A Pit Bull, a Puppy, and a Producer: PTSD and an invitation to Judge Judy

(Note:  This post portrays a true, violent incident. If you’re not in a place to read this, please don’t.)

I’ve always loved dogs. That includes pit bulls, rottweilers and every other canine creature.

I’ve had several of “man’s (and Women’s) best friends” over the years. At one time I had a sweet Rottweiler. I knew she was a marshmallow, sweeter than a Starbucks mocha. On our daily walks, people crossed to the other side of the street when they noticed Daphne.

However, one day, as I held my nine-month- old nephew in my arms, a storm of jealousy consumed Daphne.

She lunged at my nephew, teeth bared. If I hadn’t sprung off the couch, holding Tim in the air, he wouldn’t be around today.

I only write that to illustrate I understand the power of instinct in an animal, and that I’ve never been biased against any breeds.

If I hadn’t explained that, I would receive droves of comments from people who know the “nicest pit bull on the planet.” Yes, that may be the case. However…

Never underestimate the power of instinct.

  •          *.          *

Golden streams of sunlight sparkled with promise on the Puget Sound waterfront that Friday.  The day gleamed with the expectations that Memorial Weekend, 2016 would be memorable. Mount Rainier showed off her majesty, exposing glittery, snow-capped peaks that towered into the picture-perfect blue sky.

I couldn’t wait to drive onto the  Edmonds ferry. Just a 35 minute sail, but the ride always seemed to take me from the hustle bustle of the Seattle area to the slow-paced Washington peninsula. Few cars, lots of trees, the majestic Olympic Mountains, seals, sea stars, eagles, deer and sometimes elk.

Sadie, my 5-month golden doodle puppy rested in the back seat. Squiggly, wiggly and as full of life as any puppy. Since the ferry wouldn’t load for 45 minutes, I hooked Sadie onto her leash and we walked a short way to the designated pet potty area.

Sadie sniffed in search of the “perfect potty spot.” After all, a dog can’t just go anywhere, right?!

A 2-year-old child smiled gleefully, toddling along as he held the hand of his father. My heart warmed at the sight.

In the blink of an eye, a white pit bull raced toward us. The attack happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think.

I heard the voice of a young man yell, “(Dog), COME!”

To no avail.

“GET CONTROL OF YOUR DOG!” I yelled.

The screams of Sadie pierced my soul in such pain, I will never forget. “Dog” straddled my puppy’s body, growling and showing his fangs. I knelt down, about 6 inches from the pit.

A young woman chased after Dog, yelling “STOP!” and attempting to grab his collar.

He wasn’t on a leash.

Dog pierced my baby’s flesh with his teeth, straddling her little body.

The young woman continued to yell and attempt to grab Dog. At the same time, Sadie yelped piercingly.

After what felt like an eternity, the girl latched successfully onto the pit bull’s collar.

I sighed with a great sense of relief, tears of terror, rage and sadness storming through my tear ducts.

In a millisecond,  Dog broke loose and continued the hair-raising attack. The whole thing happened so fast. I knew I had mace in my large handbag over my shoulder, but was afraid to take my eye off the pit to locate it.

Any other type of dog I would have intervened in the attack, but I was trying to sort through my mind whether or not it would be wise to get involved. 

I’d heard for years that when a pit bull snatches his prey, his jaws sort of “lock” and the prey cannot be released. (Later, I researched this and learned their jaws don’t lock, but they violently shake the prey until it dies.)

I’d also heard that if a person enters into a dog attack with a pit, she or he will be mangled.

The young woman finally grabbed him. This time, successfully.

I was in shock.

I sobbed and sobbed, shaking uncontrollably into a heap as I held onto sweet Sadie.

A stranger finally approached us, and helped me look over Sadie.

Nobody had dared to enter the scene until the pit was successfully restrained. 

Sadie had a gash under her eye, and several puncture wounds from the pit bull’s teeth.

I cradled my sweetie and still couldn’t stop sobbing.

The young woman didn’t apologize. 

“I want your name, address and phone number,” I said. She reached into my bag and found a pen. She didn’t ask for it, just stuck her hand in my bag and grabbed it. She wrote something down, which I couldn’t see through the tear-stained glasses.

