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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Dog attack

by Mike Masterson | September 13, 2022 at 4:40 a.m.


This is a column best described as a nightmare followed by a GodNod.

One of little Benji's favorite things to do is walk with Jeanetta. He hops around each morning in anticipation of where they will go. The lake? The fairgrounds (great smells)? Different routes through the neighborhood?

As long as the harness is on and they are headed out the door with that curly tail wagging, he really couldn't care less.

And so it was last Saturday when Jeanetta decided to take a short stroll near the house since a friend from Springfield was coming to visit on his motorcycle within the hour.

A week earlier, just over two blocks from our house, she and Benji had passed a house where an unrestrained, well-muscled, pit-bull-type dog weighing at least four times Benji's 12 pounds, tried to follow them out of his yard.

She told the dog no and to go back home, which it did.

But Saturday, as they strolled past that house, the same dog suddenly rushed from the yard where it had been under the watch of two teenagers and viciously attacked Benji.

It grabbed him in its large jaws and began shaking wildly until Benji's harness came off as it repeatedly clamped its jaws on his body.

Realizing the creature was intent on killing him, Benji began screaming in terror in a way Jeanetta had never heard. A half-dozen neighbors were drawn outside.

But Jeanetta wasn't going to let this dog claim Benji's life if she could could stop it. Within moments, she was down in the street fighting with as much strength as she could summon.

Her shoes came off. She tried using them to stop the savage attack. Yet the mauler wasn't to be denied even as she continually wailed away with her fists.

Meanwhile, the teenagers who had allowed him to go into the street (where they also couldn't stop the dog they quickly claimed was a stray they had only been temporarily keeping and feeding) said if Jeanetta would leave the thing alone it wouldn't continue its attack.

Clearly they didn't know the mind of this dangerous canine under their watch and care for at least a week.

The savaging continued for several minutes as the dog left wounds across Benji's body. It also turned on Jeanetta, biting her face and causing injuries, evidenced by patches of blood smeared across her clothes.

At one point a passerby in a car stopped and began honking in an attempt to distract the savage animal, which also had no effect.

Finally, a male neighbor thankfully intervened and got the creature away. Someone summoned police. Jeanetta overheard a female neighbor say the same dog days earlier had threatened her daughter.

By then, in shock, Jeanetta could quickly see how badly Benji was injured. She feared for his life. But she was blocks from her car parked in the driveway at home and reluctant to carry him.

Now the GodNod part of this story.

At that instant, her friend on the motorcycle came along this particular residential street rather than one of several direct routes he could have chosen to our house. And he was a few minutes early, which put him in the right place at that moment.

He took her keys and returned to the house where he parked in the driveway and brought her car back for Jeanetta and Benji. They headed directly to the Boone County Veterinarian Clinic three miles away.

Along the way, Benji's pain continued as she cradled him, trying to make sense of what had happened. It seemed obvious that one of his front legs likely was broken. She was equally concerned about internal injuries.

Although it was Saturday morning, Dr. Rob Wilkinson agreed to come in.

"I've never experienced anything even close to what happened," she said. "One minute we are on our morning walk and the next I'm down in the street fighting with my fists to save Benji's life and keep the dog away from my face."

Leaving the clinic, they drove back to the house where we began the long wait, fearing the worst. Dr. Wilkinson called to say the X-rays thankfully showed no broken bones, but that he had to reattach Benji's dislocated front leg.

It remains uncertain today if he has sustained damage to his nerves and tendons. He also received stitches and antibiotics for the bite wounds.

Because of his need for sedation and further evaluation, the doctor said he would keep Benji at least one night, which turned into two.

"Now I understand PTSD and just what it is," Jeanetta told me. "All I can hear are Benji's screams and seeing those teeth in my face."

This experience with Jeanetta and the little man I called my canine caregiver in the column published the next day is unacceptable and perhaps the best example for pet restraint laws.

Meanwhile, those adults legally responsible for confining this vicious dog they'd taken in (that also had no rabies tag) received a ticket.

Responsibility for covering Benji's vet bills remains to be seen. I can find no accountability on our part for others' negligence.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.


Print Headline: Dog attack

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