Dustin Guess was working outside on a hog fence Thursday morning, he says, when two pit bulls began their attack.
But the two adult dogs — one male and one female — weren’t going after the man from West Fork, Arkansas. Instead, they were targeting Guess’ 4-year-old son, Matthew, according to Fox6. The female pit bull sunk its teeth into Matthew’s legs and started to drag him, police say, while the male dog attacked the toddler’s face.
Guess told KNWA that he started to sprint toward his son with the hopes of separating him from the two vicious dogs. It’s a memory that still haunts him, he said.
“He said daddy, they had my face,” he said. “I couldn’t win.”
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First responders rushed Matthew to Washington Regional Medical Center, and then to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where he is being treated for severe damage to his legs and face, ArkansasOnline reported. He’s also expected to undergo facial reconstruction surgery and therapy as a part of his healing process.
Only one of the two pit bulls had the required rabies shot, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. The owner of the dogs faces a citation for violating the Rabies Control Act. Police say they deemed both pit bulls as “dangerous.”
One dog has since been euthanized, police told KNWA, and the other will return to its owner.
Police say they named Matthew an honorary deputy sheriff for his bravery throughout the scary ordeal, writing on Facebook that “We’re so proud of our newest deputy sheriff!”
“Matthew, you are showing all of us what strong and brave really means!”
Guess agreed with the police, telling Fox6 that his 4-year-old boy is “the bravest, strongest human I have ever met.” But the Arkansas father said he’s still struggling with “the darkness, the loneliness, the despair and the fear and the anger” while his son recovers.
“I mean it’s every emotion at the highest level,” he told KNWA. “I still have his cowboy boots that have pieces of my son’s face on them that fell off when I picked him up.”
A GoFundMe page created to cover the boy’s hospital expenses has so far amassed almost $8,000. It said that Matthew will be undergoing “many more” surgeries as he moves past the frightening canine assault.
But that doesn’t mean the boy is in sour spirits.
“He still has that grin,” his father told KNWA. “It’s not gone, and it still works.”
As debate continues over the safety of pit bulls, some states and cities have passed legislation that aims to cut down on ownership of the breed. The Huffington Post wrote of a project called BSL Census — short for breed-specific legislation — which uses a map to display the laws targeting certain canine breeds across the U.S.
A 2009 study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 51 percent of injures from dog bites came from pit bulls. Researchers examined five years of information from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, determining that the breed accounted for about half of all injuries caused by dogs in the data they examined.
In December, a 22-year-old from Goochland, Virginia, died after police say her two pit bulls mauled her to death while she took them for a walk. It took eight hours for deputies to collect over 60 pieces of evidence spread across the bloodied scene, including pieces of clothing.
And in March, a pit bull, unrestrained by a leash, began to attack a 57-year-old grandmother as she used her body to shield her grandchildren on a New York City playground, police say. It bit off one of her ears.
There have been incidents of pit bulls acting heroically, too.
Baby Girl, a pit bull, attacked an unidentified robber’s legs after he broke into her family’s house in Lincoln, Nebraska, and chased 9-year-old Shane, who was home alone. The would-be burglar fled the house shortly after the dog attacked him, police say.
“It was in a blink of an eye and I was really scared,” the fourth-grader told a local TV station. “Because, it was only me home and I didn’t know who it was and the only protection I had was my dogs.”