Sunday, February 1, 2009
From left: Nick Foley depicted 10 months after the near fatal pit bull attack in Cary, Illinois.
First Step Toward Adulthood
Cary, IL - Nick was 10 years old in November of 2005 when he was violently attacked by a neighbor's three pit bulls. He spent six weeks in a hospital. Since then he has had 17 surgeries, many of them plastic surgery. So much flesh was shredded from his right forearm that he could wrap a finger and thumb around it. Nick is now approaching the milestone of high school. His mother worries how he will handle the inevitable questions about the scars left from the attack.
Nick will attend Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, where his older sister and brother, Maureen and Alex, are students. His siblings will help make the transition easier. But Nick understands that he will be leaving the comfort zone he found in Cary, where he rarely had to explain what happened because so many already knew the story. The attack and his fight to recover were the subject of a series of outstanding articles written by the Chicago Tribune.
"Now he's going to Marian, and most kids probably don't know what happened to him," his mother Polly Foley said. "He's going to be undressing for gym, they'll see his arms and legs, and there will be questions." Nick, however, seems bemused by her concerns -- he has grown expert at fending off questions with a wise-cracking "shark attack" response. Scott Hamann, his basketball coach says, "He doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him, and he doesn't feel sorry for himself."
Now that Nick's parents' focus has turned away from helping him heal, they are trying to draw attention to the danger of vicious dogs. Nick was invited to tell his story before the Chicago City Council last year to help champion a spay/neuter proposal that would require all dogs and cats to be fixed by the time they are 6 months old. His parents, however, felt that Nick was still too young. But each time a pit bull attack is reported, the Foleys say they feel the urgency to tell their story.
When Polly Foley learned that the pit bulls of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick were being rehabilitated, she canceled her subscription to the national magazine that featured them on the cover. Polly Foley said she thinks often about the damage the pit bulls did to Nick, dogs that were the beloved pets of a neighbor and were not abused. "I just don't know how anyone could be comfortable with rehabilitating them," Polly Foley said. "Look at Nick. Is it worth the risk?"
The Cary Pit Bull Rampage
Cary, IL - The story began with a knock on a door. On November 5, 2005, Jourdan Lamarre came to the doorstep of the Foley house. She asked if Nick could help her sell Girl Scout candy and wrapping paper. The two walked over to the home of Scott Sword, the owner of three pit bulls -- Nick had played with the dogs as puppies. As they approached his house, Jourdan later recalled they heard growling. She hesitated but Nick reassured her. "It's OK," he said. "I know these dogs."
A small fist rapped on the door. It opened a crack. Instantly, the house turned into a riot of barking. All three dogs rushed toward the door, their nails clicking and sliding on the linoleum floor. Two dogs slipped through the doorway, but Sword managed to tackle Petey (who had recently begun to show aggression, a behavior that continued after being neutered). He felt a flash of relief until the dog whipped its head around and snapped, nearly severing Sword's thumb. Petey broke free.
Outside, Jourdan and Nick ran screaming when the first two dogs exploded through the doorway, followed seconds later by Petey. The animals knocked Jourdan down, tore through her two jackets and savaged her waist and left leg. Nick, who had made it behind a tree, returned to reach into the storm of teeth and claws, trying to pull his friend to her feet. Sword, bleeding heavily, managed to peel the dogs off the girl. Jourdan scrambled to her feet and ran away. The dogs took Nick down.
Sword tried again to pull the dogs away, even biting Petey's face so hard that he broke off the gold cap from a tooth. But the animals seemed lost in a blood lust, wriggling from Sword's grasp and clamping onto Nick's arms and legs. Sword lifted Nick in a bear hug and turned in circles, trying to keep him out of the dogs' range, but they leaped at the boy, tearing bits of flesh with every jump. As Sword tired, the animals latched onto Nick's arms. Sword felt Nick's bones snapping.
Meanwhile, Ed Lamarre had dialed 911 after Jourdan had come home screaming, her left leg flayed open. The paramedics had responded quickly, but the girl, in shock, didn't tell them about Sword and Nick. Simultaneously, Nick's father Brooks went to the Lamarre household in search of his son. Here he learned that Jourdan had just been attacked. He started toward Sword's house on Hawthorn. When he reached the street, he saw a large human shape sprawled on a lawn.
Brooks knew it was Sword. But an instant later, he noticed the dogs gnawing on the ankles of someone who lay underneath the man. They were tugging at a pair of sweatpants as if wrestling a chew toy. As Brooks peered into the murk, his mind swirling with fear, the faintest thought formed in his head. The ankles, those sweatpants ... But before his brain could complete the idea, before he could call out or take a step, the dogs charged him. Without a sound, they were on him.