I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture of the woman. My fear was that she would provide a false name, and I would have no proof of who she is.

“Did you just take my picture?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“I’m not comfortable with that,” she responded.

“Well, you should have thought of that before you let your dog get out of control.”

Eventually we parted, and I later called the police. Unfortunately I was in such shock previously that I couldn’t think clearly.

One of my best friends drove Sadie and I to the vet. The vet took her in the back to clean her wounds. My sweet puppy yelped at the top of her lungs.

The vet provided anti-inflammatory medication and anti-anxiety medication for Sadie.

I’d spoken to the Animal Control Officer in Edmonds, WA. She fined the girl $250 and put the dog on a “potentially dangerous” list. If the dog is known to attack again, he has to be put down.

I can’t believe it. “Potentially Dangerous”? They get one more chance before making the “Dangerous” list. ?!?!?!

I completed a police report, filed it and spoken to several officers. I have learned so much through this process, and have learned about the court system.

The young woman continues to evade me. I’ve used every web site possible to locate her, but she is a college student and isn’t living at the location of her driver’s license address.

I’ve spent money on vet charges, and had PTSD (SEE MY OTHER BLOG POSTS ON PTSD.) 

Every time I saw a child, an old person, a pregnant or weak person, I would break into tears.

I screamed and cried at the top of my lungs when I looked at the white door of my therapist’s office. The color triggered an instant replay in my head.

Visions of the attack replayed all day, every day in my mind. I’d wake up throughout the night with visions of the pit bull’s teeth.

The first image in my brain every morning was a replay of the scene.

Every time I saw a person smile, I was “triggered.” This would create a re-experiencing of the attack in my mind.

Every time I saw a dog, the scene replayed in my mind.

I had nightmares about the event every night, for several weeks.

I cried and cried at various times of the day as the attack haunted me.

There were triggers all over, between all the smiling people (teeth), weak, young, older people and the color white (pit bull was white), which instantly brought the pit onto my thought stream.

I had to leave a meeting once because kids played outside on a squeaky swing set. It was very noisy, and each time the loud piercing squeak brought Sadie’s screeching in pain to my mind’s eye. Instant replay. Again.

Everywhere I went, triggers created instant replays, which turned on the tear floodgates.

The ferry terminal area had always felt very safe to me. After the attack, I started feeling unsafe and hyper vigilant in places that had always felt safe. Stores and areas where I’d never felt fear became triggers. I’d unconsciously feel something might come out of nowhere.

Thankfully, I received 3 treatments of EMDR therapy and, then was able to return to a pretty normal level of functioning. I could probably use one more, but haven’t scheduled it yet.

Sadie is doing well. For other reasons, we had to re-home her. She went to a wonderful couple and is very happy in her new home.

The vet bills and therapy together cost just under $2000.00. 

I’ve received no apology, and not a penny from the young woman.

I’m not going to spend more attorney fees to locate her. I’ve contacted her dad through Facebook, to no avail.

The woman was on a college sports team in 2016. I wish I would have had her legally “served” after a game. But at that point, I was still working through the trauma.

I contacted her coach via email, and her coach responded that she was very sorry about the incident, but that the girl parted with the team and she’s not seen her since.

In January, our small claims court date came and went. The woman didn’t show up.

I’ve texted the dog’s owner some professionally written texts to inform her of the bills. She is still hiding out.

The day after the small claims court, I received an overnight express letter from Judge Judy’s producer. She invited me to be a part of the show about this ordeal.

However, the dog owner has to agree. She has not responded.

Even so, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with Judge Judy’s producer.

I still love dogs.

It’s not the dog’s fault that this happened. 

One more thing. Before you say to someone who has experienced a traumatic event, don’t say, “I would have done_____________.”

You can talk all you want about what you would do if you experience any particular situation such as this.

However, you don’t really know exactly what you would do until it happens to you.

Let’s just hope it never comes to that.

Believe it or not, I found the Judge Judy invitation validating.

I am so grateful that Sadie has recovered, and that I have recovered. I’m sad that the dog’s owner never paid a dime, but don’t want to spend more time and money tracking her down.

I know you’re out there, and I truly wish you the best.~

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