DogsBite.org - Justin Kowalczy, 22- years old, was violently attacked by his cousin's pit bull. The attacked occurred in 2006. In his letter to DogsBite.org, Justin describes the attack, his time being hospitalized and what happened to his relationships after the attack. His letter also talks about the experience of living his life beyond the attack. Part of what is missing in the pit bull conversation is the voice of what living in the aftermath of violence truly means.
Justin sustained severe facial injuries in the attack. Please do not let the nature of his injuries overwhelm you. This is the very violence that we need to talk about with our families, friends and policymakers. If we are afraid to talk about the devastating impact of these injuries, these attacks will only continue. Violence can only prosper in silence. It is up to us to break this silence. At times, this will demand that we squarely confront pit bull injury.
On December 9th 2006 I was at the home I had been living at for the past two months. I had moved in with my cousin, his friend, and one of my friends from back home in Cleveland. My cousin had a Pit that he had found wandering the streets in San Diego and decided to take home as a pet. The dog seemed mild mannered, not even growling if you took his bone out from his mouth. However on the night in question my roommates were getting ready to go to the bars for my cousin Joe's birthday. Being only 20 I wasn't able to go with them but I was hanging out around the house as they got ready. Friends of his started to arrive and the night was off to a normal start.
However, as soon as my cousin's friend Rob walked in the door the dog began to growl. He didn't go after Rob, but he continued to growl even after Rob and most of the guests had retired to the back porch to smoke. Left inside were me, and another friend named Nicola. With the dog growling for a long period of time still Nicola felt uneasy and decided to head outside with the others. When she did so It sounded like she had left the door open, as I heard Rob's voice louder and saw the dog sit up a bit higher on the couch next to me and growl a bit more. I decided to go check to make sure the door was shut. Unfortunately that required walking past the dog. As I went past he lunged at my face, and instinctively I started punching until he was off. I thought he had released, realized later on he had just torn the part of my face he had grabbed off. I ran outside seeking help.
I spent what seemed like an eternity in the hospital, although it was only really about 10 days. What made me sick was that my cousin, the same cousin who's dog was responsible for this accident, did not come see me for almost a week. Not a call, not a visit, nothing. What disturbed me even more was when i found out from family members that I was the third family member this dog had bit, and it had never been put down.
The first month after the accident people were going out of their way to make sure I was OK, but after that it seemed like I had become a nuisance. I started having to walk and take the bus to doctors appointments. Started having to walk to the store to get my groceries. I also began to realize how permanent my accident truly was. I knew I would never look the same again, and that sent me spiraling into a deep depression. I am still trying to work my way out of it. Luckily I was told to contact a lawyer, and found out I have a strong case. My medical bills are at $90,000 as of right now, with me still needing two more surgeries. Luckily in Arizona, where the accident took place, they have a government paid for medical program for low income people who have a severe accident. They are only asking for 10% of my total medical cost back after my lawsuit.
Recent Justin Recovery Photos | Click to enlarge
I wish I could say my story has a happy ending, however it hasn't gotten any easier. Almost two years later I still can't sleep right. Still hate looking in the mirror. I have learned not to get overly angry anymore with people staring, although it's not something you ever get used to. I have zero self-confidence, and am unable to find a real job. I work at most 10 hours a week for $7.25 an hour. I have no health insurance, so seeing a psychologist has been an unaffordable expense, one I desperately need however. My family is split; I basically lost contact with most of my dad's side of the family. Which is hard because they had always been real close to me, especially with my dad having died when I was young. I lost most of my friends, and have all but given up on finding a woman who will accept me how I am physically. I'm sure there's a light at the end of this tunnel, however the way its feeling right now it wouldn't surprise me if that light was attatched to a train."
Justin's voice, experience, and life is profound. That he has been willing to share his story is even more profound. Please join the FaceBook community if you would like to meet Justin.
09/30/08: Facebook Group: The Pit Bull Regulation Project
09/26/08: 19-Year Old Attacked After Two Pit Bulls Break Constraint
04/29/08: Tonya Potter: "I Can't Look at Myself in the Mirror"