How Jack Spent the Summer of 2016
The Attack and the Aftermath
I feel the need to apologize in advance for the length of this page. I just could not edit down the past 6 months of Jack's life into a few simple paragraphs.
I guess the TL;DR version would go something like:
'dog was attacked, badly injured, survived, nearly $10K in vet bills, Facebook rallies, good guys buy jewelry to help pay some bills, 6 month court case, some bills left over, auction".
But if you'd like to read the details, make a sandwich, grab a drink and accept my sincere thanks before proceeding.
-- Kathy Johnson
On June 21, 2016 my husband and I took our show-bred greyhounds Jack (UCh CCB DM Union Jack FCh) and Guinevere (UCh Ivywild Caelestis) for an evening walk. The sun had not yet set when we left at 8pm for what we thought would be a simple brisk two mile walk to get the dogs some exercise.
About a mile from our house, we passed by a corner yard that contained two pit bulls. The pit bulls ran up and down the chain link fence, barking and snarling. As we progressed down the fence their sounds and behavior became more aggressive. Every time the dogs jumped against the chain link, the fence bowed out quite a way at the bottom where it was not attached to the fence poles. The dogs tried to get out that opening but could not fit through.
I hoped that we could get past the yard without a problem. I looked ahead to the corner of the yard, and saw a heavy chain and open lock hanging unused on the gate latch support. Only a second later both pit bulls hit that gate at the same time. The gate popped open. The dogs flew out and immediately attacked Jack.
They circled me and Jack first, lunging in to bite at Jack then backing up a step before biting again. Jack and I turned with them while I tried to keep myself between him and them. With two dogs on him, that was impossible. The female dog went for Jack's throat, but luckily, his 1 1/2" fabric martingale collar combined with his 2" wide leather tag collar kept her from getting a grip on his throat. She jumped up and bit him beneath his left ear, narrowly missing his jugular. She also bit the back of his neck, but could not maintain her hold there because he was much taller than she was. So she latched onto his left shoulder instead. While she was doing all of that, the younger male dog darted in and out biting at Jack's feet and legs.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion, like a nightmare. I only focused on the pit bulls' faces as they attacked, but I was aware of everything they did. I've been an amateur student of dog behavior for years. Even in the midst of the attack I realized that they were working as a team to try to take him down; one was going for his legs the other, his throat. I knew that if he went down he would die.
I screamed over and over, and kicked at the pit bull that was tearing up Jack's shoulder. She never even acknowledged the kicks that I landed to her belly area—it felt like kicking a hard truck tire. I threw Jack's leash hoping he would run away from the pit bulls, but he didn't move. He never tried to fight back—he stood silently looking from one pit bull to the other as they tore into him. My husband had Guinevere, our other greyhound, and couldn't come to help me for fear of Guin being attacked too if he got her too close.
The female owner came out and shrieked ineffectively at the dogs. Strangers came running out of their homes and yards to try to help get the dogs off of Jack. A man who was trying to pull the female pit bull off of Jack's shoulder got knocked down and fell on Jack during the attack. Jack spraddled in the street with all four legs sticking out to the sides and the man's leg across his lower back. Luckily, when the man fell, he had the latched-on pit bull grasped firmly in his arms so she could not get to Jack while he was down and vulnerable.
We didn't realize it at the time, but the man injured Jack's spine when he fell on him. During and immediately after the attack, the gaping holes in Jack's shoulder and the copious amount of his blood that was everywhere was our main focus.
Jack was badly bitten on his left shoulder and neck, and the punctured cephalic vein in his right shoulder gushed blood with every beat of his heart. Another stranger who we now refer to as Jack's Samaritan helped get the pit bulls locked up in their yard. He was bitten by one of them in the process. After the pit bulls were corralled, he ran across the street and got his pickup truck. He lifted Jack into the truck bed, and boosted me in too. I rode in the back of his truck lying in a growing puddle of blood, holding yet another stranger's t-shirt to Jack's spurting wound while this man drove me and Jack to the ER vet, Affiliated Veterinary Emergency in Allen Park, Michigan. If not for him, Jack would have bled to death at the scene.
A third kind stranger whose name I never got drove Wayne and Guinevere home from the scene after Wayne got contact information from the female pit bull owner. After checking Guinevere over, Wayne left her at home and hurried to meet me at the ER vet clinic.
We thought Jack didn't stand up right after the attack because he was in shock. It was over an hour after we got to the ER vet before we were told that he *could not* stand up. Jack was mostly paralyzed --he could only move his legs from the hips/shoulders, and could not stand up or bear any of his own weight at all. He knuckled under on all 4 feet.