Until the moment of Brook's screams, no one else in the neighborhood had understood what was happening. Some heard barking and shrieking, but figured it was only the sound of kids and dogs playing. Brooks' desperate shouts finally roused their attention. Debby Rivera saw the dogs and went to the end of her driveway, banging a heavy frying pan with a metal spoon. Gerd Gerdes and Jim Dunn ran to the skirmish with baseball bats and began swinging hard at the pit bulls' heads.
"[The dogs] were possessed," Rivera recalled. "[The bats] would knock them down, and like cartoon characters, they would shake their heads then go right back to biting even worse."Injuries piled up as Gerdes and Dunn stood guard. It was Nick's mother that found the small body lying beneath Sword. "Oh my God," she cried. "That's my son, that's my son, that's my son..." She called out. "I'm not going to leave you. Mom's here." Before she could get closer, two of the pit bulls returned. They circled Sword and Nick, sniffing at them, but locking their eyes on Polly. She slowly stepped back. Fortunately, the dogs left. Polly collapsed on her knees and began to pray.
By this point paramedics realized there were more victims and made a second request to the sheriff's department. Deputies arrived to men with baseball bats, horrified neighbors and, on the lawn, two bloody figures. The Cary Fire Department and ambulance crews were already there. After starting with handguns, deputies immediately switched to heavier weapons -- a slug-firing shotgun and a CAR-15 assault rifle. They eventually shot and killed all three attacking pit bulls.
The rampage lasted nearly 1.5 hours before the last dog was shot dead. Six victims were rushed into emergency care that night; two were children who suffered massive injuries.
Chicago Tribune articles:
08/13/06: Part I: The Tattered Lives of a Pit Bull Rampage
08/14/06: Part II: A Rebuilt Body, a Fragile Spirit
08/15/06: Part III: Finding Strength to be a Kid
Video: Brooks Foley Speaks About Son's Pit Bull Attack
Video: 10-Year Old Jourdan Lamarre Attacked by Pit Bull
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| 2/01/2009 7:36 PM |
I'm very glad this story was posted. This was one of the most terrible maulings in the country. It is very important to note again and again these dogs had not been abused. These dogs lived with a decent family. Nick had played with the dogs. Not all pit bulls who maul were mistreated. There is such a thing called genetic material. Good luck Nick, you're a strong brave fella that many people care about.
| 2/02/2009 5:37 AM |
Neutered and from a loving family...
I think we can call this a level 6 beserk-a-mauling. Frankly, if it takes a "a slug-firing shotgun and a CAR-15 assault rifle" to stop these dogs...
This attack sent 6 people into ER.
| 2/02/2009 5:42 AM |
Yep, it certainly would have gone Level 6 (fatal) without the neighborhood and law enforcement intervening.
How many times do we see intervententions stop a Level 6 with this breed? Despite being reglated in over 200 communities, there were 420 of them shot last year!
| 2/02/2009 11:52 AM |
The dogs may not have been chained outside and treated like lawn ornaments but "loving family"?
Bluto wanted these dogs for a reason.
The links are dead but I have the stories:
Pit Bull Owner Turns Himself In On Drug Charges
(CBS) The owner of two pit bulls that mauled two children in McHenry County earlier this month has turned himself in to police on marijuana charges.
County Sheriff's police say Scott Sword of Cary surrendered to them Friday to face felony and misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and production.
He's since posted bond and has been released.
Police say they found marijuana in and around Sword's home during investigations into the dog attacks.
| 2/02/2009 3:03 PM |
Father Of Pit Bull Victim Shocked By New Charges
Pit Bull Owner Turns Himself In On Drug Charges
Pot may have been a reason for him to have the dogs, but Sword doesn't sound like an abusive owner either. A stranger gave Sword the original dog (Good Girl), and it seems he only mated her one time. Sword also took Petey to obedience class (and tried to attend private training). He had the dog neutered too. I think Sword cared about his dogs.
The Enduring Agony of a Pit Bull Rampage
Sword lived one street away from the Foleys, on Hawthorne Drive, in a shoebox of a house that seemed barely large enough for him, let alone his partner, Cathy Doyle, their son and daughter and a pit bull named Good Girl.
Sword got the dog eight years earlier, when a stranger entered his bar and offered him a puppy. The 8-week-old with a rust-colored coat was no purebred--it was later determined that she was a mix, perhaps with a splash of the Italian hunting breed Cane Corso in her background--but she was adorable. Sword and Doyle had no reservations about taking her into their home.
