top.[/caption]I got home from the ER around 10PM that night and the first thing I did was to thoroughly go over Conner to see what damage had been done. I found a few marks on his legs and where the pit bulls had torn the skin on the inside of his right front leg, but, amazingly, the damage didn’t look severe. I decided to take him to the vet in the morning just to be safe and gave him a tramadol, took one myself, and went to bed. The next morning, Conner was much worse and his left front leg was twice the normal size. There were blood and clear fluids soaked into his bed, so I called the vet and told him I was on the way. Barry and I loaded Conner into the car (he couldn’t walk by himself) and off we went. Conner’s thick black coat hid most of the damage. He had multiple deep puncture wounds around his throat, neck, and both front legs, and a puncture wound that completely pierced his thigh muscle. We later found another complete puncture wound through one of his ears. The vet kept him for the day to stabilize him and get him stitched him up. I felt horrible that I had let him spend the night with those awful wounds. The vet, Dr. Dirk Motzkus DVM, Grovetown Animal Hospital, did a wonderful job of cleaning out the wounds and stitching Conner up! He even mixed a special antibiotic for Conner to prevent any infection. Thank you, Dr. Motzkus! But when I went to pick him up, Dr. Motzkus warned me that the wounds were very deep and very severe.
The two remaining pit bulls involved in the attack were named “dangerous dogs” by Aiken Animal Control. Bobby and Gladys Bowling were evicted from Rose Chase RV, for multiple reasons including non-payment of rent, and have since moved to Lexington County. They still have four pit bulls, at least two of which are very dangerous animals.
Conner and I healed, physically. It was a long time before he had normal use of his front leg and I had numbness in my left hand for months. The wounds unseen continue, at least for me. I, who has raised, bred, trained, and shown Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, terriers and various other breeds all my life, can’t even look at a picture of a pit bull without my palms getting cold and clammy and my stomach lurching into my throat.