Martha: I would like to tell you about a day in May, 2011, when my great nephew Lukas was attacked by the family pet, a pit bull. From the outset, our family faced the same dilemma as other families that have a pit bull as a pet. We were conflicted about the issue of safety especially around our children. Half of the family asked, “Why in the world you would have a pit around your kids?” and the rest saying it would never hurt the kids. Pit Bulls are “nanny dogs,” right? The kids played with the pit bull and had been raised with him so it seemed he wasn’t a danger. When you are wrong about that there is no going back and changing it.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Lukas had turned three in March and weighed 26 pounds. He was such a bright, spirited child and we loved him. On this birthday, we had no idea that life was about to take a serious turn for our family. Looking back we realize what was about to happen would cause us to change how we viewed many things that we took at face value.
May 6th was a gray, cool day and I was sitting at my computer when my mother came running in and screaming that somebody had been hurt. I quickly went outside to our front porch and found my nephew running up the road with his little boy in his arms screaming, “The dog has killed my baby!” His two‑year‑old daughter was chasing behind them. I took Lukas into my arms and his father fell to the floor crying, “It killed my baby.” He was cold and his little lips were blue and the dirt was mixed with the baby’s blood. His forehead and half of his scalp had been ripped off and his eyes looked like they were completely gone, his ears were ripped loose and he was critically, if not mortally, injured.
“PTSD is a whole‑body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with
massive repercussions.” – Susan Pease Bannitt
I had been a nursing assistant for several years and I had been through the Red Cross First Aid Classes. If someone has a heart attack I know how to do CPR. If you break your arm or leg I know how to put a splint on. I quickly assessed his condition. Lukas had been mauled far beyond anything basic first aid could help with. To my amazement, there was a tiny gasp that was like a cry that couldn’t get out. At that time, all I could to do was wrap him in a blanket to try and keep him from going into shock and try to keep him awake and alert. I held him tightly against me and kept talking to him and then his tiny little voice said, “I here.” I silently thanked God.
I continued to talk to Lukas but all he could say was, “I here.” We live in a small rural community and it can take EMS awhile to reach us sometimes. Everybody knows each other and it was very hard on the 911 dispatcher to know we had a child that was going to die in our arms and not be able to get anybody to use any faster. When the first responders with the rescue squad arrived, they never tried to take him out of my arms. He was at a loss as to how to proceed with our torn child. We had a three‑ year‑old that had his face torn off. The Sheriff’s Department arrived and put us in the squad car and took us to meet the ambulance.
AirEvac got Lukas to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville and he was there for three months. Along with all the injuries you could see, he had a fractured skull and the ligaments in his neck were badly torn. The doctor said that in his experience it looked like that dog had just shaken him like a rag doll.
The doctors at Vanderbilt worked a miracle with him and we are one of the lucky families. We still have our Lukas, but we can never forget it or get over the shock and betrayal we experienced. No one deserves this horror, especially an innocent three‑year‑old baby. There are the people that feel guilty and there are those who place blame and the pain goes deeper. If it were your neighbor’s dog you could blame your neighbor but when it is your dog that attacks your own child there just isn’t anywhere for the grief and regret to go. It eats you alive!
Fast forward to the present, Lukas is now six years old and in the First Grade and we are so very blessed to have such a wonderful, beautiful little boy in our lives. He will have the opportunity to grow up, ride a bicycle and perhaps one day he will have a family of his own. We had to learn the hard way, but we did learn.