About 4 o’ clock last Wednesday afternoon, Bridget Kuhar and her dog, Otis, set out for a walk near Bartlett Regional Hospital. Kuhar is a yoga teacher and musician. Her husband and bandmate, George, was playing music that afternoon at Wildflower Court nursing home. Kuhar had just brought him his guitar.
“The dog hadn’t really been for a walk that day. So I was going to walk from Wildflower Court down to Twin Lakes and back and go home,” Kuhar says.
It was a clear, cold day, and the sun was beginning to set.
Otis is an 11-year-old black mutt. He was on a leash and walking with Kuhar on the sidewalk near the intersection of Salmon Creek Lane and Hospital Drive. Kuhar says she noticed three dogs across the street, behind some sort of gate or fence. The next thing she knew they were running toward her.
“It happened very fast,” she says. “You know, I was just trying to figure out what to do if they did come over, because I knew they were going to attack my dog. They just had that posture about them.”
Kuhar says her first instinct was to turn away. She and Otis stepped off the sidewalk, but the other dogs were already on top of them.
“I started screaming and I wanted to stay on my feet,” Kuhar recalls. “I tried to stay on my feet to use my legs to kick and punch the dogs. Two of them went for his head and one went for his back.”
She says they all ended up in a ditch on the side of the road, rolling around in the snow. All three of the other dogs were pit bulls. Their owner was the first to arrive to help, but there was little either of them could do. Kuhar says she tried to protect Otis as best she could.
“I was fighting two dogs on his head. I was losing for sure,” she says. “There wasn’t really any fighting I was doing. It was like hitting cinder blocks.”
By this point a few people in cars were stopping to try and help. One of them was Dr. Lindy Jones, a physician at nearby Valley Medical Center.
“Initially I was very overwhelmed at the viciousness of this whole scene,” Jones says. “Particularly how these dogs were just trying to rip the dog apart.”
Eventually, Jones was able to help Kuhar get the two dogs off of Otis’ head. The owner of the pit bulls was able to get the third dog to release as well. Kuhar, Jones and Otis all ran to Jones’ car.
“I took her up to my clinic,” Jones says. “She was bleeding from her hand, the dog was bleeding from multiple puncture wounds. Yeah, it was definite carnage.”
Kuhar went to the Emergency Room at Bartlett, where she was treated for bite wounds to her right hand and forearm. Otis spent the night at the vets, but was able to come home the next day.
“He’s really chewed up, but there’s no major damage to his internal organs,” Kuhar says. “He had a pretty serious wound to his front leg, there was some bone exposed, and there was some tearing of his shoulder. So I think they got a little bite and a tear on his shoulder, so he has, like, a drain in his shoulder to keep the fluid from building up.”
Juneau Animal Control cited the owners of the pit bulls for the incident, but declined to identify them.
Kuhar says she doesn’t know who the owners are, but says they agreed to pay her medical bills and Otis’ vet bill.
She says she’s thankful to the owner who helped pull one of the dogs off Otis, and to Jones for his heroics.
“Certainly without Lindy interfering my dog would be dead,” she says. “I might be dead too.”
Kuhar says she doesn’t want to get involved in the debate over whether pit bulls are dangerous.
Jones says he hadn’t thought much about the issue before the event. Now, he says, it certainly has shaped his opinion.
“A responsible pet owner should consider whether or not it is appropriate to have three potentially vicious dogs by themselves,” he says. “Because I think the ability of one individual to control three vicious dogs like this is nearly impossible, as we experienced here. I mean, the guy who owned them could not even control one of them.”
Gastineau Humane Society Executive Director Chava Lee says the pit bulls’ owners will have to meet certain requirements for public safety. That includes signs on their property warning of the dogs’ dangerous status, special collars, leashes and muzzles, as well as possibly having to get the animals fixed.
Animal Control is also investigating a separate dog on dog attack on Thanksgiving, which resulted in the death of the dog that was attacked.