Dog Attack – It’s Every Parent’s Nightmare

Sophie Martinez (center) with (left to right) Dr. Sam Khoury, M.D., Rowyn Graves, R.N., and Peter Zopfi, D.O.

The stray dog Shasta Moxley’s nephew brought home one afternoon last September seemed kind and friendly. The 18-year-old planned to keep the playful pit bull as a pet and it romped in the Fairfield family’s yard.

Then the dog began chewing a Hello Kitty toy and Shasta’s 5-year-old daughter, Sophie Martinez, instinctively reached to reclaim her favorite toy. In a flash the dog was upon her, latching onto her head and biting fiercely. Sophie screamed and blood was everywhere.

“The dog had Sophie’s head in its mouth and my husband and I had to beat it to free her,” Shasta remembers.

After the attack, Sophie floated in and out of consciousness, her head bloody and torn, her eye gashed open.

“We were in a panic and didn’t think to call 9-1-1. We just grabbed her and ran to the car and headed to NorthBay Medical Center,” she says.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite. Most of the victims are children, and most of them are bitten on the face.

The Emergency Department’s staff rushed the young girl into a trauma room, where it was determined that Sophie would need immediate surgery to close her wounds, according to Heather Venezio, R.N., trauma program director. Plastic surgeon Sam Khoury, M.D., was called in to handle the delicate facial repairs.

To the relief of her parents, Sophie’s eye was not damaged in the attack. “She had stitches in her eyelid and the doctor said she’s very lucky,” Shasta adds.

“She took everything in stride—the treatment, the stitches, the staples—everything until the rabies shot, which I understand is very painful. Sophie’s reaction to the needle in her hip was to swing at it so hard that the thin shaft bent and the nurses had to start over with a new dose.”

The accident happened two weeks before school started and Sophie took a lot of teasing from the other children, her mom says.

Today, the David Weir Elementary School kindergartener is doing well in school, but she’s been left with a lasting fear of big dogs.

How to Prevent a Dog Bite

How to Prevent a Dog BiteEach year approximately 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs, with about 800,000 seeking medical treatment. Although most dog bite attacks are not provoked, there are several measures that adults and children can take to decrease the possibility of being bitten.

Here are some tips:

  • Remain calm when you feel threatened by a dog.
  • Never tease or startle a dog.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog or scream in the presence of a dog.
  • Stand still and avoid eye contact if approached by a dog.
  • If knocked down, roll into a ball and freeze in place.
  • Children should never play with a dog without an adult present.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting it first sniff you.

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