Jack stayed at the ER vet overnight after the attack, where they cleaned and bandaged his wounds and gave him pain meds. They felt that he needed to see a neurologist as soon as possible. The next morning he was referred to the nearest vet neurologist, Dogwood Veterinary Referral Center in Ann Arbor, MI, some 40 miles away. I took him directly there. After a thorough exam, the neurologist, Dr. Holahan, said that Jack had faint deep feeling in his toes, and he did not think that Jack's spinal cord had been severed. He did not want to put Jack under anesthesia for an MRI to diagnose the spinal problem in his weakened and in-shock condition. He felt that the wounds took priority over the spine at that moment.
He sent us directly to a nearby surgical vet clinic, BluePearl, also in Ann Arbor, MI. They offered 24/7 care which Dogwood did not. And Dr. Holahan could (and did) check in on him easily every day on his way to/from work. At BluePearl, Jack was immediately admitted and placed under intensive care.
During the intake exam, Dr. Bander found that as well as being unable to stand or walk, Jack had extensive damage around the bite wounds. The pit bull that had latched onto his neck and shoulder had pulled the skin away from the underlying muscle for several inches around each wound, leaving large air pockets under the skin. This left him at serious risk of losing some or all of the loosened skin to infection or lack of blood flow. Jack also had dozens of puncture wounds on his lower legs and feet where the other pit bull had repeatedly tried to pull his legs out from under him.
For the first 24 hours the BluePearl team cleaned and wet-packed the open wounds until it could be determined whether the loosened skin around them would survive. Jack had to be turned from side to side every hour to prevent pneumonia, and he had to have a urinary catheter put in place. When Dr. Bander finally decided it was safe to close the wounds, specialized suction drains were placed in them to try to save the damaged skin around the bites and encourage it to re-attach to the muscles below.
For several days Jack could not stand up long enough to defecate even with assistance, and he and his bedding often had to be cleaned up. After 3 or 4 days he began to regain a small amount of ability to control his legs and was able to shift his position in bed alone. The vet techs began trying to take him outside to defecate. But it required two vet techs to lift him up because he is extremely large for a greyhound.
When Jack was first admitted to BluePearl, I told the neurologist that I was going to give him 7 days to walk again. If he did not, I was going to put him down rather than force him to live like that. The neurologist begged me to give him more time. He said that Jack had feeling in his toes, and he was certain that Jack would walk again if given enough time to recover. I said I'd give him one more week.
Jack stood up for the first time on day 9.
I will forever be grateful to Dr. Holahan for talking me into giving Jack the extra time.
On day 11 Jack came home. It was over a month before he could walk unaided. We had to purchase a special assistance harness with a hindquarter portion that allowed us to lift and support his weakened back end. Jack has continued to slowly recover, and during July and August he completed 10 sessions of physical therapy at Water Gait Veterinary Rehabilitation in Allen Park, MI, including water treadmill, laser therapy and acupuncture to help him gain strength and regain more use of his legs.
Through all of this, Jack's attitude has remained amazingly happy and positive--we have said over and over that his motto is "Jack can do!" He still doesn't move 'right' but he *can* move and that's what's important.
While we were at the ER vet the night of the attack waiting for news from the vets, I posted on Facebook asking for white light forJack. My post was shared to Greytalk and other places. The hundreds of responses I got within just the first hour after posting prompted me to create a Facebook page for those who wanted to follow Jack's recovery, so I could post updates in just one place. Jack now has more Facebook friends than I do, scattered around the world. And a friend gave us a name and a hashtag: “#TeamJack”.
Jack's page is moderated to help keep the focus on Jack's recovery, not on breed specific arguments. You're all welcome to join, but if you do, please give me a little time to approve your membership. The link to the page is here:
Jack Was Attacked 6/21/16
During the course of his hospitalization some of Jack's fans sent him gifts. One, a gorgeous crocheted blanket, was mailed to him while he was still at BluePearl, and the story quickly spread throughout the veterinary chain. BluePearl's Michigan social media manager put a small story about Jack and his Facebook followers on the Ann Arbor hospital's Facebook page. I linked to the story on Jack's page, and within an hour the hospital's page got over 100 "likes". That got the attention of the BluePearl's national social media manager, who called me and interviewed me about Jack's FB group of international followers. The article she put on their chain's national website was linked to AP News. Within 5 minutes of posting it she got a call from a local Detroit TV station who wanted to interview both me and Dr. Bander. The interview was aired on the 6 o'clock news that same evening.
