We’ve heard the saying a million times: “Dogs are man’s best friend.” In most cases this holds true. The majority of dogs are friendly, loving creatures who enjoy playing fetch and receiving a good petting. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be careful around them, especially when small children are involved.
Unfortunately, Emily Richardson and her daughter Evy learned this lesson the hard way.
During the Easter holidays, Emily took Evy to her grandmother’s house. Although her grandfather had died the previous year, her family wanted to continue the tradition of having an Easter egg hunt. Everyone was looking forward to having some fun — no one could have foreseen the tragedy that was soon to strike.
At the time, Evy was two years old and didn’t need much help with the Easter egg hunt. Taking her basket she went off into the yard to collect eggs while her family watched and took pictures of the happy, smiling child. As she toured around the yard she came to the cage where her uncle’s dog was locked up. She began to talk to the animal thinking that it was just a cute and cuddly pet. Evy’s mother saw her daughter near the cage but thought nothing of it.
But then Evy let out a scream and when her mother looked over she saw that she was covered in blood. Somehow the dog had managed to stick its snout through the cage and bite the young girl’s face.
Emily rushed her daughter to the nearest hospital which was a 20-minute drive away. When they got there, the doctor could see that the bite had torn Evy’s cheek wide open. The wound required 20 stitches and Evy would have to undergo plastic surgery to reconstruct the damage to her cheek.
A year after the accident, Evy had fully recovered but she still had to be careful about exposing her face to the sun. Life went back to normal and Evy’s parents assumed that it had simply been an isolated incident, a freak accident that wouldn’t happen again. So when they decided to move and needed time to pack and organize their things, they took Evy to stay with her grandmother for a few days. But as fate would have it, during her stay with her grandmother, her parents received a panicked phone call.
Grandma told them that Evy had been playing in the yard near the cage where Evy’s uncle still had the dog locked up. Once again the little girl had trusted the animal, and once again that had proved to be a big mistake. The dog bit her again and this time it was even more serious: “My daughter had a disfigured face, blood coming from one eye and cheek, and her face muscles exposed, it looked like a horror movie,” Emily recalled.
The injuries were so serious that they had to move Evy to a special children’s hospital. “I rode in the ambulance with my sedated child, face torn to pieces, bloody and bruised and just cried. How could this have happened? I felt like a failure of a mother,” confessed Emily.
Fortunately, in the children’s hospital there were surgical specialists for children who have suffered accidents or burns. Evy soon recovered and was released, but she had a long way to go. Not long after she got home the wound became infected and the poor little girl had to spend another three days in the hospital.
In total, Evy underwent four operations. After she woke up after each operation she asked the nurse the same question: “Am I still a princess?” And every time she received the same answer: “We make sure she knows she’s a princess, the bravest we know,” said Emily proudly.
For months afterward the family still had to deal with the psychological aftermath of the attack. Evy could not sleep at night; she woke up constantly screaming in terror. She was affected by a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder for which she needed therapy. But she has made progress with her recovery and everyone is optimistic that she will be able to put these horrible experiences behind her and lead a normal life.
The dog was put in quarantine and observed for 10 days to see if it exhibited any violent behavior. The authorities found no indication that the dog was abnormally aggressive and returned it to Evy’s uncle, who had to pay a fine and put up a “Beware of Dog” sign to warn people.
The lesson here is that it is never a good idea to leave small children alone with dogs that are unfamiliar with them. Animals can often be frightened by children when they move too fast, are too loud, or poke or prod at the animal out of curiosity. The animal’s reaction may seem aggressive, but is usually just its way of defending itself against a perceived threat. We wish Evy a speedy and full recovery and hope that her story will help to prevent other children from suffering such nightmarish experiences.