Friday, May 28, 2010

Painful lesson: Avoid unfamiliar dogs

When Elijah Silva goes back to school next year and his teacher asks him to write an essay on "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," she may get more than she expected. So far, only a few days into it, Elijah has spent his summer vacation in the hospital. Only hours after getting out of school Wednesday, the 10-year-old boy was mauled by a dog and had to undergo surgery on his elbow and his abdomen.
"His basketball went into the neighbor's yard and he went in to get it, the dog attacked," said his aunt, Cindy Reece.
Cindy's father -- Elijah's grandfather -- was to watch him during the day while she was at work now that school is out, she said.
"He was unloading the groceries away when it happened," she said. "It was just minutes after they got there."
Pit bull attacks
According to Elijah, when he went after the ball, the dog was sleeping, but he woke it up. The pit bull was tied to a cinder block and Elijah said he thought he was out of its range.
"It jumped at me and just pulled the block along," he said.
The dog grazed his leg and foot, then bit at his side.
"I punched it in the jaw and its teeth sort of slid into me," Elijah said.
At that point, Elijah was on the ground. He broke free and ran from the dog, only to have it bite his arm, just at the elbow. He punched again and pulled free -- leaving flesh and skin behind.
"It didn't hurt at first," he said. "Then I started running and the air got in it and it was just like somebody was shooting me."
Deep cuts
"There was just a big hole there in his elbow," said Cindy. "They had to irrigate it and pack it and hope it heals from the inside out."
Cindy said the cut on his ribs was initially thought to be minor, just requiring a few stitches, but exploratory surgery revealed it to be more severe, a deep puncture wound that also required packing.
Wednesday night was spent in surgery and Thursday was spent in a hospital bed with his aunt and his cousin, Dre Silva, 14, helping him out as he needed it.
Three concerns
A little groggy from the painkillers, Elijah had three things worrying him. The first was his perfect attendance record.
"We have a tradition of going to get his report card then going out to eat on report card day," said Cindy. "He was worried about that report card.
Not to worry -- his teacher showed up in person with the report card -- and the perfect attendance pin he promptly put on his hospital gown.
His second concern was baseball. A first basemen for the Black & Blue team, he was scheduled to play for the championship Saturday morning. Elijah knew playing was out of the question, but would he even get to go to the game?"
"We're hoping he can sit in the dugout and coach," Cindy said.
The day after his surgery, Elijah's arm was in a cast, but still had some flexibility and all of his fingers wiggled on command.
"The doctor said there was plenty of movement and that was good," said Cindy. Serious ligament and tendon damage may have been avoided, she said.
Elijah's third concern?
"I don't want them to kill the dog," he said. "Keep him alive."
"It wasn't the dog's fault, it wasn't Elijah's fault, it's just nature," said Cindy. "He knew he wasn't supposed to go in the yard, but he did. He's 10."
'Dangerous' animal
Elijah said he had been warned by the people who owned the property that the dog could be dangerous.
"They said if I didn't know him, I should leave him alone,' said Elijah. "I knew him, but it was back when he was a puppy. I guess he forgot me in all that time."
Cindy said she believes the dog is about a year-and-half-old, which does worry her.
"That cinder block -- that's just weight training to a big dog like that," She said. "He's still got some growing to do."
When Shelbyville animal control was called to the scene, Cindy was told the owners were advised to put the dog in the back yard and tie it more securely. According to the police report filed about the attack, the dog was current on its rabies shots and belonged to the brother of the woman who lived there. Cindy just hopes that will be enough for safety's sake.
"I feel terrible about all of this," said Cindy. "I'm not vindictive -- but I am worried about other children. There are lots of little children in that neighborhood. Elijah's a big 10-year-old -- think of what could happen to someone smaller and younger?"
Pet still in future
Elijah doesn't have a dog of his own, but still wants one, despite the attack.
"Maybe a little dog," said his aunt.
"I want a German shepherd," he said.
What he's not sure about is going back to his "Poppy's" house. Even though he doesn't want the dog destroyed, he's nervous about being near it.
"What if it wants more of me?" Elijah asked.
"What are you going to do about it?" Cindy asked.
"Stay in the house," said Elijah. "Stay in Poppy's yard."


* Painful lesson, indeed.
So animal control told the owner to tie the dog in the back yard more securely.
The dog was tied up in the front yard? To a cinder block? Was there a fence? The owner knew the dog was dangerous. Could that possibly be because the dog is tied up all the time? (Statistics show that a chained/tied dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite).
Pit Bulls are not "yard dogs". They need constant attention and lots of exercise. Out of sight, out of mind does not work with a Pit Bull. It's just a tragedy in the making.
If you are not willing to have your dog live in your house with you, then don't get a dog.
And learn from Elijah's lesson. Do not let your children go into anyone's yard, for any reason, without getting the okay from the owner.
You sound like a good kid, Elijah. Stay strong!

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