Here is a link to the TV interview that tells the story (warning, there is a very short gory part that starts at the 0:39 mark). The link opens in a new window.
WXYZ News 9 Year Old Greyhound Recovers From Attack
And here is the link to the original article (warning—the video with the gory bit is right at the top of this page and it auto-plays). This link also opens in a new window.
Worldwide Facebook Fans Cheer Dog Treated At BluePearl
For those who want to see Jack's injuries and some of the videos taken during his hospitalization and release from the hospital, I've made a Google Drive folder open to the public.
Please do not copy or share these photos or videos.
You can get to it here:
Within that folder are 5 other folders; warning, all contain graphic wound pictures:
6/21/16 contains pics taken at the ER vet right after the attack
6/22/16 pics taken the next morning at the neurologist's office during the exam
6/23/16 pics taken at BluePearl 2 days after the attack, after the JP drains had been put in his wounds
6/26/16 pics taken by Adair Renning when she visted Jack at BluePearl 5 days after the attack
Captioned Photos of Jack's Injuries Captioned evidence photos
And there are 5 videos:
6/28/16 Adair visited Jack at BluePearl to take video to help us decide if he could come home yet (includes video of Jack being hoisted by 2 techs because he couldn't yet walk)
7/2/16 (A) My video of our reunion with Jack the day he was released from BluePearl
7/2/16 (B) Wayne's video of our reunion with Jack the day he was released from BluePearl
7/2/16 (C) Jack in our backyard waiting for Guinevere to come outside
7/2/16 (D) Jack and Guinevere's reunion
Please do not copy or share these photos or videos.
And The Legal Part
The young couple who are the owners of the pit bulls are not stereotypical pit bull owners. They are both well educated, the husband serves in the US military stationed locally, and at least one of their dogs has been to local obedience classes prior to the attack. During the course of my own investigation to get the names of witnesses, their neighbors all told me that whenever the pit bulls were in the backyard, the husband was always outside with them training them. The night of the attack, however, the husband was at work and the wife had put the dogs in the back yard unattended.
We were told by Animal Control to meet with the other owners to try to work out the vet bill issue; we met once, two days after the attack. At that time Jack was still hospitalized. He was unable to walk, and it was unclear at that time whether he would even survive. We could not give them a “final total” as to what his treatment would cost. They expressed reluctance to pay all the vet bills, and wanted to cherry-pick what they would and wouldn't pay. We decided that we needed a lawyer.
In the meantime, all of the vet bills went on a credit card. Right after the attack we had no idea Jack's injuries were so extensive, so we didn't even think about applying for CareCredit. At the first ER vet the night of the attack, we assumed that there would only be one vet involved and that Jack would go home with us that night or the next morning.
By the time we realized that wasn't going to be the case, Jack had been seen by three different vets at three different clinics within 14 hours. He had been hospitalized 40 miles away from home and we had to put a deposit down for surgery to repair his wounds. In just the first day following the attack, we put $4000 on the credit card. And the bills just kept coming for another 10 days while Jack was hospitalized in the canine equivalent of intensive care, and then for the prescribed physical therapy/rehab after he got home. By the time we were reminded about CareCredit we already had put most of Jack's bills on our own credit card, and it was nearly maxxed out. So we were suddenly seriously in debt and still needed to get a lawyer to help us recover those vet bills.
After making many phone calls to every "dog bite" lawyer in the phone book, we learned that dog bite cases are only profitable for lawyers if a human gets bitten. We found one lawyer who would take on dog/dog attack cases, but he only defended pit bulls! (Ironically, he ended up defending the dogs that attacked us.)
We eventually hired the only lawyer who would take our case. The first lawyer we hired ended up being extremely difficult to work with and had no idea how to handle our case. Not long after we hired him, a dog show friend referred me to a second lawyer who understood “dog law”. She was exactly what we needed . When we decided to fire the first lawyer, we hired the second one immediately. She was wonderful and knew just what to do in our situation. But changing lawyers meant our legal fees were essentially doubled, which created even more debt piled on top of the vet bills.
When Jack was first attacked, I immediately received offers to start a GoFundMe or run an auction to help us pay the vet bills. But after speaking to the pit bull owners, we knew that this would end up in court. We were unable to accept any fundraiser money until all the court issues were settled, as it would have adversely affected any restitution awarded to us.
But I happened to be the sole owner/operator of a small jewelry business, Feathered Gems Jewelry....
So I told “TeamJack” that if they wanted to help, the best way to do so was to buy some of my jewelry. That would help us keep the credit card paid down so we could continue to pay the vet bills as they came in.
The court couldn't complain about my doing business and spending the money I earned as I saw fit.