Always looking to pick up extra money, Sword eventually mated Good Girl with a neighbor's pit bull across the street. She had seven floppy-eared puppies, and Sword and Doyle sold five for about $90 each. They kept two white-coated pups for their kids, naming the female Stella and the male Petey, after "The Little Rascals" mascot he so strongly resembled.
Nick loved the dogs' frenzied energy. He and Max would play with them, coaxing them to leap up and snatch sticks the boys dangled in the air. The puppies even came to follow Nick's commands, meekly accepting a tap on the nose and a stern "No" when they tried to seize his Popsicle.
Nick's parents knew of pit bulls' reputation for violence and were nervous about Nick playing with them. But they accepted his reassurances that the dogs were well behaved. What they didn't know, what Nick didn't know, was that Petey was developing a temper as he grew. He was barking and snapping at strangers, behavior that continued even after he was neutered.
In October, when Petey was a year old and a solid 75 pounds, a trainer dismissed him from obedience school, saying he was too volatile for a group lesson. Doyle brought him back for a private session, but the trainer, believing Petey was showing aggressive tendencies, refused to take the leash. Doyle vowed to the trainer that if Petey didn't improve, she would have the dog destroyed.
One week later, Petey embarks on the mauling of the decade.
It seems the greatest mistake Sword and Doyle made was not putting Petey down immediately.
[The Chicago piece also notes that: "Sword knew nothing about Good Girl's background or that of the pit bull that fathered Petey and Stella. But aside from Petey's occasional belligerence, Sword had never seen any problems."]
| 2/02/2009 3:32 PM |
Chicago Tribune -- 'It was fight of our lives': Pit bull owner details horror of Nov. attack.
"Seconds after two neighborhood children selling Girl Scout candy rapped on the door, three pit bulls sleeping on a couch inside Scott Sword's house went crazy, barking madly as they charged outside, Sword said Wednesday. Two dogs bolted through the open door, but Sword tackled the third dog, a 100-pounder who nearly severed his thumb. The dog dragged him out the door on his abdomen, he said. Thirty minutes of terror followed as the frenzied dogs repeatedly charged across the neighborhood, mauling four adults and the two children.
"It went from all is quiet to all hell breaking loose," Sword said Wednesday in a tearful account of the attacks near Cary on Nov. 5. "I am sorry I interrupted their lives over all of this because of the dogs," he said. Sword spoke outside court after he agreed to pay the maximum $50 fine on each of three petty violations for failing to control his dogs. He also pleaded guilty in McHenry County Circuit Court to felony possession of drugs. After the attacks, police found more than 30 grams of marijuana in his garage.
Sword, 41, of the 6700 block of Hawthorne Drive, was sentenced to 2 years of probation and 30 hours of community service and fined $500 on the drug charge. No drugs or alcohol were found in Sword's blood or in the dogs, which police shot and killed that night. The parents of Nick Foley, 10, who was hospitalized for six weeks because of the dog attack, said they felt some closure Wednesday but their fight to change laws to try to prevent other attacks is far from over. "The real sad thing is that there could be this level of destruction and personal injury and the fine is $50," said Nick's father, Brooks Foley..."
| 6/16/2009 2:39 PM |
There are 100s of wonderful breeds of family dogs, and mutts at shelters who need love. People do not need to breed pit bulls! We should legislate to stop the breeding of these dangerous animals.
In Colorado, it is illegal in nearly every county to own them. They are just too volatile and cause too much damage.
Nick, you are a brave man. I like your "shark attack" answer. Remember: chicks dig scars! My Aunt Marilyn sent me this story. I think you know her.
| 6/16/2009 7:43 PM |
To the Foley Family-I hope you remember me-I am Marilyn Nestor-I have written several letters to you in the past-even sent you pictures of my daughters-JoAnne-who was called to Heaven nearly 6 years ago-and Christine-who will be 40 next month. My niece wrote the previous letter to you-as I shared your story with her-she even mentioned my name. I want you to know how very courageous you all are. And, after reading your blog-I know Nicks' scars are much deeper than anyone could know. He could never have made it this far without the love of his wonderful family. I continue to pray for all of you. God Bless you. Remember-people do care about you and are praying for you. Give Nick a big hug for me and I will write to you soon. God be with you all. I think I had told you that my Mom passed away some months ago. She was very ill-and we did not celebrate Christmas this past year-that is why I didn't send a card-it was a very difficult time for me-but, I shall not forget you, again.I feel very deeply about the pain you have gone through and how well you have done-rebuilding your lives. You are very special people.
| 12/16/2009 1:59 PM |
i used to live 2 streets down from there and i wasnt home that day. i told many people that if i was there i would have died for nick. the day before that happened i was teaching nick how to skateboard. i regret not being there.