Enduring Life After an Attack
Seattle, WA - The Seattle Times newspaper published an article today that addresses victims of serious dog attacks. The piece focuses on the many hardships victims face immediately following an attack, as well as for the rest of their lives. Too often, after a violent attack makes headlines, the issue disappears in a week and reignites only after the next attack.
The article talks about a victim named Ona Deane-Gordly, 63. She told writer Christine Clarrige that she knew that once she left the hospital and the pain medications and shock wore off, she would be in for some deep hurt. An attacking dog had peeled her scalp from her skull and ripped her teeth and gums from her jaw. More than 70 bites left the skin and muscles of her arms hanging like rags from her bones.
Details of the Attack:
She had been conducting a survey at the Maple Glen Apartments in Mountlake Terrace two years ago when she was attacked by a male pit-bull mix that leapt onto her from a second-story balcony. Deane-Gordly said she fought mightily, but the more blood she lost, the slicker and more uncontrollable the uncollared dog became. "Blood, pieces of hair and flesh were everywhere within an approximate 50-square-foot area," a Mountlake Terrace police officer wrote...
The dog's owner, who was unable to pull the dog off Deane-Gordly, told police that numerous surgeries and months of illness had prevented her from training the dog correctly. When police arrived, some 15 minutes later, the dog was still locked onto Deane-Gordly, according to police reports. An officer tried in vain to get him to relinquish his hold, and ultimately fired a shot that wounded the dog...
Thousands upon thousands of stitches and hundreds of staples were used to piece her back together at the trauma unit of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. What she didn't expect was that the pain would be so bad it would take her more than a year to realize she also had a broken foot, or that permanent nerve damage meant she would never again feel the difference between satin and velvet with her fingertips.
The state Department of Labor and Industries balked at paying for Deane-Gordly's plastic surgery and dental reconstruction. She said they told her, "Why do you want your face fixed if you're not going back to work?" Through her husband's job, however, she was able to obtain reconstructive surgery. Henri Gaboriau, a Sammamish plastic surgeon, who also has a voice in this article, treated Deane-Gordly.
In addition to the physical suffering and scaring, she said that for a long time she couldn't walk outside for fear of dogs, and she made a point of parking near the shopping carts at stores to be sure that dogs couldn't lunge at her through the windows of cars. Other unexpected changes occurred as well. "The truth is," she said, "after something like this, you have an entirely different body." Some of these changes included:
- Extensive nerve damage lightened the overall color of her skin
- Her allergies changed, as did her sense of smell and taste of food
- She found herself eating ketchup and pickles, foods she once despised
Deane-Gordly favors laws that would create stiffer criminal penalties for the owners of dogs that bite. She said, "I know they have to put rapists and murderers in jail, but bad breeders and bad owners need to be there, too." Yet it is only through a combination of criminal and preventative, regulatory laws that we can hope to put an end to these attacks. The recent legislation introduced in Massachusetts is a fine example.
The legislation (House Bill 5092) includes, but is not limited to: mandatory sterilization of dogs 12 months and over; limits the number of reproductive events per female dog to one litter per year, with few exceptions; eliminates the practice of tethering; allows cities and towns to impose breed-specific ordinances and establishes nuisance laws that can result in dogs being sterilized and or removed (prior to an attack).
At the end of the article, Deane-Gordly said, "As a society, we can't afford this kind of danger and mayhem, we can't afford these kinds of injuries. They aren't cheap." Although her attack occurred over two and a half years ago, she has only recently been able to talk about what happened. "It's like having the same nightmare over and over. I can still remember the feel of his teeth," she said. "That kind of thing you never forget."
The owner of the dog that attacked Deane-Gordly was not criminally charged or cited in connection with the attack.
11/09/09: Collection of Pit Bull Scalp Attack Victims - DogsBite.org
06/16/08: Flashback: Amaya Hess 2 Years After Violent Pit Bull Attack
02/21/08: 7 Years After Pit Bull Attack, Victim Speaks Out
12/08/07: The Scars of Angela Silva: The Enduring Effects of a Pit Bull Attack