The response to my request was overwhelming. I received 40 jewelry orders from individuals within a 3 week period, plus a large order from the United Greyhound Club for jewelry to use as trophies for their October UKC Greyhound Specialty show. But I didn't tally up the total amount of the sales at the time, so I didn't know exactly how overwhelming it was until much later!
In the meantime, we racked up a lot of interest on that credit card while we waited 6 months for the court to award us the full restitution that we knew that Michigan law required the owners to pay us.
On December 5, the court finally awarded us full restitution of the entire amount of the vet bills, payable within 7 days. Michigan law considers dogs to be property, so we were not eligible for legal fees as part of a property damage settlement. And the judge did not take the credit card interest into consideration.
The vet and physical therapy bills alone ended up totaling $9762.67. The credit card racked up another $1200 in interest on those vet bills over the 6 months it took to get it settled in court. The lawyers cost us $3361.00 which had to be paid in cash. So the official total that the pit bull attack cost us was $14,323.67!
I know there were miscellaneous things that I don't have the receipts for, like thrift store blankets for the ex-pen that Jack lived in for over a month, some vitamin supplements that a veterinarian friend said would help his spinal nerves regenerate, and special treats to get him to eat when he first came home. So the unofficial total was slightly higher. But no receipts equals no claim. Our loss.
As I said earlier, I didn't tally up the jewelry sales as they came in. I was exhausted from caring for Jack 24/7 while dealing with a severe inability to sleep which lasted for several weeks after the attack. I simply packed and filled the orders, and moved the sales money from Paypal to my bank account and straight to the credit card bill to keep enough credit open to keep paying the vet bills.
I finally ran a sales total on Dec. 13 after the restitution payment check cleared the bank. I was shocked to see that the jewelry sales earmarked for Jack plus sales of the greyhound decals that I made later in the summer brought in a total of $3225.00!
So: $14,323.67 total – $9762.67 restitution – $3225.00 sales= $1336.00
$1336.00 That's all that wasn't covered by court-ordered restitution or jewelry sales. Compared to the original total it doesn't seem like much. I have said from day one that I have no desire to profit in any way from this disaster. But $1336.00 is still a lot to lose just because we chose to take our dogs on a random walk one evening.
That walk nearly cost Jack his life. It took away his agility and coordination as well as much of his hindquarter strength, and left him scarred and lame. He walks oddly now, trots awkwardly, and he can't run without falling down. If he overdoes it on activity, his back legs shake and he drags his rear toes. But his spirit is undamaged, his soul is unchanged, and he still thinks he's the strong and powerful lure coursing champion that he once was. On the inside, I believe he still is. This dog is my hero.
Who Gets The Extra Money?
$1336.00 That's all we want from this auction, to bring our bank account back to where it was before the attack. Nancy Hanrahan always runs fantastic auctions. I am sure that the total raised will be way more than that. Any money raised above that amount will be donated to help other people in need pay their vet bills.
In the past, we've personally been in the tough situation of having to decide whether to treat an injured animal, or having to choose how much treatment to provide, because we just didn't have the money to do it 'right'. I know firsthand how emotionally devastating that can be, and I decided that any overage from this auction should go to help others in that situation.
I've chosen Frankie's Friends to be the beneficiary of any overage from this auction.
I searched for a long time before finding a group with which I felt comfortable. Many groups had what I felt were unreasonable requirements that any animals they assisted must be spayed or neutered immediately after treatment; one group even required that the animal had to be altered during the treatment. I couldn't imagine being forced to put Jack through an unnecessary and unrelated major surgery during or right after his ordeal. Those groups were immediately put in the 'no way' column. Some groups also only gave very small amounts, which would not do much to help an animal with a serious problem.
I finally found Frankie's Friends; they just felt 'right'.
I chose this group as our beneficiary for several reasons.
They don't have any restricting requirements re: spay/neuter of animals they help.
They do sometimes donate larger amounts as they see fit.
The organization was founded by one of the vets that founded the BluePearl veterinary chain, and all donations go to help BluePearl clients in need. This is important to me because Dr. Bander and the staff at BluePearl of Ann Arbor, Michigan saved Jack's life.
And best of all, "Frankie", the namesake of the organization, was a red fawn greyhound!
So when this auction is over, all proceeds above $1336.00 will be donated to Frankie's Friends to help
other pet owners in need. You can read more about this organization by clicking on their name wherever it is in blue.
Thank you all for reading this far. Your emotional support throughout Jack's ordeal has been immeasurably important to all of us here at #TeamJack HQ. We truly appreciate each and every one of you.
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