Jan Stiles has puncture wounds and bruises on her arms, legs and ribs. Her entire body is sore. But the most painful effect of the dog attack she and her dog, Charlie, endured earlier this week is the fear.
“I am not sleeping; I am kind of obsessing. There is just a loop going on in my head of the whole attack,” Stiles said. “I really thought we were going to die.”
The 67-year-old was on her morning walk in her Ceres neighborhood Tuesday with Charlie, a 7-pound Yorkie, when the attack occurred.
She saw an animal control officer driving through the neighborhood but didn’t think much of it. She learned later the officer was looking for a loose dog.
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When she turned onto Bordeaux Drive from Colombard Way, Stiles said, two dogs charged her.
They went straight for Charlie but Stiles picked him up by his leash and held him over her head.
That’s when one of the dogs – a 50-pound, female pit bull mix – jumped and bit Stiles under her armpit, the force knocking her to the ground.
Stiles said she started screaming for help, scaring the other dog away, but the pit bull mix continued its attack on Charlie and bit Stiles in the process as she tried to shield Charlie under her legs.
A woman who lives in the neighborhood ran to help her.
“She was barefoot – she was vulnerable, too. She was a complete stranger but she came to my aid,” Stiles said. “I really feel like she saved me.”
The woman stomped her feet and yelled at the dog, which didn’t scare it away but distracted it. As the woman was calling 911, Stiles said, the dog turned its attention back on her and Charlie but then another neighbor came over and the dog ran off.
Animal control officers arrived on scene and chased the pit bull mix into its backyard through a gap in the fence from which it likely escaped. They secured the gap with a large piece of concrete.
Stiles was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, and Charlie was taken to the vet.
Charlie suffered lacerations, puncture wounds and bruises. His veterinarian bill, she said, was $600. Stiles doesn’t know what her bill will amount to, but she knows a trip in an ambulance won’t be cheap.
Stiles’ twice-daily walks with Charlie have come to a halt.
She said she doesn’t feel safe taking Charlie for a walk alone. She’d planned to go with her husband, David, on Thursday morning but Charlie was too scared.
“Usually he is chomping at the bit to go for his walk, but he wouldn’t leave the garage,” she said. “He curled up in a ball and was trembling.”
The dog that attacked them is being held on a 10-day quarantine but ultimately will be returned to its owner, who could face fines because the dog was loose and wasn’t licensed, said Annette Patton, director of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency.
Patton said this was the dog’s first recorded attack and the the injuries to Stiles and Charlie were not severe enough to warrant euthanasia.
“That’s a crime,” Stiles said. “We don’t feel safe in our own neighborhood.”
She and her husband want the dog put down and the owner held accountable by paying for her and Charlie’s medical bills.
Attempts by The Modesto Bee to reach the dog’s owner were not successful Thursday.
Stiles said she worries about other elderly people in her neighborhood who walk their small dogs, such as one woman in her 80s. She said the woman bought bear spray to protect herself but accidentally sprayed herself in the face with it.
Stiles said she has bought pepper spray in the past, but said she has tested it and it’s not always reliable. She didn’t have any with her Tuesday, but said she didn’t think she would have had time to get it out by the time the dogs were on top of her and Charlie.
“This is not the Wild West; we should not have to arm ourselves to walk in our neighborhood,” David said.